Six months ago, my family adopted a gray, bobtailed kitten named Queenie. Excited to play with her, we bought her a slew of toys — catnip-infused mice, feather wands, laser toys, rubber balls and scratching posts — that cost up to $30 each.
Of course, she shunned them in favor of paper balls, large rubber bands, paper bags and cardboard boxes.
Instead of buying your cat toys she’ll ignore, try these DIY cat toys, upcycled from things you probably already have lying around your house. They’ve helped us save a bunch of cash, which we can now put toward veterinary care, behavioral guidance and high-quality food.
Here are nine of Queenie’s favorite DIY cat toys.
1. No-Sew Catnip Bird
Even if you can’t knit, sew, crochet or craft your way out of a paper bag, you’ll be able to make Frugal Fanny’s catnip bird in less than five minutes.
- an 8-by-8-inch square of flannel fabric
- 2 tablespoons of catnip or silver vine
- one small ball of polyester fill (or crumpled-up paper, if you prefer)
- a 6-inch-by-½-inch fabric strip
Lay the 8-inch piece of fabric on the table and sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons of catnip or silver vine. Next, plop the polyester ball on top of the catnip, pull up each corner and tie the fabric strip just under the polyester ball. That’s it!
2. Party Shaker
This is my kitten’s go-to toy. She love to wrestle and run under it, and she takes pride in ripping off bits of paper or ribbon and stashing them in a pile behind the front door.
- duct tape (decorative is great, but plain works just as well)
- a cardboard tube from a dry-cleaner hanger, a homemade newspaper tube, or another upcycled stick (such as the bottom of a broken plastic hanger or a plastic blind wand)
- newspaper, colored paper or ribbon
Cut the paper or ribbon into thin strips. Pull off a 10-inch piece of decorative tape and lay it sticky side up on the table. Then place the ends of the strips on the edge of the tape and wrap it around the bottom of the tube. If you’re using ribbon, increase the fun factor by curling it with a pair of scissors.
3. Felt Feathers
My cat is a feather fanatic. And as Martha Stewart knows, even the simplest toys get a paws-up when they’re attached to strings.
- felt or fabric
- an iron
- satin or elastic cord, or even just plain yarn or string
- a jingle bell
- a split ring (a miniature key ring)
- Martha Stewart’s feather template
Print the feather template. Cut out one large and one small feather from different colored pieces of felt. Press a crease down the middle of each feather with a hot iron.
Then, slip a jingle bell and one yard of satin or elastic cord — the elastic cord will stretch further, entertaining your playful kitten or athletic cat — onto a split ring. Tie the feathers’ stems to the split ring with a square knot.
4. Catnip Pillow
My cat loves to sleep with her catnip pillow, which is decorated with little ducks. To make your own, sew up three sides of a felt rectangle, then stuff it with catnip or silver vine and polyester fiberfill.
If you can’t sew a straight line or don’t have a sewing machine, just stuff the catnip and fiberfill into an old sock and knot the top.
5. Lemon-Shaped Mouse
My cat loves to chase, carry around and stash behind my bed any toy that looks like a mouse. She sucks on mice made from bits of thrift-store silk remnants and cuddles with mice made from wool. Experiment with different materials to see what your cat prefers.
Because Queenie is a kitten, I created a small, lightweight mouse.
- polyester fill
- needle and thread
- assorted fabric scraps
- googly eyes (optional)
- hot glue gun (optional)
- catnip (optional)
Cut out two lemon-shaped side pieces and two small ears from your bits of fabric. Sew a piece of yarn to the end of one of the sides. Next, stitch both sides of the mouse together partway and stuff your mouse with polyester fill and catnip, if you’d like.
Fold each ear in half and stitch it near the front of the mouse’s body. Finish sewing the body. Your mouse can be eyeless, or you can use hot glue to stick on googly eyes.
6. Sunshine Wheel
Give plain toilet paper rolls a fun upgrade with a pair of scissors. Make ½-inch cuts all the way around both ends of each roll, creating tabs. Then fold each tab back for a “wheel” look that’s sure to brighten playtime.
7. Ring Ball
Queenie is obsessed with chasing balls of all types, and this ring ball made from a toilet paper roll is no exception. You’ll need scissors, a ruler and cat treats for this two-minute toy.
1. Mark every ¼ inch on the side of the cardboard tube
2. Cut out each ring
3. Insert the first ring into the second ring
4. Insert third ring into the fourth, and so on
5. If you want to add dry cat food or treats, simply slip them into the ball through the gaps between the rings
6. Although your cat won’t care, you can add a little pizazz with a Sharpie or small stickers
8. Knotty Spiders
My cat loves Friskies Knotty Spiders. She’ll carry them around in her mouth or scoot them along the floor for hours of independent play.
- the plastic ring from around the top of a milk jug, or a key ring
- a 5-by-5-inch piece of felt
Cut the felt into 12 or 14 strips. You can also use multiple colors, like in the Friskies video, or use your favorite sport team’s colors. Your cat probably won’t care, though.
Tie the strips onto the milk jug ring using a double knot. I recommend using a metal key ring if you have a young, rowdy kitten, since it’ll help your toy last longer.
9. Treat Rattle
This toy combines Queenie’s two favorite things: noise and treats. You’ll need an empty toilet paper roll and a sharpie.
Draw a face on the toilet paper roll. Pinch one end of the roll together and fold it down in the middle. It should look like a pair of cat ears.
Next, place several treats inside the roll and fold the other end into a triangle or v-shape. The ends won’t close super tight, so your cat will have loads of fun trying to swat the treats out.
Your Turn: Do you make DIY cat toys for your kitty? Share your favorites in the comments!
Cherese Cobb is a freelance writer from Maryville, Tennessee. She’s created eyeball-grabbing copy for blogs such as xoJane, Take Lessons, The Asahi Shimbun and The Krazy Coupon Lady.