15 Useless Pet Toys That Are a Complete Waste of Money

SAVING & SPENDING - BUDGETING & EXPENSES
These bizarre pet toys will leave your furry friends utterly unimpressed.
Updated Jan. 5, 2024
Fact checked
Young woman playing with her dog

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The right toys for your pet will provide them with safe entertainment and mental stimulation.

However, knowing how to pick the best for your furry friend can be challenging, especially with all the pet merchandise available. You should also ensure that toys are high-quality and safe.

You can save money shopping for pet toys by avoiding the following toys that are generally useless or unsafe.

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Plush toys

SasaStock/Adobe golden retriever dog

Many pets tear apart plush toys in a matter of minutes. Not only is it a waste of money, but the stuffing can be toxic and cause intestinal blockage. A better alternative is ZippyPaws Skinny Pelts, which have no stuffing.

If you frequently replace toys due to your pet’s destruction, you can save even more using one of the best cash back credit cards to buy a set of three that should last you a long time.

Kongs for dry treats

Natlia/Adobe black puppy chewing kong toy

Stuffable Kong toys are durable and can hold your dog’s kibble or favorite treats. However, if you only put dry food in it, your dog will likely lose interest in a few minutes.

Instead, try mixing banana, oats, and xylitol-free peanut butter. Stuff the mixture into the Kong and freeze it for a few hours. It will create a fun and tasty challenge to occupy your pup.

Hard toys

Pixel-Shot/Adobe pet care accessories

Toys that are too hard can damage your pet’s teeth and may lead to a cracked or broken tooth. Dental work is often expensive and causes a lot of pain for your dog or cat.

Choose toys that give a little bit when you press your nail into them. You can also try tapping the toy against your knee. If it hurts, it’s likely too hard.

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Laser pointers

Lema-lisa/Adobe siamese cat with expressive eyes

While laser pointers are typically okay for cats, they may cause frustration for dogs when they can’t catch the beam of light.

They might desperately search for the light long after it’s gone or chase any other flashes of light they see.

Consider a flirt pole instead. It allows your dog to chase something, but they can actually catch it in the end, providing closure.

Rawhides

Jean/Adobe little dog chewing a treat

Rawhides may be okay for softer chewers, but there are some considerations to make before buying them.

They can cause choking, blockages, or digestive irritation if your dog swallows large pieces. Low-quality rawhides may also contain toxic chemicals or preservatives.

Esophagus chews may be a better choice. They’re easy to digest and a great source of chondroitin and glucosamine, which are good for your dog’s joints.

Toys with toxic material

Yekatseryna/Adobe pack of luggage for traveling with pets

The market is flooded with cheap pet toys, but they may cost more in vet bills if the quality matches the price.

Toxic materials to watch out for include bisphenol A (BPA), lead, PVC and phthalates, chromium, cadmium, and formaldehyde.

Look for trusted brands that use pet-safe materials, including Kong, Chuckit!, P.L.A.Y., and West Paw.

Squeaky toys

Lunja/Adobe group of dogs running in lawn

Squeaky toys may be okay for softer chewers, but some dogs won’t rest until they gut the squeaker from the toy.

Planet Dog Orbee Squeak toy may be a better choice. It’s a bouncy ball made from durable and safe material. The ball can withstand powerful jaws while still making the squeaky noise your dog loves.

Catnip

DoraZett/Adobe cat tree house

Catnip releases a compound called nepetalactone. When inhaled, nepetalactone triggers a euphoric reaction in your cat.

However, the effects are short-lived, usually only lasting about 10 minutes. Purina says about 30% of domestic cats don’t even react to catnip, and most kittens don’t respond until they’re three to six months old.

If your cat doesn’t respond to catnip, you might try Tatarian honeysuckle or silver vine instead.

Pig ears

Karoline Thalhofer/Adobe little cute Jack Russell Terrier dog eats a bone with meat

While they may be okay in moderation, it’s important to know the risks before giving pig ears to your dog.

They're known to cause problems like gas, vomiting, diarrhea, and even pancreatitis. There have also been salmonella outbreaks linked to pig ears.

The American Kennel Club recommends Bully sticks as healthy treats, making them a safer choice for your pup.

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Unsafe bird toys

Lenzation Studio/Adobe blue and yellow macaw

Birds are brilliant, so toys are crucial for keeping their minds active. However, you should never give them painted or glued toys. Avoid wood toys made of cedar, oak, red cherry, plywood, or any wood treated with arsenic.

Alternatively, look for toys made with natural fiber rope, acrylic, safe woods, vegetable-tanned leather, and metals plated with stainless steel or nickel.

Tennis balls

serhiibobyk/Adobe smiling little boy playing  with german shepherd on lush green grass in a shiny sunny day of summer.

Larger dogs with powerful jaws can easily bite and break a tennis ball, creating a choking hazard.

The fuzz on the ball has an abrasive texture that may wear down your dog’s teeth. Some dogs may also rip off the fuzz and swallow it, which can cause intestinal blockage over time.

A better alternative is Chuckit! Balls which are made from sturdy, non-toxic rubber.

Wrong sized toys

alexei_tm/Adobe Dog with wagon of toys

An inappropriately sized toy can be a waste of money and may even land you an expensive trip to the vet.

If the toy’s too big, your pet won’t be able to pick up, carry, and shake it, and they may lose interest. However, if it’s too small, they could swallow it and choke or have intestinal issues.

Look for toys that are big enough that your pet can’t swallow them but small enough that they can still pick them up and carry them.

Bones

alexei_tm/Adobe dog with delicious pet treat bone at garden lawn

Dogs should never get cooked bones because they could splinter and get stuck in the mouth, throat, and intestines. Swallowed chunks of bones may also cause blockages.

Some vets suggest raw bones, but they can carry bacteria like salmonella, according to the American Kennel Club.

Instead of bones, you can give your dog carrots and dried chicken or fish, which still provides a crunchy treat.

Feathers

lalalululala/Adobe kitten playing toy on cat tower

Many cat toys come adorned with feathers to entice your pet. It makes sense because birds are their natural prey.

However, feathers are delicate and can easily get ripped apart. There’s a potential that they could get lodged in your cat’s throat or stomach when swallowed.

Crinkle balls are a safer alternative that can still satisfy your cat’s hunting instinct.

Low-quality rope toys

Suphansa/Adobe pet accessories

Cheap rope toys can easily fray and shed fibers. They may pose a choking hazard or lead to digestive issues if ingested. Rope toys may also contain harmful dyes or materials that aren’t safe for pets.

Buying durable rope toys made from quality ingredients like Mammoth Cotton-Blend Rope Toys is essential. You may be able to save on Amazon if you buy it on their website.

Bottom line

Famveldman/Adobe child playing with cat at home

There are often better alternatives available that are more durable, so you can save money shopping for pet toys. 

It’s essential to wash and check your pet’s toys for durability regularly. And always supervise your pet when you give them a new toy.

Toys are essential to keeping your pet mentally stimulated and entertained, but ensuring they are safe and appropriate is crucial.

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Author Details

Carley Clark Carley Clark is a personal finance writer from Michigan. She graduated from Spring Arbor University with a bachelor's degree in business. After graduation, she worked in finance as a revenue auditor at a casino. Carley strives to write informative content that will help readers meet their financial goals.

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