I am an online writer with a love for animals. I love DIY pet projects—here are some of my favorites.
DIY Cat Toys Are Cheap and Easy to Make
Ever bought an expensive toy for your cat only to have them ignore it and play with the box it came in instead? Next time, save yourself the frustration and try making a toy instead. Simple DIY cat toys are super easy and fun to make!
In this article, I've put together instructions for making toys out of things you probably already have around the house, plus others to knit, crochet, or build. Spend a little time (and very little money!) making these toys, and your kitty will have tons of fun! This is a great way for you to get your creative juices flowing and do something nice for your kitty.
Always be cautious when making toys for your feline friend. Easily swallowed buttons, sponges, and other ingestibles can come off and become major choking hazards. Even string—seemingly the #1 cat toy—can be incredibly dangerous if swallowed and should only be used during supervised play. Use common sense, and remember—if your cat can get himself in trouble, he will.
Household Items That Make Great Cat Toys
The first few items on our list need next to no altering. It simply doesn't get any easier (or cheaper!) than this.
Crumpled Paper Toy
This may be the easiest and cheapest cat toy you can make. Just take a piece of paper and crumple it into a ball. Cats love to bat this around. Some even carry it in their mouths. My cats like to rip the toy to shreds. It makes a bit of a mess, but it's worth it to see them have so much fun.
My cats seem to like things that have fallen off the counter. Celery pieces, leafy lettuce, kale, and carrot circles are all favorites.
At the top of the list, though, is baby carrots. With their bright color and great shape, these little things are great for slapping around on the kitchen floor, and they slide really well. Occasionally, one of the cats will carry the baby carrot around in his mouth, like some sort of conquering champion.
Give your cat a baby carrot to play with and see what they think.
Empty Pizza Box
My kitties recently made another household item into a toy for themselves. We bought one of those premade pizzas that come in a regular pizza box. Well, this pizza box has a nice hole in the top so people can see the pizza before they buy it. When the pizza box is closed, that hole is perfectly cat-sized!
My cats figured out that the pizza box is a super comfortable place for lounging. Small toys chucked into the open hole are great fun to fish out from inside the box.
Pill-Bottle Cat Toy
Many cats love to bat around a medicine bottle, but there's always the chance they could somehow get the child-proof cap off (seems like everyone but us can get those lids off), and the result could be death for your kitty.
So the best way to turn a medicine bottle into a toy is to remove all the pills and scrub the container really well. Take a couple of dry beans or a small amount of dry rice and put them in the container, then put the lid back on.
Cats love swatting this around the floor, and if they somehow get the lid off, they won't get hurt.
Noise-Making Easter-Egg Toy
Take a plastic Easter egg, put a couple of beans inside, then close it up. Your cat will love batting this around the house.
Kitten Playing With a Wire
The above video shows a kitten playing with a piece of wire. This makes a great homemade cat toy, but if you do give your kitties a piece of wire to play with, use a pair of needle-nose pliers to bend the ends in so there are no sharp points.
Pens and Pencils
Most cats love to play with pens and pencils. I know mine swipe them all the time. To make the pens safe for kitty, remove the ink cartridge and make sure the pen is clean before letting them have it. This is great to do with pens that are already out of ink instead of just throwing them away.
For pencils, make sure there is no sharp tip; completely unsharpened pencils are best. Also, be careful not to give them pencils with erasers. Some cats will chew on these and swallow pieces. It's better if you pull or cut off the eraser before giving it to your cat.
The shape and size of pens and pencils are eternally interesting to most cats for some reason, and they'll most likely play with them for hours.
Of course, you can always just find a nice, clean little twig that's of similar size and shape to a pencil and give it to your cat to play with. The bonus with a twig is that it's often curved a bit, and the not-perfectly-straight shape can add more fun to your kitty's play.
More No-Crafting-Needed Cat Toys
These household pieces are perfect cat toys just the way they are:
- Empty thread spools
- Paper bags
- Toilet paper rolls
- Paper towel rolls
- Plastic milk-jug rings
Easy DIY Cat Toys
The next few items on our list require a little more effort to create, but not much. It's quite easy to make a toy completely from scratch! These ideas are easy to follow and require simple materials that most of us already have at home.
Drip-Tubing Tease Toy
This homemade cat toy uses some of the tubing used for drip irrigation. About a 2-foot-long piece of the 1/4" sized tubing is just right.
- Use a hot glue gun to stick the end of a feather into one of the ends of irrigation tubing.
- When it's cool, you can wave the tubing around. Since it moves oddly, your cats will love it.
Make Your Own Kitty Gym
Sometimes there's no good place to hang stuff for your cats to play with. A good idea is to take an old baby play gym—the ones that newborns lay under and can look up at and play with—and hang some cat toys from it.
You can easily pick up baby gyms at yard sales and thrift stores, or maybe you have one laying around from when your kids were little. You could even make one out of some PVC pipe.
Some of the items already hanging can make good cat toys as well, but if they aren't interesting to your cat, just take them off and add some feathers on strings and bottle caps hanging from cords. Use fairly short lengths so there's no chance your cat can get tangled, and I bet your kitty will have fun.
Doorknob Batting Toy
Find a plastic soda-bottle cap. I like the big-mouthed, one-liter caps, but use whatever you have laying around.
- Using a drill on a slow speed, poke a hole through the soda-bottle cap. (Or you can do it carefully with a sharp nail and a hammer.)
- Use thick string or a shoelace to thread through the hole in the cap. Tie a knot on the other side that is big enough that the string won't get pulled back through.
- Hang the cap and string someplace where your cat can bat it around; just be careful that the string is short enough not to strangle the kitties.
Your cats will have a lot of fun swatting the cap around on the string. They would probably be great to hang from a baby gym as suggested above.
Kitty Rag Dolls
- Take a scrap of fabric and put a pinch of catnip in the middle.
- Carefully fold the fabric over the catnip so it will stay in place.
- Tie a knot in the middle of the fabric. This holds the catnip permanently in place and forms a nice little knot for your kitties to easily grab hold of.
Note: Make sure the rag toys aren't too large. Most cats like them to be on the smaller side. You can always trim some of the excess fabric away after you've tied the toy, if needed.
Fishing Cat Toy
Fishing for cats doesn't just happen in the Mississippi! Make a few of these fishing-pole toys and you'll be reeling in the big ones. All you need is some sort of stick, some string, and a fun toy—a feather, a ball with a bell in it, ribbon pieces, or even a crumpled piece of paper works.
- Tie the string at one end of the stick.
- Tie the toy on the other end of the string.
Wave this around making the toy seem to move like a mouse or bird, and your kitty will love you forever.
How to Make Felted Cat Toys
Cat Toys Involving Food
Cats love food, and some of the best toys involve a reward once they've worked a little!
Cat Foraging Toy
- Take an empty container with a lid, something like a small water bottle or an empty butter tub. Make sure it is clean.
- Cut a small hole on one side. It should be about the size of a quarter.
- Put some kibble in the container, then put the lid on and toss it to your cats.
As the cats push the container around, kibble will spill and they'll have lots of fun gobbling it up. Try different containers and try to find one that moves nicely.
Crawfish Trap for Cats
This is actually a crawfish or crayfish trap that I made out of a plastic 2-liter soda bottle. While making the trap, my cats decided to give me some "assistance." They kept sticking their paws inside, rolling it across the floor, and taking off with it. When I finished the project, the cats claimed it as their own.
- Cut the entire top off the plastic soda bottle, about 4 inches from the top (2 inches if you use a 1-liter bottle). Be careful, it can be hard to cut.
- Take the lid off that piece and then cut the tip off, so you have a funnel shape with one end about 2" across and the other the width of the bottle.
- Turn the funnel shape upside down and place it into the other half of the bottle, so the narrow end is inside the bottle.
- Poke holes along the sides where the two pieces meet, then lace them together so they'll stay nested inside each other.
- Sprinkle some cat kibble inside and roll the toy around until your cats see how much fun it is.
Note: I used a 2-liter soda bottle, but if you're making it for cats you might want to use a 1-liter bottle instead. One of my cats seemed a little intimidated by the size. They're so cheap and easy, though, that you may just want to make two to see which your cat likes better.
Get Festive and Carve a Pumpkin for Your Cat
Hollowed-out pumpkins make fun and different playthings for the kitties. My kitties definitely enjoy them. One of them even liked nibbling on them!
- To turn the pumpkin into a fun toy for your cats, simply cut off the top and empty out the insides, just as you would do when carving for a jack-o'-lantern.
- Then cut out various-sized holes from the pumpkin. If your pumpkin is very large, you can probably cut a big hole in one side for the cats to get in and out through.
- Next, let it sit overnight so it can dry out a little.
- The next day, use a paper towel to dry out the inside thoroughly.
- Set it on the floor with the lid off so the kitties can play with it. You may need to tip it over sideways so they feel more comfortable playing in it. Tossing noisy toys inside may get their attention and coax them inside.
Once they realize how much fun the pumpkin is, they'll have a ball swatting at each other through the holes and climbing in and out of the pumpkin. You can also place a toy inside the pumpkin and place the lid back on so your cat gets to try to capture the toy through the holes in the pumpkin.
This is a very short-lived toy—remember to toss it out before it starts going bad!
Cat Toys Made of Household Items
- Make a Free Toilet Paper Tube Cat Toy
It only takes a few moments to make a super simple and free cat toy that your cats will love to whap around, using just a toilet paper tube and a pair of scissors.
- Make Another Cat Toy Out of a Toilet Paper Tube
This is another idea for a cat toy made out of a toilet paper tube, again only needing scissors and an empty toilet paper tube to make it. All of my cats go nuts for these, but three are absolutely obsessive about them.
- Make a Cardboard Mouse
Make a mouse using cardboard and a template.
- DIY Eco-Friendly Cardboard Ball for Cat
This is a simple project. It only needs a few pieces of cardboard and glue. Your cat will love this cardboard toy.
- Coffee Cup Cat Treat Toy: 8 Steps
I have 2 cats, and I like to think of ways to keep them (and me) entertained. I am also a coffee drinker (more fun kitty playtime) and like to enter contests (also fun!). So here is my Coffee Cup Cat Treat Toy Instructable.
Make Rope, Paper, and More Into Toys!
- String and Sponge Cat Toy
This cat toy is made from a piece of sponge, masking tape, felt, and string, and is pretty darn easy to make.
- Crinkly Cat Toy from Umbrella Cover
An unused umbrella cover makes a great cat when combined with just a few other items you probably have in your trash.
- Knotty Mouse for Good Cats: 10 Steps (with Pictures)
This Knotty Mouse is so much fun for cats to play with. Having trouble tying the knot? See my video on basic crown knots.
- Treat-dispensing Origami Cat Toy: 5 Steps
Treat-dispensing Origami Cat Toy: This easy-to-make toy is based on the same principle as many other treat-dispensing toys. The large outer ball houses a smaller ball that holds the treat. With enough interaction, the treat will fall out, or your cat
- Small Flog Cat Toy
I know, odd title...but it's true. I'm a big fan of knots, so when we recently got a new kitten in the house, I couldn't help but make her some rope toys.
Sewing, Knitting, and Crocheting for Your Cat
- Knit a Mouse Cat Toy
If you know how to knit, make a cute little mouse from your leftover yarn.
- Hedgehog Cat Toy
A toy hedgehog stuffed with catnip and plastic strips to entertain your cat. It can be modified to be simply a plushie.
- Crochet a Doorknob Hanging Cat Toy
This is a simple cat toy that uses leftover pieces of yarn to create a dangling toy to hang from a doorknob.
- Sew a Menswear Mouse for Your Kitty
This craft uses old men's clothing to craft a cute little mouse cat toy.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2009 Alisha Vargas
What do you think?
Someone... Yeah Someone on January 16, 2018:
I have a toy idea... You can get a box, cut holes in it, put it over the cat and you can kind of just like... I don't know, get it's favourite toys and probably just put it in, and out, in different holes. The cat will try to get the toys and.. Yea... It was my last cats favourite toy.
carebear on May 31, 2017:
my cat loves to play with the lens I also think that it is a cool idea you can basically turn anything into a cat toy
euna on September 18, 2015:
im a cat lover and thanks for alot for info
Vladimir from Australia on October 01, 2014:
A box! Give me a box!
EveStanley LM on March 09, 2014:
Thanks for the infortmative lens. I'm a proud owner of my first little kitten and I'll definitely try these.
teelover on February 21, 2014:
Jamesykai on February 15, 2014:
joanzueway on January 16, 2014:
Thank you for this wonderful lens
Vantis on January 10, 2014:
I think I can give my turbo cat a little occupation :)
sunriseblue lm on December 23, 2013:
Wow this is a brilliant lens! Will definitely try to make some of these for my cat!
jack101010 on December 22, 2013:
some great ideas thank you!
shjn3006 on September 28, 2013:
I will initroduce for my friend and my family
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 25, 2013:
I don't have cats but I can share this with friends who have. Great ideas.
Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on September 22, 2013:
Revisiting this great lens to say well done for being featured! This alaways was one of my favourite cat lenses!
steadytracker lm on August 22, 2013:
Kids can turn just about anything into a great toy, but cats, they can do so much more that its amazing. I remember our cats growing up and they could amuse themselves for hours with some of the simplest things around the house. Thank you for sharing this great lens.
anonymous on August 19, 2013:
I love cats, How many cats do you have?
myowncupoftea on August 18, 2013:
The boxes are a winner. When my cats get exhausted, the boxes double as beds!
JillMckenzie on August 13, 2013:
Wow. I've learn a lot.. My cat really loves boxes. Thanks for the tutorials!
mathew31 on August 13, 2013:
Great ideas, my cat would love these!
SusanAston on July 30, 2013:
Love this lens. I have run out of "Likes" today - so will come back.
chat2vishakha on July 22, 2013:
Very nice post.Thanks for sharing this awesome tutorial.
socialcx1 on July 18, 2013:
So many clever ideas and great fun for the kids to make. Loved this lens. Thanks
YehSha on July 08, 2013:
Those are really good. I'll definitely make one of those for my kittens.
PaulRyan on June 26, 2013:
Cats and cardboard boxes are always my fav. :P :D
BarbsSpot on April 24, 2013:
Lensmaster...Cats, just like kids, enjoy the simplest toy, a cardboard box! Entertaining Lens! Congrats on a Purple Star!
Ted Bergman on March 11, 2013:
As the owner of an indoor Abby cat who is smart and energetic, I found your lens a treasure trove of information. I have also found, over the years, that writing humor about the games I have played with my cats, has been great fun. Again, thanks for your time and expertise. - Ted
Research_Analyst on March 03, 2013:
I like these tips on how to Make Our Own Homemade Cat Toys
agagata lm on February 20, 2013:
Brilliant lens! It's nice to have it all under one roof :)
pacrapacma lm on February 14, 2013:
I'm adding this lens to Pinterest. I'm thrilled to have found all this info in one place. Thanks for collecting all this information. My kids, cat, and I are going to be busy.
chickie99 on February 09, 2013:
really clever lens!
anonymous on February 06, 2013:
My cats love bags! Any kind of bag. Boxes come in second so all the bought toys lay around and are basically an expensive mess. Thanx for the great homemade ideas. Gonna hook me kitties up with a tree stump I think.
hntrssthmpsn on February 04, 2013:
Cat toys can be pretty pricey. Making your own seems like a great way to provide your cat with a large assortment of play options without breakin' the bank!
tolleart lm on February 01, 2013:
Great ideas, my cat is forever grateful!
TrezNafien on February 01, 2013:
I find this intriguing, and my cats will too when I make them some of these nifty toys. Mine tend to destroy the store bought ones in just a few hours so I have to keep finding new and better ones, this should help me a lot, thank you!
WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on January 23, 2013:
Awesome ideas for cat toys. Blessed!
BizLang on January 21, 2013:
Such fantastic ideas and I am going to try some of them out :)
Peregrina-JK on January 16, 2013:
Brilliant lens and great ideas here :)
gradientcat on January 15, 2013:
I recently made a bag toss game for my daughter's birthday and one of the cats crawled through the hole to play in the box!
WriterJanis2 on January 11, 2013:
You have some really great ideas here. Blessed!
LisaNowatzki on January 08, 2013:
What a fun lens. Thank you for all your hard work!
SharingGreatStuff on January 08, 2013:
You have some great ideas here for homemade cat toys. I will definitely try some out for my kitties. It's always such fun to see them play.For me, it's a great way to relax just watching them play.
TriciaLymeMom on January 05, 2013:
so many great ideas...thanks!
lionmom100 on January 05, 2013:
It's amazing that some of the best cat toys are the free ones.
GeekGirl1 on December 18, 2012:
i love what you have done here. good lens.
chas65 on December 18, 2012:
Watching cats, especially kittens at play can be so much fun. We had a couple of kittens in our 1o,000 square foot antique store and they could play with just a simple ball for log periods of time just hitting and chasing that little ball. Some great ideas on making some toys for them.
xtianfriborg13 on December 17, 2012:
anonymous on December 16, 2012:
To make this better, having links that have pictures of the kitty toys would be great. Because I don't if I want to make things until I can see what they look like :(
mistaben on December 15, 2012:
Fantastic ideas =)
nifwlseirff on December 10, 2012:
My cats love laser pointers the best, but ribbons (and houseplants) are favorites. We haven't had many boxes, but I'm sure they'd be a hit too.
softclaws on December 09, 2012:
This is brilliant! :) great ideas here!
JaneWatson on December 08, 2012:
LOVE IT! fun and frugal!
AnimalHouse on December 07, 2012:
Nice lens! Thanks for sharing those home-made cat toy ideas!
lolicious on December 07, 2012:
If only I was allowed to have cats in the house :(. Very good lens, keep up the good work.
webhostingrevie on December 03, 2012:
maryseena on December 02, 2012:
My kitty loved to play with brooms. When I hang it up, she would jump up to reach it. so I made a small broom (grass broom) for her. She spent hours with it till it was reduced to nothing!
whats4dinner on November 26, 2012:
my cats want to tug all the cords in our house. very stressful but he looks cute while playing with the cord
ismeedee on November 22, 2012:
Wow, so many great ideas here! I think our new kitten will have lots of fun without the need to spend loads of money!
BradKamer on November 19, 2012:
I was drawn to this lens as the photo in your intro looks just like our tabby, Coby. Nothing beats the vacant cardboard box! Great ideas here. Thanks for sharing.
JuliaAnnPayne on November 16, 2012:
I love kitties
libely on November 12, 2012:
Great ideas! My kitty cat will love these :)
Rose Jones on November 11, 2012:
Excellent lens - love the approach. Pinned to my "thrifty living" and "cats" boards and blessed.
anonymous on November 09, 2012:
This lens is great! I built a kitty condo for my cat and she loves it. This lens really has a lot of useful info.
themanlycat on November 08, 2012:
My cats so smart he homemakes his own homemade toys. . . Naw he just attacks the toilet paper and spreads it all over the bathroom. sigh.
M4creations on November 01, 2012:
So true, so true. The amount of money I've shelled out on toys and Loki Kitty's favorite toy is a potholder with a robe sash attached to it...
rooshoo on October 28, 2012:
My cats go crazy over boxes. Put a box anywhere in the house and they will be inside it in minutes.
JennyBentle on October 23, 2012:
Some nice ideas here!!
anonymous on October 20, 2012:
Brilliant ideas for cat toys!
anonymous on October 17, 2012:
Nice lens topic!
Evelyn88 on October 17, 2012:
..feet under a blunket :D
I think my cats will love your lens :)
anonymous on October 11, 2012:
nice toys i hpoe my cat likes them thanks for sharing
tudzuniverse on October 10, 2012:
Lot's of information Thank you!
bossypants on October 03, 2012:
You are the cat toy expert, Alisha!
air ambulance s on September 18, 2012:
The kitten in the first video is so cuuute! You have such a great idea. Nice job. Thanks for sharing. Great lens.
viva10 on September 15, 2012:
I'm a cat lover and this is a great page..thanks for the info :)
Alisha Vargas (author) from Reno, Nevada on September 11, 2012:
@Redneck Lady Luck: Thanks for letting me know. I haven't had internet in months and sadly my lenses are suffering.
MarlinEleko on September 11, 2012:
I like putting catnip in the cat toys... drives my cats wild! :)
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on September 05, 2012:
Alysha many of your photos from Flickr are not coming through so you may want to fix that issue.
anonymous on September 05, 2012:
great lens idea and content. Nice job, thanks
anonymous on September 04, 2012:
Some really great ideas in this lens! My cats died many years ago but I'm thinking about getting a new one from the animal shelter. And I don't like the industrial waste products that flooded the market. I don't think most of the regular toys you can buy in stores are very healthy for cats...
Thanks for the inspiration.
ShilohWhenkey on September 02, 2012:
My cat's gonna thank you for this lens ;)
BillyPilgrim LM on August 29, 2012:
Some great info - thanks, my cat will love it!x
LoveToClean on August 27, 2012:
I've definitely purchased my fair share of cat toys that DON'T get played with... so sad :( But you've provided a HUGE list of some great ideas to try, thank you!! :)
anonymous on August 23, 2012:
very interesting lens, my cat used to pay with a ball made out of crushed paper for days.
TheBeautifulLife on August 19, 2012:
'am really big cat lover...and i really love your lens...Big like my friend:)
Aleayah on August 16, 2012:
Gonna bookmark this lens!
TwistedWiseman on August 13, 2012:
My Mimi likes to play with rubber bands as we hurl it towards her, she then brings it back to us :)
pcgirlsurfinnet on August 09, 2012:
awesome lens i am going to try some of these toy ideas for my cat thanks for the great share
pettitjack on August 08, 2012:
I also lOve cats please can you check out my lens and tell other people to as well
montanatravel52 on August 07, 2012:
Fun and simple ideas for having fun with your cat, thanks! I just wrote a lens on one of our crazy family cats, Checkers, and he has fun with every toy, but always ends up needing the real thing, arrrrghhh, gonna try some of your ideas!
lauranlauran on August 07, 2012:
CristianStan on July 31, 2012:
Awesome ideas. I'm so excited to try out some of these toys! Great lens and ideas!
Sfthomas on July 30, 2012:
Quite the handy lens.
LadyJasmine LM on July 16, 2012:
Fantastic Page :-) I'm sure it's not the first time it's been blessed, but I'll add some angel dust here.
LouJon on July 14, 2012:
Great lens. We have a cat and she does like most of her toys we buy her but her favourite toy ever has to be a simple rolled up crisp packet lol. You know when you finish a packet of crisps, some people roll the empty packets up into a ball (well i do lol). Our cat discovered one and she started pawing it round the whole house. She loves them so much, we can't eat crisps in peace now and we are constantly finding old crisp packets lurking around under furniture which she has lost while whacking them round the house :) so cute though because she just loves them
GeniePark on July 05, 2012:
I think you made a great lens. My cat favorite is small plush elephant.
Jen withFlash on July 01, 2012:
I think my cats will love this lens as soon as I share it with them. LOL.. thanks for all the great ideas!!
ahlaj77 on June 13, 2012:
Great lens! I know at times I had to get creative to make a fun cat toy for my cat. He loves string and things that move using a string! Great information btw!
nicole-young on June 11, 2012:
My cats love floss. Sometimes the best toys are just lying around the house. Great Lens : )
Travel_Tips on June 07, 2012:
the best toy is candy wrapper paper :)
JonTempleton on June 06, 2012:
makeup brushes. My cats go bonkers for them!