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The 6 best cat tunnels and why your cat needs one

Keep your cat entertained and exercised with a fun and multi-functional cat tunnel

Updated September 27, 2021

Created By

Lauren Cocking,

The best cat tunnels

Our favorite cat tunnels, reviewed

What we love: Understated and simple, this SmartyKat Crackle Chute Cat Tunnel is for single cat households, especially ones with larger cat breeds and chunkier kitties. We love the neutral but interesting color combo too, as well as the fact that it’s lightweight and collapsible — great for smaller spaces. And the company’s commitment to eco-friendly packaging and child-safe components makes it ideal for families.

What customers say: With a 4.5-star rating and over 4,500 reviews, this crinkle cat tunnel is a favorite among Amazon users for its muted colors. They frequently praise how big it is, with one customer stating that it was suitable for their Maine Coon. Plus, it seemed to entice even kitties who find other toys boring, although the crinkly fabric may be off-putting for some cats.

What we love: Both cute and multi-functional, this cat tunnel from Kitty City comes complete with a cat bed in the center which makes it purrfect for pet parents with more than one kitty. We especially love the cat motif and muted grey color which will blend into any home, as well as the fact it can be unzipped to create a more conventional tunnel.

What customers say: Amazon users rave about this cat tunnel — in fact, it has a 4.7-star rating. Not only do they consider it great to get older cats active in a safe way, they add that their kitties love to snooze in the central bed. A few reviewers did note that the zippers can be a bit fiddly though, so keep that in mind.

What we love: Made from a strong, tear-resistant polyester, the CO-Z Collapsible Cat Tunnel should withstand even the most overzealous cats. Even though the shape might be a little awkward to accommodate at first, the T-shaped design in a block black-and-blue color scheme should fit nicely into most homes and it folds down with ease. Plus, the added ball toys are sure to entice even reluctant cats to play.

What customers say: Customers love how lightweight this cat tunnel is although some thought it was a little smaller than expected. Even so, they still rated this tunnel highly for kittens, smaller cats, and even petite pups, especially because of the hanging toys at the entrance.

What we love: The Pet Magasin Collapsible Cat Tunnel is ideal for pet parents who don’t mind bold colors when it comes to their cat’s playthings, we love the striped design and different sized tunnels. This crinkle two-pack is best for households with more than one kitty who hate to share the same toys, and the hanging accessories will help get their hunting instinct going.

What customers say: Although some pet cats didn’t love the crinkle material, others went mad for it according to Amazon reviewers. However, while most customers appreciated getting two cat play tunnels for roughly the price of one, others thought the shorter tunnel was a little too short, albeit easy to store. If you have kittens or smaller cats though, this cat tunnel set is perfect.

What we love: Families with small children will adore this jungle animal design, which would blend right into any playroom. We love that the Kitty City Jungle Cat Cube Combo comes complete with fleece-lined cubes on either end, which can be repurposed as cat toy storage space or kitty beds. Just keep in mind that this might take up more space than your average cat tunnel, although it’s foldable for easy storage.

What customers say: Considering its relatively low price point, users were pleasantly surprised to find how durable the polyester shell was. However, others would have preferred a spiral spring in the cat play tunnel tube section to keep it from collapsing. Even so, for the size and cozy cube add-ons, most customers really appreciated the value of this interactive toy cat tunnel.

What we love: Although perhaps best suited to pet parents with plenty of space to accommodate this fixed S-shaped tunnel with (removable) tents at both sides, we love how fun both the colors and design are. Cats will be encouraged to hunt and hide in this multipurpose tunnel from eenk thanks to the unique shape, and there’s enough space for more than one kitty to enjoy at any given time. Plus, it comes with a storage bag for extra convenience.

What customers say: Amazon users consistently rave about this tunnel-cube combo, and it has a 4.7-star rating. The peephole at the center of the tunnel is a particularly popular element, although it might be a bit small for fat cats. They also love how durable it is. One user mentioned that their cat had started biting the tent entrance but the material hadn’t torn at all. Just be careful when opening this tunnel, as the springs are powerful.

What is a cat tunnel?

Cat tunnels are just what they sound like: cat-sized tunnels usually made from pop-up polyester or soft woven fabrics that your cat will love running through, pouncing on, and all-round enjoying.

👉 Still lost? Picture a slinky. Now wrap it in fabric. That’s your basic cat tunnel toy!

What’s the difference between a cat tunnel and a cat run?

While cat tunnels are generally indoor accessories, there are some soft mesh fabric versions which zip up at either end and allow your cat to safely enjoy the outdoors without going astray. Think: hamster balls for cats, except cylindrical, not spherical.

However, cat runs are slightly different. Cat runs generally refer to fixed wire or plastic mesh tunnels that are rooted into the ground with the help of tent pegs and zip ties. These are great for cats to get outside and enjoy the sun without running away. Plus, they’re more permanent than the ‘hamster ball’ style zip up tunnels mentioned above.

Why does my feline friend need a cat tunnel?

You might be wondering why your cat needs a tunnel when they already have several other toys, beds, harnesses, water fountains, and general luxuries that you wouldn’t even buy for yourself. We get it; but cat tunnels are genuinely multi-functional cat accessories that will help your kitty burn energy, keep trim, and stay out of mischief.

Plus, these tunnel toys are great for letting your cat tap into their natural instincts in a controlled, indoor way. Here are a few reasons your cat needs a tunnel.

Hands-free playtime. Playtime is just as important for energetic kittens as it is for older cats, and cat tunnels are an excellent way to keep them stimulated and entertained without you needing to get involved. Sure, you might have to entice your furry friend to use their new toy at first, but after that they’ll be peeking, running, and playing with their tunnel independently in no time at all.

Easy peasy weight loss. Indoor cats especially are prone to packing on the pounds and leaning into a sedentary lifestyle, so it’s essential to keep them active. A cat tunnel provides a great opportunity to get them moving even in the comfort of their own home.

Safe sleep space. Depending on the type of tunnel you get, it can serve as a warm and cozy snooze spot or hideaway for your feline friend. If you live in a cooler climate or don’t have much space for cat beds in your home, this makes a cat tunnel a useful two-in-one feline essential.

Furniture scratching alternative. Again, depending on the material, your cat’s tunnel can give them a space to take out their scratching energy that isn’t your sofa. This is especially true for tunnels with built-in sisal scratchers or tunnels made from more durable materials. Plus, they take up less space than many cat trees.

How to shop for the best cat tunnel

There are several things to look for when it comes to buying a cat tunnel, from the size and style to the material and added extras. Here are some of the things to consider before you bite the bullet and buy.

Does it match my decor? It might seem superficial, but there’s nothing worse than an obnoxiously colored cat toy that throws off your home aesthetic. Luckily, nowadays there are several cat brands designing sleek kitty accessories in everything from muted neutrals to statement colors. So, don’t feel bad for taking your home decor into account before buying.

Is it big enough for my cat? If your cat’s a little on the round and chunky side, make sure the dimensions of the cat tunnel toy are big enough for them to squeeze in one end and out the other no problem. Too-small tunnels will only go unused.

Is it too big for my home? While you want a play tunnel to be wide enough for your furry friend, you don’t want one that isn’t going to fit comfortably in your space. Take measurements before hitting buy on an especially long tunnel. Also consider whether you want a tunnel that can be folded away at the end of the day or something that will have a permanent home in your living space.

Do I want added extras? Some cat tunnels come with built-in hanging toys at the entrances to entice your kitty to play with them or even solid scratcher elements at either end of the tunnel. But you know your cat best. Will they respond to this kind of added extra or will it deter them from using their new tunnel? Think it over before you make a purchase.

Is it made with a durable material? All cats are prone to getting a little over-excited when they play but some are more destructive than others. Think back — does your kitty tear open toys on the reg? And, if so, make sure you get a cat tunnel made from a durable material like sturdy polyester or thicker woven fabrics that will stand the test of (play)time.

👉 Thin, crinkly polyester and nylon are common in pop-up cat tunnels but this might not be the most durable or appealing-sounding cat tunnel fabric for all kitties.

Can I make a tunnel for my cat?

In a word: yes! You can definitely fashion a basic indoor cat tunnel for your kitty, although you’ll find it tricky to make T-shaped or S-shaped options. However, if you’re happy to get crafty, all you’ll need is an old pair of soft and stretchy pajama pants, wire, pliers, plastic straws, a needle and thread…and of course a healthy dash of patience.

Frequently asked questions

Do all cats like tunnels?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to cats and their toys. They’re notoriously finicky creatures, after all. Having said that, tunnels seem to be toy catnip that the majority of kitties can get on board with. That’s because tunnels let them tap into their innate hunting instinct. Plus, they love to pounce on them and use the tunnel tubes as secret hideouts.

👉 Don’t worry if your cat seems uninterested in or fearful of their tunnel at first. Kitties often take a while to warm up to new things, toys included.

Can I use cat tunnels outdoors?

Most cat tunnels are designed to be used indoors, although you can certainly use a cat tunnel in your garden if you want. Just be sure to secure it to the ground and keep an eye out for rain, so it doesn’t get ruined. There are even special zip-up tunnels that are meant to be used outdoors.

However, if you want your kitty to go outside more often and for longer stretches of time, you might want to look into building a cat run. These are designed specifically to allow your cat to lounge on the lawn and get some fresh air, and typically tend to be well-anchored to the ground.

Where can I put a cat tunnel?

Wherever you have the space for one, really. Choose a cat tunnel that will blend in with your decor and fit to the space available and remember that the best place to put one is where your cat is more likely to enjoy it.

I have dogs. Will they destroy the cat tunnel?

Are your dogs prone to destroying things? If the answer is yes, then maybe. If they don’t tend to chew on household items, then probably not. And if you have smaller pups, they might get as much joy out of a cat tunnel as your kitty! In fact, many of our favorite cat tunnels should really be called pet tunnels, as they’re also suitable for dogs, and smaller creatures like rabbits and ferrets.

How can I stop the tunnel from ripping or tearing?

Cat tunnels often look flimsy and breakable. Some of them probably are! However, many (like the ones we recommend) are designed using durable fabrics like polyester and nylon that are meant to stand up to your kitty’s claws. Over time, you may notice some wear and tear, but if you’re really worried about ripping, opt for a cat tunnel made from a thicker fleece, fake fur, or other soft woven material.