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You Just Might Get What You Play For (Home-made toys)

You’ve probably discovered how much fun a cat can have with a paper bag to hide in (or for you to hide toys in). Lots of additional items that most of us have around the house make excellent cat toys.

Cats are pretty good about entertaining themselves and making toys out of objects that we don’t think of as toys. We can put this to use by getting creative about things that can make excellent (and inexpensive) cat toys. Below are a few suggestions. Feel free to add more by commenting on this post!

  • Jane Ear with soccer ball

    Jane & Easter egg ball

    Hollow, plastic Easter eggs. These days the eggs come in really fun shapes and colors. My favorites look like footballs, soccer balls, and basketballs. These eggs are fun with and without stuff inside them. For cats who like to play with noisy toys, try filling the eggs with jingle bells or unpopped popcorn kernels.

  • Empty rolls from toilet paper and paper towels. Ever notice that the cardboard rolls inside toilet paper in workplaces are industrial strength? Yeah, they’re much more resilient to cat drool. I sometimes hide treats or toys in these tubes and let my cats stretch their arms in trying to reach the goodies.
  • Mountain climbing rope. Many cats like string-like toys. Yet these pose a strangulation and choking hazard so cats should not play with them unattended. One great way to provide string-like toys that are safe for unattended play are to use materials that cannot be wound tight around their necks, such as short lengths of mountain climbing rope. Kilo makes rope toys for dogs out of this material. The smaller Kilo toys for smaller dogs have been a big hit with a few cats who like stringie toys. Another great way to provide a safe string-like toy is to use actual string at lengths too short to get wound tight around their necks. The “Mouse on a wire” toy is a great ready-made option.
  • Pom-pom balls. Any general craft store will have loads of pom-pom ball options for cats. Be sure to select balls that are not so small that they present a choking hazard. Marinade pom-poms in catnip to entice cats who respond to catnip.

Keenan & pom-pom

  • Finger puppets. Look for finger puppets safe for cats, fill them with catnip, and sew them closed. Those safe for cats have no loosely attached beads, buttons, or other baubles. Features painted on the puppets with non-toxic paint or non-toxic fabric dye is ideal. I’ve seen puppets that are fun to see cats playing with and chewing on, like dogs or monkeys. The Olympia Food Coop has some wonderful, knit, fair trade finger puppets that you can throw in the washing machine after you cat drools on them.
  • Boxes with holes in them. The most wonderful boxes are the ones that satsuma oranges or bananas come in They have pre-cut holes in them that are irresistible to many curious cats. These boxes are also sturdier than the average cardboard box. Facial tissue boxes also work well for this purpose because of the hole in the top. For even more fun, place toys or treats in the box. The “Peek a prize” and “Peek n play” box toys are great ready-made options. (They’re made by Smart Cat, one of my favorite cat toy manufacturers because they make wonderful toys that keep active, intelligent cats busy.)
  • kittens and straw

    kittens & straw

    Drinking straws. These are very popular with most kittens and adult cats who like string-like toys. I always have a bundle of these with me when I’m pet sitting.

  • Tampons. Ok, I know this sounds strange, but I have talked to many women whose cats have discovered these toys all on their own. But forget what they’re intended to be used for and think about these from a cat’s viewpoint. These make excellent pseudo-mice after the wrappers and applicators have been removed. Some cats prefer to unwrap these treasures by themselves. The wrappers make such wonderful crinkle sounds and once the “mouse” is unwrapped it’s an entirely new toy!
  • Cat scratchers au naturale. Driftwood and firewood make excellent scratching objects. Two of my cats, Snicklefritz and Meek, used the same small log for nearly 15 years.
  • Old wrist watches. Is it the way the watch face weighs down the watchband as it dangles from a cat’s mouth? Is it the smell or feel of leather? For whatever reason, I’ve lived with several cats who are crazy about wrist watches
  • Corks. From wine bottles, olive oil, etc. These absorb scents really well, so putting them in a bag or jar with catnip for a few weeks makes them even more enticing!
  • Tin foil crinkled into a ball.

What other toys do your cats find around your house?

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