- Rachel Doran
Entertaining Your Cat: A DIY Approach
It’s a scene every cat parent is familiar with. You go to the pet store, you spend a small fortune on cat toys. Then you get in your car and the whole drive home you are bubbling with excitement and a sense of accomplishment. You have succeeded. You have purchased the best of the best in the name of feline entertainment. You are going to have a very happy kitty. Then reality happens.
Your cat isn’t interested in anything you brought home. Maybe some of those little jingly balls held their attention for a day or so, but mostly, you are just tripping over piles of your money in the form of under-utilized cat toys. And you think to yourself “There has to be a better way!"
There is! We’re going to share with you a few DIY and cheap cat toys that will, at the very least, save you some money and a trip to the pet store. But remember: cats are fickle creatures, so what works for one feline is in no way guaranteed to work for another, or even the same cat on a different day. So feel free to use these ideas as inspiration and make adjustments when needed to captivate your unique pet.
Open Pandora’s Box
Yes, it’s a cliche. But it's a cliche because it works. Kids and cats are notorious for caring more about the box than the items contained within. This is because a box can be anything. A cat can sleep in a box given its inherent privacy. A cat can pounce into a box sneaking up on whatever they imagine is hiding inside. Cats can spend hours just jumping in and out of a plain cardboard box.
Not only is this beneficial for physical play but it is also valuable for mental stimulation. Both types of play are essential for keeping your pet feeling young and healthy.
So how do you use a box as a toy? Well, you have a few options.
Option 1: Just open the box. That’s it. The cat will take it from there.
Option 2: Build a cat village using cardboard boxes. This is definitely a task for the Pinterest pet parents out there. There are several online examples of amazing cat villages made out of only boxes. Just do a quick internet search and follow the inspiration. You can construct a tunnel, multi-level forts, or anything else you can imagine.
Remember: Be sure to remove any tape, or packing material that may be leftover in the box as you wouldn’t want your cat to ingest anything. Also, please do not use a box that stored anything that could harm pets.
Tie Up Their Attention
Yarn is another no-brainer with cats. However, the quintessential ball of yarn doesn’t seem as entertaining to real live cats as their cartoon counterparts. Instead, the fun of yarn happens when you dangle or drag the yarn across the floor. Most cats can’t resist pouncing on the opportunity to mimic the hunt.
Pet experts agree “the hunt” is a powerful and irresistible urge in felines. When making a string toy, your options are almost endless. You can simply have a piece of yarn. Just a single piece of yarn. Let your cat see it and then drag it away.
Alternatively, you can tie the end of the yarn into a little ball that your cat can chase. Or you can tie a handful of strings (bonus tips for different textures, colors, and lengths) together to a stick making a shower of strings your pet can paw at.
Another very popular cat toy dupe is to make a feather toy. Tie a felt or craft feather to the end of the string and make it fly. Your cat will go crazy. At least for a little while.
Rock, Paper, Fun
If you’re in a pinch, you can’t go wrong by employing the help of paper. You will likely always have paper lying around your house. Paper makes a delicious crackling noise when you crumble it. Cats love this.
You can just ball up some paper and toss it across the room for an instant toy. Cats will bat it around for hours. And the best part is when they get bored of it, you can just toss it into the recycling.
Quick Warning: Be sure to just use plain paper and not receipt paper or any type of paper that has any residue on it. Your cat will likely pick the ball up with their mouth, and you don’t want them ingesting anything unhealthy.
Paper bags are also a great entertainment source. Open a paper bag and watch the play ensue. This works similarly to the box in the sense that cats can’t resist exploring the bag, and the fun noise it makes only adds to the fun. And once the bag has been explored they will love pretending to hide.
What if you’re in a pinch and you don’t have time to throw together a toy? Maybe you’re trying to get some work done and suddenly your cat is ready to be entertained. They are sitting on your computer pawing at your face. And if this sounds crazy to you, you must be one of the non-cat-parents reading.
In this case, we recommend giving your rambunctious feline something to look at. Open a window, and your cat is sure to let curiosity get the best of them. Cats love to sit perched in a window and watch the world go by, especially if there are birds fluttering around outside.
There are also cat-specific videos you can find online made explicitly for this purpose. Or if you want to get really creative, you can download a fish screensaver app for your phone and just let your cat paw at the digital fish for a while and enjoy your blissful uninterrupted time to think.
Don’t Stop There
These ideas barely scratch the surface of what household items can be used to entertain your pet. You can utilize toilet paper tubes, water bottles, hair ties, mirrors, or even children’s bubbles.
The takeaway here: keep in mind the importance of both physical and mental exercise for your feline. As you try new things out, you'll learn more about the type of play they need and like. Kittens will need much more physical hunting play. While older cats may prefer more independent play.
Keep it fun, keep it safe, and keep it varied. Because if there is one thing you can count on, it’s that your cat will keep you on your toes with changing tastes and interest levels.