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I am, and have always been, a cat person. I love cats and have always had at least one since I was a little girl who begged her mother for a “kitty that goes meow all by itself.” About a year ago we brought two little kitten sisters home with us, after we had had a few months to process the passing of our beloved cat we’d had before. (You can catch glimpses of Macchia in a few places on this blog, such as here, here and here.) My kids wanted to buy a bunch of cat toys and accessories in a pet shop, but I insisted on making some simple homemade recycled cat toys.
I created a couple of fun things for Luna and Cocca with upcycled materials that took a little bit of effort, such as this tent from a T-shirt and wire hanger (find the tutorial here), but in the end, it takes very little to make cats happy, and even less to satisfy kittens full of energy.
Over the past year, our little babies have turn into little ladies, or rather, queens of the house. Everything we own has become theirs.
But it’s still fun to have some special little playthings just for them. And guess what? You don’t have to spend a single cent, because you can easily repurpose what you already have in your home to make your feline friends the happiest cats in town!
Let’s start with the easiest of the easy homemade recycled cat toys. As in literally zero effort.
1. Paper bag.
I still remember my very first cat blissfully crawling inside the paper bags my mother brought our groceries home in. Cats LOVE paper bags. End of story. Just put one on the floor and your fluffy friend will crawl in, bat invisible creatures inside of it, jump, turn in circles, peer out (convinced that he is invisible), etc.
If you want to add to the excitement, pick up the bag by the handles with the cat inside. Not all felines appreciate this, but our cats love being carried around. A friend told me that she removes the twisted paper handles from paper bags and ties them together for a good cat toy.
An alternative to the classic paper bag? The classic cardboard box. Cats are kind of like kids; there’s no end of the fun to be had with a cardboard box.
2. Gift ribbon.
I’m not saying to go into your stash of gift wrap. But next time you receive a gift, put the ribbon aside for kitty, especially if it’s curling ribbon.
Those stretchy curls are perfect (I resisted the urge to write “purr-fect”. Oh dang. I just wrote it anyway.) for bouncing around for playful paws.
3. Aluminum foil.
Again, for the love of God, don’t rip a brand new piece off the tin foil roll! Don’t need that piece that was covering your leftover broccoli, and it’s still reasonably clean? Crush it into a ball and throw it in your cat’s direction. She’ll bat it around and run all over with it.
Ok, those are three no-brainer ideas for homemade recycled cat toys. But have you ever thought of this one?
4. Sweater scraps.
If you follow me, you already know that I’m obsessed with felting wool sweaters in my washing machine for crafting material. I realized that the kittens kept stealing bits of cut sweater while I worked on my projects. Turns out, there’s something about wool that cats just can’t get enough of.
We now have scraps of felted wool sweaters hanging around the house for the cats to play with. But they also love non-felted wool. My kids have a few little knitted wool rectangles that they play around with, and the cats are constantly grabbing them and running away with them.
Actually, they do this with fleece, too, but little bits of the fabric can pull off easily and, seeing as fleece is basically plastic, you probably don’t want your cat eating that.
Our cats scratch, kick, pull, and bat around their wool scraps.
They also sometimes get so possessive of their wool that they hold a piece in their mouths and growl at the other to protect it. Then they stalk off somewhere safe to snuggle with it or lick it, like Cocca is doing here.
Now for the homemade recycled cat toys that require maximum 1 minute of assembly time.
5. Shower tab rattle.
We have to buy little tabs to turn on the showers and hairdriers at the pools we go to. It occurred to me that they make a nice rattling sound when there are a bunch of them together, so I just strung them on some plastic-covered string that I had for some reason, tied it up, and I had a great noisy rattle that attracts the cats’ attention and that they like to bat at with their paws.
You can do this with any object that has a hole in it, or…
6. Bottle cap rattle.
…or you can make your own hole in good rattling materials. Say, metal bottle caps.
I simply punch holes in them by hitting an ice pick* (or you can use an awl*) with a rubber mallet*. Just remember to put some cardboard underneath to protect the working surface. Then just string them together.
I hung both of these strung toys from our Ikea Poang armchair, and the cats love them. They race under and around the chair, batting and banging against these two toys. Every so often they grab them with their teeth and rip them off, so I have to tie them back on.
Requiring the tiniest amount more of time are these homemade recycled cat toys:
7. T-shirt strip knots.
These were not my original idea. I saw these on Pinterest and thought that I certainly had enough fabric scraps to make my own. In this case I used small scraps of fabric yardage, but it would be so easy to cut up a t-shirt into strips, knot some together, and trim the edges.
And finally we have the only one of these homemade recycled cat toys that might actually take you almost 5 minutes to make three of.
8. Cardboard “balls”.
Again, this was an idea I got on Pinterest. Cut some squares or circles of cardboard and poke the ice pick* (or awl*) from the bottle cap project through their centers. Tie a knot at the end of an old shoelace or cord, slip the other end through the holes, then tie another knot up close to the cardboard.
Trim the cord and make a couple more! These are perfect for cats to bat around. At first my cats were not interested in these toys, but suddenly after a few months of their just sitting around, they suddenly realized their potential and they now race around our apartment, slipping and sliding on the tiles, as they bat and chase these little toys.
So you see? There’s absolutely no need to break the bank or create demand for new products to keep your kitties happy when you can very easily and quickly made homemade recycled cat toys from things you already have.
If you’ve made it this far, you definitely love your cats, so head on over to and follow my “DIY Cats” Pinterest board, where I’ve collected 80+ fun and totally do-able handmade projects that you can make for your favorite feline!
And if you want to put in a small extra bit of effort, repurpose and old towel and fabric scraps to make a soft and absorbent rug to put under your cat’s food bowls! Even if you’re just a beginner sewist, you can totally handle this simple project!
Don’t forget to sign up for the Cucicucicoo Newsletter here for access to tons of free creative supplies, including sewing patterns, crafting templates and useful printables! The Newsletter is sent out every other week with lots of great ideas and links to a different free sewing pattern every week!
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