By Julia Williams
All cats love to play, which is good because it helps to keep them physically healthy, mentally stimulated and happy. Play can also lesson anxiety, stress, fear, boredom and depression. All told, a feline who has many different options for playtime will be one contented kitty!
So how do you keep your cat entertained without spending a fortune? That’s one of the (many) awesome things about cats – they are easily amused, and very often the best toys in their eyes are either free or very low cost. You could run out and buy every fancy cat toy on the market, and your kitty will still prefer the cardboard box or paper bag it came in! When it comes to cats and play, simple is often better.
Here are 10 ways to entertain your cat on the cheap:
I’ve seen these sold on websites for as much as $5 each, but they’re super easy to make for even the most sewing challenged among us. It’s basically just a little pillow stuffed with catnip, but cats love them. All you need is some fabric scraps big enough to cut into squares (2×3″ or 3×3″), some catnip, and a needle and thread.
Whenever I’m out for a walk, I’m always scouting the ground for feathers. I take them home, tie the stem end to a long piece of string and drag it around for my cats to chase. (Just be sure not to leave it lying around, because string is very dangerous for cats). Peacock feathers are also inexpensive and most are long enough that they don’t even need the string.
We all have those lone socks whose mate got lost. Turn ’em into a fun toy by putting some catnip in the sock and tying off the end. For variety, instead of catnip use silvervine, a natural attractant that has a similar effect. For cats who like to bunny kick their stuffed toys, fill a long sock with cotton, scrap fabric or tissue paper, add some catnip and tie the end or sew it shut.
This totally free toy is a feline favorite. Even better, you can “make” this toy in a nanosecond. Just take a piece of paper that was destined for the shredder or recycle bin and crumple it into a tight ball. Presto! Cats love chasing these, and if you’re up for a challenge, you can use them to teach your cat to fetch.
I discovered quite by accident that a raw green bean makes an awesome cat toy. I brought some beans in from my garden one day and dropped one on the kitchen floor. Annabelle pounced on it and proceeded to flip it up in the air over and over. She had a blast with that bean for a good five minutes.
Ping Pong Balls
Put your cat into the bathtub with a ping pong ball, and be ready to laugh until you cry as you watch him chase it back and forth. The bathtub ensures that the lightweight ball can’t roll away, and the tub’s surface makes the ball bounce all around as your cat tries to catch it.
I have an egg-shaped treat puzzle toy that I bought for a few bucks. I just stuff a handful of CANIDAE treats through the hole. My cats have a great time whapping it around to get the treats out. You can make something similar using a small box. Use an X-Acto knife to cut some small holes into the box and tape it shut. It won’t roll like my egg puzzle toy does, but your cat will still have fun trying to extract the treats.
If you have the space, you can use all sorts of different items to make an inexpensive agility course for your cat. Chairs, ottomans, boxes, paper bags, tunnel toys and small hoops are all good – just use your imagination to create a course where your cat can jump from object to object, run through the tunnels and jump through hoops.
Plastic Easter Eggs
Fill an empty egg with anything that will make noise when it rolls – a few pennies, small pebbles etc. – and seal it shut with packaging tape. Always put this toy away and inspect it before each play session to make sure it’s still taped shut.
Paper Towel Roll
A lot of cats enjoy kicking the heck out of an empty paper towel roll. Best part is, there is nothing to make or do – simply use up the paper towels and throw the empty cardboard tube down for your kitty. Or, leave a few paper towels on the roll and your cat will feel like she won the jackpot when she picked you!
See what I mean? There are endless budget-friendly ways to entertain your kitty. They’ll never know you didn’t spend half your paycheck on their toys, and they won’t care anyway, because they just want to have fun playing!
Read more articles by Julia Williams