If you have ever bought a fancy cat toy only to find your pet later playing with the packaging instead of the toy, you’re not alone. Baffled cat owners often wonder what went wrong. Some even take it personally. Your independent-minded kitty’s choice of diversion, though, is more a result of its genetics than its feelings towards you.
Because your cat is a predatory animal by nature, a simple object that engages all of its instincts will attract its attention the most. Homemade toys often satisfy kitty the most. To better understand their benefits, we consulted with expert Holly Tse, author of Make Your Own Cat Toys: Saving the Planet One Cat at a Time (CreateSpace 2008) and owner of the Makeyourowncattoys Web site. Along with her insights, she offered useful ideas to help you create your cat’s next favorite toy -- inexpensively and painlessly.
Consider the Benefits
Homemade toys not only benefit your cat, but they may also enhance your own lifestyle. Tse shares her top two reasons that homemade often trumps store-bought when it comes to cat toys:
You reduce your environmental impact “Some of the best homemade toys can be made by reusing or recycling items you already have around the house,” says Tse. By putting your “garbage” to good use, you divert usable objects away from landfills and direct them instead toward your eager kitty -- a plus in our eco-conscious times.
It’s fun and safe for you and your cat Making homemade cat toys is fun and creative, and it gives you the opportunity to bond more closely with your cat, says Tse. When it comes to safety, there won’t be any scares about lead paint in toys. “If you buy a toy made overseas, you don’t know what materials went into the manufacturing process,” explains Tse. “However, if you make a toy out of an old gym sock, then it’s really up to you to determine how toxic it is,” a smiling Tse adds.
Try It Yourself…
Ready to try your hand at creating your household’s next most popular cat toy? Here are four creative ideas from Tse’s book:
1. Lazy Wrestle Sausage (prep time: two minutes)
What you’ll need: one sock, one plastic grocery bag, one tablespoon organic catnip, one sturdy shoelace
How you’ll do it: Place the catnip in the sock. Stuff the sock with the grocery bag. It should feel soft and pliable to the touch. If it feels too stiff, cut away excess plastic from the bag. Next, tie the shoelace around the open end of the sock, about 2 inches from the end. The toy is now ready for a game of tug-of-war.
2. Dream Catcher (prep time: less than one minute)
What you’ll need: one CD, bright sunshine
How you’ll do it: Hold the CD in the natural light so that it casts reflections throughout the room. Try angling the reflection so that your cat can chase the light beam along the floor and walls.
3. Polar Ribbon (prep time: five minutes)
What you’ll need: old polar fleece jacket or top, one chopstick, one thick rubber band (like the ones used for broccoli), scissors
How you’ll do it: Cut a 1-inch-wide lengthwise strip from the polar fleece top. Continue cutting strips until they add up to 50-70 inches in length. Tie the strips together with double knots to form a very long ribbon. Tie a knot at one end of the ribbon, and tie the other end of the ribbon around the elastic band. Wrap the band around the wide end of the chopstick until it is secure. Now, swirl the ribbon above your cat’s head or dangle it above kitty’s belly. Watch her chase it and swat it.
4. Sweep Around (prep time: two minutes)
What you’ll need: one toilet paper roll, scissors
How you’ll do it: Cut one end of the toilet paper roll to make parallel lengthwise strips, about 2.5 inches long and 0.3 inches wide each. Cut all the way around the roll to form the bristle end of the broom. Press the toilet paper roll flat, then fold it in half lengthwise. Fold again. Fluff up the sweeper bristles so that it fans out like a broom. Sweep Around is now ready to sweep kitty off her feet.
Tse reminds that you should always try to supervise your cat when it is playing with toys, homemade or otherwise. Store the toys in an attractive, covered basket, or other container, until ready for use. As a final word of advice, Tse says, “Avoid items that your cat may want to eat or that have the potential to cause injury.” In fact, she concludes, “when in doubt, just leave it out.”