Every cat owner on the planet has experienced buying the most comfortable looking pet bed only to have their cat choose a cardboard box instead. The same is true for cat toys. I’ve lost count of how many cute toys I’ve brought home to less than enthusiastic felines. They would take one look at the new cat toy and proceed to bat around a pen. It became quite obvious that the store-bought cat toys were more for me than them, so I decided to learn how to make my own. Turns out, there are some really creative ideas for cheap cat toys, and some are even free!
Making Cat Toys from Household Objects
A toilet paper tube makes a great cat toy all by itself, but I found instructions online for making an even better cat toy from this throwaway item. Basically, you cut slits in both ends and fold them back so it resembles a spoked wheel (read the detailed instructions here). I made one of these in under five minutes and kitty-tested it. Belle liked it quite a bit; she chased it, batted it around and just generally mauled it. No worries – it’s free and simple to make, so when it gets destroyed I can always make another one.
Make a cat toy from an empty prescription pill bottle by adding some small beans to create a noisemaker. You could also fill it with a few pieces of dry cat food; if the child-proof cap happens to come off, your cat will be rewarded with a nice little snack. An alternative is those hollow plastic eggs used to hide treats for the annual Easter egg hunt. My cats like these better than the pill bottles because they have a more unpredictable roll. They do come apart easier though, so use crunchies instead of beans.
Portable baby gyms can easily be converted into a kitty gym. They have all sorts of toys and noisemakers hanging from them, and some of these might even interest your cat. If not, it’s easy to replace them with some cat toys, feathers and other dangly things your cat can play with. If you don’t have an old baby gym, you might be able to pick one up at a yard sale.
Those “fishing pole” types of cat toys are feline favorites. I bought a furry mouse-on-a-stick at the dollar store, and when the mouse got destroyed, I tied another cat toy to the plastic pole. You can easily make a fishing pole cat toy using a sturdy, straight tree branch, thick yarn or a shoelace, feathers (look around outside to get some for free), small ball or other cat toy. Just remember that the fishing pole toys are not designed for cats to use alone; always put them away after you’re done playing.
One day while cooking supper, I accidentally discovered another household item that makes a great cat toy. I dropped a carrot onto the floor and Rocky immediately pounced on it and claimed it as his new toy. He swatted it, rolled it, and carried it around in his mouth for the longest time. Since then, I sometimes give him a fresh carrot and he still thinks it’s the greatest cat toy ever. (Shh…don’t tell him it’s not really a cat toy).
Making Catnip Cat Toys from Scratch
Catnip is a kitty-safe stimulant that many felines are very attracted to. You can easily grow your own catnip, or buy it from the pet store. Take two small fabric squares, sew three of the edges together, stuff with catnip and stitch up the remaining edge to make a little pillow catnip toy. If you want to make something a little more creative, I found free patterns online for catnip-stuffed felt critters, including a fish, bird, and mouse. These super cute toys are simple to make, but the instructions suggest using beads for eyes; to make them safer for your cat, use felt for the eyes, or leave off the eyes altogether.
You can make a Knotted Catnip Cat Toy in a matter of minutes. Simply take a small scrap of fabric and place a pinch of catnip in the middle. Carefully fold the fabric over the catnip, then tie a knot in the fabric and voila – instant cat toy.
If you knit or crochet (or would like to learn) you can make a cat toy in under an hour. It can be as simple as two squares joined together (like the pillow toy above) or two round shapes to form a ball. More accomplished knitters can make mice, fish, birds and other shapes, or use this free pattern to knit egg roll and wonton cat toys.
Making your own cat toys is easy, it’s fun, and it saves money. Basically, anything that moves, rolls, makes noise or has feathers can become a cat toy. Just use your imagination! And for more inexpensive ways to entertain your kitty, read How to Save Money on Cat Toys.
Read more articles by Julia Williams
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