Cats are notorious for finding interest in simple things. Instead of spending tons of money on toys for your cat, here's a few simple, budget-friendly DIY cat toys that you can whip up from stuff that's already floating around your house that your cat will go crazy for. Bonus: none of them require much "doing" it yourself beyond what you can do with a pair of scissors and your own two hands.
Use Newspaper to Make Many Different Cat Toys
Shortly after my husband’s cat was adopted—a scraggly, worm-infested kitten who showed up on his doorstep in the middle of the night—he had to go out of town. The pet sitter dropped by to meet our cat and pulled out an array of cat toys all made from a single sheet of newspaper. Of course, there was the 'easy' crumpled up ball (which our playful kitten loved), but they also had made a DIY tassel. It was simple, cut a strip of newspaper so that it stays the full length of the newspaper, but is only 5" wide. Lay it out horizontally and cut 1/4" strips from the bottom up, leaving about a 1/2" of space at the top. Once you've gone across the full length of newspaper, use a little kid-safe glue to roll it up into a tassel your cat can play with. Use this DIY tassel tutorial for help. We regularly “make” her a fresh batch of newspaper toys. Then, when they get bedraggled, off to the recycling they go.
Use Cardboard Paper Rolls to Make a Game
Another recycling-friendly, zero-effort DIY cat toy is the cardboard tube from inside a toilet paper or paper towel roll. Cut them to different sizes, put a slit down the middle or leave them as is. If you have a small box lying around, trim the rolls to varying heights and stuff them in the empty box. Scatter a handful of treats (we suggest our protein-packed, limited ingredient Smitten cat treats) into the various rolls and allow your cat to use her natural “paw fishing” skills to extract the treats.
Try This Easy Straw Toss Game for Cats
This DIY cat toy idea came from a veteran kitten foster mom: Toss a couple plastic drinking straws out for your cat to bat, chew, chase and pounce. Keep an eye on the straws, though. Tiny chunks of plastic (depending on the thickness of the straw) can break off easily. Replace the straws when the plastic loses integrity. One warning: If you use the paper straws available at dollar stores, consider them a one-time use for your cat. The paper deteriorates too quickly to last more than one play session.
Materials to Avoid When Making Cat Toys
Despite the time-worn image of a cat batting around a ball of yarn, skip the skein. Cats can swallow the long threads and cause significant bowel obstructions that require expensive surgery. The same holds for any string-like plaything: ribbon, thread, hair ties, rubber bands and so on. Also, while cats love to jump in and out of bags and boxes, remove any handles on paper bags and recycle boxes that have handles punched into the side—your cat’s cute little face can get stuck!
Whatever DIY cat toy you choose to make, monitor your cat's interaction with these toys, and remove any small, torn, shredded or broken pieces.
Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.