In these trying economic times, we want to amuse and entertain our feline best friends, but with budgets tighter than ever, we have a hard time justifying frivolous purchases of toys for our family pets. Fortunately, the inability to spend a lot of money on the newest gadgets does not mean that you can’t still provide them with hours of entertainment and fun! Here are some ideas.
Paper bags or sturdy plastic bags. Be sure they are not plastic grocery bags, but gift bags work great for this purpose. You do not want them eating the plastic or the tiny pieces that sometimes cling to a plastic bag from a store. But, gift bags are inexpensive and very sturdy, virtually impossible to eat. Remember that if the bags have handles, to cut off or at least snip in half the handle. Cats can get them caught around their necks and either strangle them or scare them, sending them on a mildly entertaining (for us) run through the house, but this can
be terrifying for them. Please do not do it.
Balls. Plastic golf balls and ping pong balls are great. If you have cats who enjoy water, another fun idea is to take a large bowl and put floating balls on top. They really love to slap them around in the water.
Straws. Straws are an incredibly inexpensive and surprisingly fun toy for a cat! Our bengals, in particular, love to carry them around and amuse me tremendously by sticking them in their water dishes. I wonder if I will someday walk in to find one drinking from one. The also slap them around on the floor and hide them to find later.
Bird Feeders. If you are inclined to enjoy watching birds, you can put out a small bird feeder near a window the cat can easily and comfortably access. Our kitty friends love to watch birds and make cute chirping sounds at them. This can literally provide a full day of entertainment to some cats!
Cat Nip Bags. Homemade, of course! Purchase cat nip and some stuffing, put inside and old sock and you can either sew the sock shut of simply knot it at the top and give it to kitty. They will never know the difference between that and a store bought one. Alternately, you can actually purchase material in interesting colors and designs and use that to sew simple catnip toys. Research shows at least 70 percent of all cats respond to catnip and it can be a great way to get them excited!
Homemade Rattle Toys. Small round containers like an unused (not one that has contained pills!) pill bottle with safety cap or other round container with large paperclips inside will give your cat something to slap around. They absolutely love the sounds this makes.
Shoe Laces or rope. These are great to drag around the house and kitty will adore giving chase! Please always use these toys only when you can supervise. A cat should never be left alone with any type of string, lace or small rope. They can be ingested quickly and wrap around the cat’s intestines or cause intestinal blockage. Remember to always make safety first!
Paper Towel Rolls. Again, supervision is required for safety, but our cats love to slap these around. Do not allow them to play with them if they become soggy after chewing. Ingesting the cardboard is unsafe. But, since most of us have a spare paper towel or toilet paper roll somewhat frequently, they can be a great plaything for an hour or two before being thrown away.
Baskets and Boxes. These are great forts, caves and hiding holes. These are great because, with cardboard, you can cut out sides, use tape and attach multiple ones together for some really great fun! They tap into a cat’s natural desire to climb, hide, burrow and stalk. You can use balls and other toys inside to get them excited about slapping the toys around inside their new fort.
Wrapping paper or Newspaper. We always supervise this closely and do not allow them to eat it, but cats love the fun sound of wrapping paper or newspaper as they jump around and on, then dive under. It’s fun to stick your hand or a toy under it and move back and forth. Kitty will turn into a wild hunter and stalk it’s “prey” for hours if you don’t tire first!
Just because you can’t afford the greatest, new-fangled toys sold at your local pet store does not mean you can’t adequately provide social interaction and intellectual stimulation. These ideas are extremely simple and very inexpensive. Sometimes, we forget that, like children, pets do not always need new and exciting toys to be entertained. Most of us who know animals have had the experience of purchasing a new, shiny toy from a pet store and took it out of the box, only to find that the cat is more interested in the box! In these times, many of us can’t even afford to buy cheap toys from stores with a package of 3 balls from the store sometimes costing upward of $3. Don’t feel bad! Just return to simpler times and enjoy the fun!