Cheap Thrills: Homemade Toys for Frisky Felines

When Seren first came to live with us, I--like most new pet-parents--went overboard purchasing cute kitty paraphernalia. I wanted to make sure she was a happy, well-adjusted cat. As it happened, all those dollars spent on commercial toys didn’t please the cat at all. Seren much preferred cheap thrills.

Each time I opened a box to get out a new cat-centric delight, Seren ignored the bauble and loved the box. By figuring out what floats your cat’s boat in terms of toys and play, you can lower your dollar cost while increasing kitty delight.

Cat Toy Safety

Be sure toys are safe, whether store bought or home grown. Know your cat and whether he’s a “hoover” and eats anything slower than he is, or has respect for toys. At my house I must be extra mindful since the Magical-Dawg loves cat toys, too, and can swallow Seren’s toys without chewing. He particularly likes to tease me and play keep-away by holding a neon-color mouse in his mouth with just the tail sticking out. The cat is not amused, either.

Cats also tend to swallow small pieces of toys and choke or become blocked inside. Pull off any loose swallow-able parts before presenting new toys to pets. Here are some of Seren’s favorite cheap thrills.

6 Cheap Thrills for Cats

  1. Catnip Treats: Catnip turns many cats into drunken furry fools. This harmless herb is great fun for the cat and also keeps you entertained. Catnip varies by potency, and quickly becomes stale. Fresh is the best, and you can purchase grow-kits from pet product stores. Fill an empty sock with catnip and knot the end for an inexpensive refillable catnip toy. You can also use a bag of catnip to “freshen” your cat’s interest in other playthings by storing toys in a baggy with the herb to give them a minty lift.
  2. Paper Wads: Some cats enjoy games of fetch. Choose lightweight toys easy for the daintiest cat to carry. Small wads of paper offer endless entertainment. Try thumping them across a tiled floor for a session of kitty paw-hockey, or toss one down the stairs for the cats to chase. Beware: this may create wastebasket marauders.
  3. Bling Balls: You can find soft pompoms in a variety of sizes at cat shows, craft shops and sewing stores. Seren especially likes the sparkly kind. She chases, bats, and carries them around while announcing her “kill” in a muffled “mffff!” cry of success. Sparkle balls are also a fave of Magic, resulting in his creation of sparkly poop. Ahem.
  4. Feathers: Supervise feather interaction so the cat won’t chew or swallow these toys. Craft stores package a variety in multipacks far cheaper than the fancy “kitty tease” toys at cat shows or pet stores. Try snaking a pheasant feather along the carpet so it disappears under a box and enjoy the cat’s reaction.
  5. Bags and Boxes: What cat can resist an empty bag or box to hide inside, lying in wait to ambush ankles or another pet? Boxes can be stacked or turned into cat tunnels. Bags (paper only, please!) make great noises to entice playful cats. Be sure to cut the handles off the bags, though, to prevent catching kitty necks. The last time I failed to do this Seren ran scared when she raced away with the attached bag-demon chasing her!
  6. Bathtub Fun: Next time you open the jug of milk, toss the plastic ring to the cat and see what happens. Ping Pong balls can be endless fun, especially if contained inside the empty bathtub so you don’t have to fish errant toys from beneath the washer or refrigerator. Just warn your cat before you run a bath, or kitty won’t appreciate the surprise.

Turning a throwaway item into a treasured toy is one of cats’ greatest skills. What’s your feline’s favorite unusual plaything?