Pet stores sell lots of interactive cat toys you can use to amuse your cat: feathers on springs, battery-operated mice, and so on. We sell a few toys of our own, too—the Kong Swizzle Bird Cat Toy, the Kitty Lure Caster, and the Cat Dancer. One of the best toys in the world for most cats, however, is the laser pointer, which you can get from any office supply store.
Most cats will chase the sharp little red dot of light that the pointer makes right from the moment they see it. You can send the cat in any direction, at any speed. You can use the dot as a target to train other behavior, or you can use a bit of dot play as a reward for a good training session, as dog owners sometimes use ball play to reward good work.
Two words of caution. First, while modern laser pointers are not supposed to be harmful to the eyes, you shouldn't shine it at your cat's face—or anyone else's—but always a foot or so ahead of the cat. And don't let young children play with the pointer, for the same reason.
Here's the second warning: I haven't heard of a cat falling for this, but some dogs become so addicted to the laser dot that they can think of nothing else. An otherwise normal Rottweiler, for example, may take to stalking through the house hour after hour, panting, glassy-eyed, swinging his heard, scanning the floor, looking for The Dot. Perhaps the dog's owner can ignore this, but sooner or later a roommate or spouse says, "I can't stand this loony dog another minute. Will you please make him stop?" The owner whips out the laser and gives the dog a game of chase-the-dot until it's so exhausted it has to sleep for a while. This placates the complainer, but also guarantees that the dog will search even longer and harder the next time.
Clicker trainer and teacher Sherri Lippman introduced me to the solution for this particular problem: always start and end the dot from the same place. Sherri uses the toe of her shoe. The dot first appears there, and, when the game is over, goes back to disappear at the same spot. This will help your cat understand that the dot has gone for now—the worst that can happen is that for a time she may stare longingly at the toe of your shoe.
Although a simple verbal cue, used consistently, would also serve to begin and end this game, I like using a visual cue as well. When playing with my cat, Mimi, who loves the dot, I put my hand in front of her and seemingly spill the dot out of my hand to start the game; then when I want to end it, I slide the dot onto my hand again, close my fist as I turn the pointer off, and "take the dot away."