A cat toy your cat would buy

Pip, our 2-year-old tuxedo cat, is particular about his toys.

He isn’t crazy about the pricey, battery-operated ones. Those that make noise, light up or twirl around don’t garner his attention.

Stuffed animals with or without catnip are more interesting to our Lab, Teddy, than to Pip.

Paper clips, twist ties and other traditional household items many cats love? Pip ignores them, too.

Our cat likes stalking and chasing a red laser light plus any toy at the end of a stick.

Pip has wands with feathers, colorful birds, butterflies and chenille worms with googly eyes to choose from. At least several times a week, he pulls one out of his “wand box” and pesters me until I play with him.

But his go-to favorite is his “Cat Dancer.” The inexpensive toy has two parts, a piece of spring steel wire with small pieces of rolled cardboard at both ends.

I had never heard of the toy until our good friend, Vickie McDonald of Englewood, gave us one when we adopted Pip from Xenia-based Francis Kennels Rescue.

Honestly, I thought it was the goofiest thing I had seen in a long while. Why would Pip want to play with it? Seemed boring.

Since Vickie is a veteran cat owner, I put my doubts aside, opened the package and within minutes Pip, then a kitten, was jumping so high I was concerned he would hurt himself.

His enthusiasm for the toy has never wavered. As an adult, Pip not only jumps high but adds loops before his paws touch the floor.

Like the wands, the tuxedo will drag the toy wherever I’m at. He plops down beside it and stares at me until I pick the toy up and start playing with him.

I spoke with Jim Boelke, the inventor and president of the Cat Dancer Company in Neenha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles southwest of Green Bay, about Pip’s favorite toy.

In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Jim was working several jobs as he paid his way through college.

One of these jobs was at a local animal shelter. One day, a woman came in with two kittens. The shelter employee assured her the kittens would be well taken care. But Jim knew they would soon be euthanized. At that moment, he decided to adopt both “Jake” and “Elwood,” named after the iconic “Saturday Night Live” characters.

Because money was tight, Jim was unable to purchase toys for his furry charges. Thus he was always on the lookout for everyday items Jake and Elwood would enjoy playing with.

One evening, when working at one of his other jobs, sweeping floors in a factory in Oshkosh, Jim started gathering pieces of scrap metal that littered the floor.

As he moved a piece of the flexible wire back and forth, he wondered if his cats would enjoy it.

Jake and Elwood loved the “toy.”

Jim started taking the two to parties so friends could watch their high-flying wire antics. Jake and Elwood were big hits.

The inventor believes he gave almost a thousand of these toys to friends and partygoers until 1983 when he started his own business with $1,500 he had saved.

I believe Pip loves the toy as much as Jake and Elwood did. And I love watching him fly.



To order your cat’s own Cat Dancer toy or to learn more about it, visit catdancer.com.

Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at spicerkarin@gmail.com.

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