I’ve been looking for a really good interactive cat toy for some time, and I’ve finally found a sure-fire winner.
The Pet IQ Paw Shaped IQ Training Center provides intelligence-building entertainment for both cats and small dogs. As none of my dogs can really qualify as “small”, the Paw Shaped IQ Training Center will be reviewed from the point of view of its suitability for cats.
(Below my review you can read what my cats think about it, too!)
My first impressions of the IQ Training Center were based on its appearance upon delivery. Arriving in a “frustration free” cardboard sleeve, both the mailing sleeve, and the box which contained the IQ Training Center were in good condition, and undamaged. Both were also easy to open.
The IQ Training Center itself was in good condition, and appeared reasonably well made. It comprises a wooden base, shaped like a large, rounded paw, and filled with brightly colored plastic counters, which could clearly be moved around by the bat of a paw, or, in the case of a dog, being picked up in the mouth.
My first negative observation was that there were no instructions – clearly, the IQ Training Center likes to offer a small workout for pet owners, as well as their animals! Despite the lack of instructions, it is reasonably simple to deduce how to set up the IQ Training Center so that it might be most effectively enjoyed by cats, or small dogs. However, a short paragraph or two on how the engage your pet with the IQ Training Center would be helpful, especially considering the price of the toy.
Secondly, I would hesitate to offer the toy to dogs much larger than a Chihuhua, as I could all too easily see the plastic counters being simply picked up and chewed to pieces – in the case of my own dogs, I could readily imagine the base of the toy itself being chewed until it was broken.
For cats, however, the toy is ideal, being large enough to merit careful exploration on the part of the cat, with the plastic counters being light enough for a cat to slide and knock about in pursuit of any treats which are used with the toy.
On a positive note, the toy appears durable, if given to cats rather than dogs. The plastic counters are also brightly colored, meaning they can easily be spotted and retrieved once the cat has finished its sport. Also, the box for the IQ Training Center itself is durable enough for the toy to be returned to, and removed from it regularly without causing undue wear.
This makes the toy easy to store when you’re not engaging your cat with it. It also allows it to be easily packed, so that, for example, it could accompany you and your pet on vacation, or be packed to go with your cat if it is to spend time in a cattery.
As with all pet toys, it is recommended that you stay with your pet while they enjoy the toy; however, the plastic counters, and the base of the toy itself, appear durable and well-finished enough that the toy might be safely filled with treats, and left to amuse your cat while you are out.
Having activities that stimulate their prey drive, and require the use of cunning and intelligence, is good for cats when they are left alone: being highly intelligent creatures, cats become readily bored without sufficient stimulation. This boredom can express itself in behavioural issues. Some cats are also acutely distressed by a lack of activity.
Providing rewarding stimulation when you are not available to engage directly with your cat helps them to keep physically and emotionally healthy.
The Paw Shaped IQ Training Center is small enough to be used in an apartment, but large enough to not be lost in larger rooms. While the plastic counters are brightly colored, they are not overly garish, and so the toy would not be out of place in a living room or conservatory.
The toy could be placed on a shelf in an outdoor cat run, although the base would need to be weatherproofed with a cat-safe varnish, which must be allowed to dry fully, before being taken out. If used outside, any treats placed in the toy should be removed at the end of each day, to avoid attracting vermin.
In my case, that’s two cats: Limina, a dainty, dark tortoiseshell, and Valkyria, a regal black fluffball with very definite views on how she expects her life to proceed. Sadly, I’m unable to say whether male cats interact differently with the toy than female: my wife’s pure white boy, Ghost, passed away last year: while he wasn’t deaf, he was a little bit backward about things, so it’s probably just as well there are only the girls at the moment.
I took the Paw Shaped IQ Training Center (and the cats, and a supply of treats) into the spare bedroom, so the dogs that also share our house wouldn’t rush up, terrify the cats, and grab everything. The Training Center is advertised as being suitable for cats and small dogs: even the smallest of my dogs probably doesn’t actually count as small in anyone else’s understanding, and none of them are inclined to be patient and work at getting treats: ripping things to shreds to get at food is much more the dogs’ style.
Back to the cats: once safely and quietly behind closed doors, I set the IQ Training Center on the floor, in order to give both cats plenty of space to watch, approach slowly, and investigate.
While Limina wandered around, periodically taking small steps towards the toy, and finally getting the courage to sniff at it, initially, Valkyria was content to sit and observe from a distance at first. However, once I set up the toy with kitty treats, both cats advanced with purpose, very definitely interested in proceedings!
I had two flavors of treats with me, Cheese and Chicken, which come in the form of small, pillow-shaped nuggets, and beef sticks, which are easily broken into smaller pieces for hide-and-seek treat games!.
I started out breaking two beef sticks into smaller pieces, and placing these in and around the Paw Shaped IQ Training Center: I left a third of the hiding spots open, so the cats could see the treats, as well as smell the fact that there were more like that elsewhere on the toy.
Limina was the first to engage with the IQ Training Center, walking around the periphery first, and then coming right up to the board, and giving full and thorough thought as to how she might get hold of the treats. She was also the first of the two cats to work out that she could hook treats out of the open ‘wells’ with a paw. Valkyria was more diffident, and, when she did engage, opted for the easy option of eating the treats visible in the upturned cannister.
Neither cat interacted with the sliding counters or cutaways which were concealing further treats, although they did both sniff around them, implying that they were aware the treats were there.
I then added some of the cheese and chicken treats to the board – and that really livened the cats up! Clearly, in terms of things they’re willing to work for, my two girls prefer cheesy chicken to boring beef. (Before purchasing the Paw Shaped IQ Training Center, it would be a good idea to find out what your cat’s absolute favorite flavor of snack is, so you can be sure they’ll want to put the effort into going after it!)
With the cheesy chicken treats added to the IQ Training Center, both cats did explore the shuffle counters more, and, after a few failed guesses at how to move the counters, did (possibly by accident, but then that’s how most of us learn things) realise that the counters needed to be pushed: they were more adept with the triangular cutaways than the circular discs, however.
There was plenty of purring from Limina, and even Valkyria seemed to grudgingly admit that this new addition from the humans wasn’t all that bad.
The upside of the Paw Shaped IQ Training Center, in terms of longevity as a relevant cat toy, is that you can place the treats in different locations each time you use it: under cannisters, in upturned cannisters, only under the cutaways and one of the shuffle counters, under one of the shuffle counters and one of the cutaways, etc. This makes it harder (though, given their high level of natural intelligence, not impossible) for cats to “learn” where their treats are, and how they can get them.
As well as being a fun toy for all cats, and a great way for humans to procrastinate (because watching kitties trying something new is a harmless way to waste time), this could be a good way to feed an overweight or relatively inactive cat, ensuring that they have to expend energy in order to get the reward of food.
Both of my cats are indoor cats, and this is an ideal way to enable indoor kitties to use their natural hunting skills, without putting wildlife at risk!
There are many valid reasons for keeping cats as indoor pets, from living in a busy area with a high volume of traffic, to having neighbors with dogs, through to simply having cats that are a little bit “special”, and don’t really cope well with the demands of the world beyond their front door. Whatever your reasons, if you do keep your cats as indoor pets, they will need plenty of stimulation, and you should endeavor to create or provide games which use the same thought processes, movements, and skills that outdoor cats will use in pursuit of prey: the Paw Shaped IQ Training Center is the ideal toy for this role, and will offer you hours of enjoyment watching your cats at play.
Outdoor cats may be less inclined to bother with toys generally, but can also be much more food-focused than indoor cats, as they are using more energy: if your cat is an outdoors type (and I’ve known several cats who, if you tried to keep them indoors, would break down doors and shatter windows in their determination to be elsewhere!), don’t assume they won’t enjoy the Paw Shaped IQ Training Center – filled with their favorite treats, it will likely provide as much amusement for them as it does for their indoor cousins.
A little pricey for what it is: it would be better value if treats were also included, but it does engage my cats, and you can’t put a price on a happy, stimulated kitty.
And now, as promised, a review of the toy from the cats’ point of view!
I like it when humans bring me new things – it’s a chance to rub around their legs, have cuddles, and generally show them how much I love them, and appreciate them having me live with them. And when those new things include treats…
I was interested in the toy when it was first put on the floor for me: it looked nice and bright, and smelled different to the other things in the room. I could tell it was new, and I like new things. So, I wandered over, keeping my distance at first, in case it turned out to have some sort of unexpected surprise element to it. I know humans often like things like that, but I’m a very retiring sort of kitty, and I really don’t like being startled: it makes me want to run away and hide.
I could smell that there were treats on the new thing, and could even see some of them. I could smell more than I could see, which was puzzling, at first: time for some careful, up close investigation!
There were treats in a narrow, open thing, sort of like a mouse hole, only not as deep, and some more in a shallow hollow, the sort of thing you might find in a woodland. Those treats were easy to get – I used my paw, and hooked them out, the way I’d pull a mouse out of a hole if I were outside. I could still smell the other treats, though, and I very much wanted to get at those.
It took me a little bit of time, and a few goes, but I realised that if I pushed the slice-of-cheese shaped bits around on the board, there were treats underneath them. And then there was something I had to nudge with my nose, so that it fell over, and there were treats under that, too.
I like that I can see the whole of the toy at once, but don’t feel cramped or crowded when I’m going after the treats. I don’t think I’d enjoy being inside something and looking for treats – I need to know I can quickly get away if everything becomes too much! It’s also nice that it doesn’t make noise. I don’t think humans understand how loud things are to us cats, so a nice, quiet toy is exactly what we need.
I was a bit disappointed to find that it doesn’t move around the room like other toys I have, which also give treats, do. I do like chasing things, and it’s a good way to get Valkyria to play with me.
Limina’s Paw Rating: I have four paws, which would be the maximum, and most excellent: this Paw Shaped IQ Training Centre gets three paws from me. I would give it four if I could bat it around the room.
Oh, for pity’s sake, human, what is it now? You know I don’t like being disturbed during my siesta. Oh – hang on: I can smell food. Where is it, then? Come on – if you’ve got food, you can stay. Until I get bored with you, then it’s out the door you go. I don’t know: strolling around like you own the place: you’re only here because you have opposable thumbs, you know…
What? What is that? A toy? Do you think I’m a child, human? Hang on… Limina seems to be finding things to eat over there – guess it’s worth a look, if nothing else.
Well, it’s plenty big enough for me to walk round, without taking up too much of my space. I like my space, and clutter annoys me. On the other hand, tiny little pieces of nonsense that’re barely bigger than my face are just a waste of my precious time.
Hm. Okay… so, there’re treats hidden in the toy. Human, how many times do I have to explain this to you – I. Am. Not. A. Doggie. Not a pupper. Not part of your teeming mass of caninity. I do not bark, I will not guard the house, fetch your slippers, or do a happy dance when you pick up a leash. (In fact, human, if you pick up a leash near me, I will turn your face into rivers of blood, okay?) Not being a dog, I don’t do tricks for treats, work for food, etcetera, etcetera. Oh – there’s some treats in a kind of tiny bowl. And they’re the ones I like.
Oh, go on, then, human – I’ll indulge you. Oh; this isn’t actually as cringeworthy as I thought it was going to be. Delicate, ladylike nudge here, sultry shuffle there – yes, I can definitely look regal and sophisticated whilst engaging with this trivia. It can stay. For now.
At least it doesn’t make noise, or have things springing up at me. And it doesn’t move beneath my paws when I step on it. Some carpet would be nice, however, human – soft, warm, opportunity for pedicure – these are important considerations in my life, you know.
But, you’re only a human, after all: I suppose you tried your best.
Valkyria’s Paw Rating: Four paws, human, and I give this three: it would be two, but being offended by the idea that you think I’ll work for treats, like some sort of dog, is more a personal issue, and apparently I need to stick to the facts. So, three paws it is: it needs carpet, but I’m glad it’s not noisy, and doesn’t feel strange under my paws.
Last update on 2018-11-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API