Kittens are naturally more rambunctious than adults, but all cats love to play. Even “senior” cats enjoy playing with their favorite toy in-between naptime. Consequently, cat toys are an important element of good feline care. Cat toys do more than just entertain your kitty, though; they also give your cat an outlet for excess energy, provide needed exercise (especially important for indoor cats), and can be a fun way to bond with your cat. However, this doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on toys for cats.
Since how to save money is on just about every person’s mind nowadays, I wanted to share some economical ways to keep your kitty entertained. There are basically three ways to spend less on toys for cats. The first one is seasonal: shop the after-Christmas clearance sales at your local pet stores. Most carry an inventory of holiday gifts for pets, such as stockings filled with cat toys or individual items that have a holiday theme. Last year I came home with a huge bag of cat toys that were 75% off, and I paid less than $10 for all of it.
My three felines probably have enough cat toys to last a lifetime now. If not, my second idea for how to save money on cat toys involves buying inexpensive items that cats love to play with. My favorite of these is ping pong balls, which have an unpredictably wild bounce that cats find irresistible. If you buy them in bulk, they can cost as little as 25 cents each, and also won’t get stepped on later. Straws are another feline favorite in my house. I found this out after I caught my cat Rocky stealing them right out of my drink! He loves to flip the straw up in the air and try to catch it.
If your cat enjoys catnip (some do, some don’t), you can buy some fabric and catnip to make homemade catnip toys. Little pillow-shaped catnip toys are what I usually make, because they’re incredibly easy to assemble. Just cut out two squares of fabric (about 3”), sew three sides closed, fill it with catnip and sew the fourth side shut. If you don’t like to sew, you can also fill a child’s sock with catnip, tie a knot in it and voila! Instant homemade cat toy.
My third idea for how to save money on cat toys (and my personal favorite) involves using readily available materials found in your home. Once you understand what makes a good cat toy – things that roll, bounce, simulate “prey” or make noise – the potential for free homemade cat toys is practically limitless. Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and throw it across the room for your cat to chase. My sister’s cat will even bring it back, over and over. None of my cats will fetch the paper ball, but they will run after it and bat it around for a bit.
A piece of string or twine is the ultimate cheap cat toy. My cats will chase a string around the house for hours, and they’ll jump up for it if I dangle the string several feet from the floor. I also like to tie one of their furry mice to the end and drag it around so they can chase after it. It’s very important, though, to always put the string away when you’re done playing, because your cat might swallow it and become ill.
Paper sacks are another classic cat toy that doesn’t cost a penny, and I’ve never met a kitty that didn’t like to get into them and rustle around. If you have 35mm film canisters, you can fill them with anything that rattles, such as pebbles, pasta or beans. Just make sure the lid is on tight before giving it to your kitty. Boxes are another great free cat toy. You can even construct a kitty playhouse by fastening several large boxes together. Cut out holes for your cat to walk through and stick their paws through, and place the box upside down on the floor.
Empty toilet paper tubes make excellent toys for cats. I have a similar tube that is thicker, sturdier, and about half the length. I can’t remember where it came from initially, but I saved it because I knew my cats would enjoy playing with it, and they do. Before you throw anything away, you should always ask yourself if the item might somehow become a cat toy. There’s a very good chance that it can, and your kitty will have just as much fun playing with his homemade cat toy as he will with a store-bought one. That’s the beauty of cats – they’re easy to please, at least when it comes to their toys!