DIY enrichment for cats is such a fun topic! In this article, we’ll inspire you with some of our own creations. Remember that cats use all of their five senses to hunt, so any enrichment you create should stimulate these senses to get the best effect. And remember to rotate homemade toys regularly, so your cat doesn’t get bored!
Ready to get creative? Without further ado, here are some of our best cat enrichment ideas (DIY) to enrich the life of your indoor cat:
1. Simple box puzzle feeder
In the wild, cats naturally search and hunt for their food. Pre-made puzzle feeders have been gaining popularity in recent years, but why not make lunchtime more fun by creating one yourself?
It’s not that difficult: just find an old, sturdy cardboard box that is not too tall but wide enough for you to cut several paw-sized holes in the top. Then simply toss some dry food or treats into the holes and watch your cat dig to get them out! Of course, you can get even more creative by using toilet rolls, plastic cups, and yogurt containers.
Remember that if your cat has not been exposed to forage toys before, then they may be a bit reluctant at first. So be sure to make your puzzles easy in the beginning. Once your cat gets the hang of them, you can up the difficulty level to keep things challenging.
2. Crafted catnip toys
Catnip is a great natural stimulant for cats, which makes it an amazing addition to any homemade toy. If you are skilled at sewing, you can cut pieces of felt to a particular shape and sew the edges together. Once you have sewn most of the way around, feel free to stuff the toy with catnip and even pieces of brown paper to add an appealing auditory factor, and then sew the toy closed.
Click for detailed instructions
How to make your own catnip toys
Looking to create a simple toy that will stimulate your cat’s hunting instinct? These adorable catnip toys are easy and super fun to make, and the addition of attractive herbs will provide hours of entertainment!
What you will need:
- Pieces of felt, fleece, or other suitable material. You can even use an old sock or t-shirt.
- Pen or pencil
- Sewing needle and thread
- Sewing pins (optional)
- Polyester filling (Alternatively, you can use strips of felt or cotton wool balls)
- Catnip or an alternative herb that is attractive to cats (more on this later!)
- Decorative materials such as sturdy feathers, eyes, or pompoms
- Your imagination!
1: Decide on the shape of your catnip toy. You can either keep it simple by creating a square pouch, or if you are feeling more adventurous you can make a mouse, fish, or rabbit! I’ve opted for a fish and a carrot. Draw out two identical shapes and cut them out. We will sew them together later.
2: Once you have your shapes, place one directly on top of the other and use sewing pins (if you have them) to hold the pieces together. Then sew along the edges of your design, making sure you leave the top third open so you can add the stuffing. The best stitch to use is a blanket stitch, as this is more secure than other types, which comes in handy if you have an overzealous kitty! Then fold your creation inside out, so the stitch is on the inside.
3: Now it’s time to create the stuffing! Polyester filling is best, which can be purchased from most home improvement stores, as it is the same material that is used to stuff pillows and cushions. If you don’t have a polyester filling, you can also tear up cotton wool balls or use strips of felt. Spread your chosen filling out onto a table or stable surface, then sprinkle over your chosen herb. Catnip is popular with most cats however, not all cats will react to it. Good alternatives include lemongrass, cat grass, or valerian. One or two teaspoons should be enough for one toy.
4: Scrunch or fold up your filling material and gently push it into your fabric pouch. Be careful not to overfill your toy as this will make it much harder to sew up the end.
5: Sew the remaining hole using a blanket stitch, until your toy is fully sealed.
6: Now comes the fun part! Consider cutting out extra pieces of felt to use as ears, noses, or fins. You can even add feathers to create a tail (but make sure they are not small enough for your cat to accidentally swallow!)
And done! You can really use your imagination with homemade cat enrichment toys, in terms of the designs and colors you wish to use. You can also make the toys even more stimulating by adding ribbon or safe feathers to them.
Whatever you decide to create, you must ensure that all the items you use are non-toxic and cannot be accidentally ingested. If your cat is not fond of catnip then there are other herbs you can use which include cat grass, valerian root, and catmint.
3. Homemade scratchers / scratch post
Our next item on the DIY enrichment for cats list is a homemade scratch post. Got some old rope lying around? We can make good use of that! Simply wrap it tightly around a sturdy wooden post. You can also use some thick tree branches for this.
Once everything is wrapped, either hang it up somewhere in your home or securely fasten it to a wooden board so it doesn’t tip over.
If you can’t find any wood, cardboard will work fine too. Simply glue multiple layers of cardboard together, or roll thin pieces of cardboard in a snail shape until you have reached the desired size.
4. Crafted wand toys
Most cats love chasing a good wand toy, and it can be an excellent way for you to interact and bond with your feline companion. All you need is a long wooden dowel to be used as the handle, a piece of string or twine to wrap around the dowel, and then a selection of non-toxic fabric strips, bells, and other items to tie to the end of the string. Looking for detailed instructions? We’ve got you covered!
5. Cat Cubes
The perfect idea for hot summer days! Simply fill ice cube trays with a selection of tasty meat, treats, or fish chunks, then fill to the top with water. Freeze the cubes for a couple of hours and then offer them to your cat. Some cats like to play with ice cubes on their own, so you can also try this if you think you have a water-loving feline!
6. DIY Cat beds
Cats sleep a lot during the day, so a good soft cat bed is a must. There are endless possibilities if you decide to go the DIY enrichment route with this one, so have a look around the house to see which items you already have lying about.
For instance, you could use thick string or rope to tie an old pillowcase or blanket to a sturdy frame (such as under a table) to create your very own cat hammock. Or put a soft pillow in a large wicker basket and either hang it up or place it in your cats’ favorite spot.
If all else fails, you can always take a nice blanket and simply throw it into an old cardboard box – problem solved, and your cat will love it!
7. Crafted Tunnels
Of course, our DIY enrichment for cats list would not be complete without a tunnel. Kittens are particularly fond of these! All you need is a few large cardboard tubes or boxes, a pair of scissors, and some tape to make a fun toy that will keep your kitty entertained for hours. Unfold the instructions to see how our own tunnel was made:
Click for detailed instructions
How to make your own cat tunnel
What you will need:
- Scissors & Knife
- Toys on string
- Your imagination!
1: Collect a few cardboard boxes and start laying them out to get an idea of the ideal pattern.
2: Once you have your general shape of the tunnel laid out, start cutting holes in the boxes and connect them together with duct tape. Make the holes just big enough to pose a challenge, and hide some delicios treats behind them.
Once your basic DIY tunnel has taken shape, you can take things a step further by attaching soft furnishings to the inside or outside for added textural enjoyment. Of course, you can also cut more holes in the tube for your cat to investigate, or hang safe dangly toys inside for your cat to play with as he runs through. Crinkly toys will be especially enticing to young cats.
8. Wall-mounted shelves
If you have an active cat that loves to climb like a Bengal, Abyssinian or Egyptian Mau, you will become their absolute favorite person in the world if you install a few shelves of various heights and widths along the walls in your living room.
Your cat will have a blast jumping between them, and such climbing apparatus also helps to keep cats off your furniture.
9. Window perch
Most cats love watching the world from atop a high vantage point. So how about making your very own comfortable lookout using a windowsill! All you need to do is add a cat bed, a few treats (to entice him!), and a blanket. Your cat will enjoy watching the birds flutter by outside as he curls up in his own luxurious pad!
10. Activity Rugs
These are great fun to make and can be reused numerous times. All you need is an old mat made of sturdy fabric, and then let your imagination run wild! You can cut holes in the mat, lay it out so there are raised areas, and then hide treats underneath. Your cat will love digging around and scratching the mat up to get the prizes hidden inside!
You can also tie or sew toys to the mat, or sprinkle a bit of catnip or valerian in the gaps for some scent enrichment. Remember that this doesn’t need to be expensive; a scrunched-up piece of paper or a large feather will be just as exciting as a shop-bought mouse toy!
11. DYI Cat Garden
Bring the outside in by creating a fenced-off cat garden for your kitty to explore. Many plants have a calming effect on cats, and some are even known to provide multiple health benefits!
You can either grow a variety of plants in small containers, or create one large one using a plastic tray or basket. When creating a cat garden, ensure that you do your research beforehand, as many plants are toxic to cats. Here are a few good options:
- Valerian: Cats love sniffing and eating this medicinal herb. It contains the pheromone Actinidine which is a known attractant to felines.
- Cat Grass: Cat grass is a mixture of different grasses, including wheatgrass and oat grass. It is perfectly safe for cats and they seem to enjoy gnawing at it.
- Rosemary: This herb is an excellent muscle relaxant, so it’s a good option for cats that suffer from stress or those with muscle injuries.
- Parsley: is known to be good for cats that suffer from urinary tract infections.
12. Clicker training
Boredom is always lurking for an Intelligent animal that doesn’t have much to do. A great way to stimulate your kitties’ mind is by introducing them to clicker training. Most cats love a challenge, especially if they are rewarded with treats when they get things right!
It is important to start training up slowly, as frustration and failure may prevent your cat from wanting to try again. Expecting your cat to learn a high-five in one go might be a little too much to ask. A better approach is to set a smaller goal and build from there. For instance, you could start by rewarding your cat every time it successfully lifts its paw off the ground. Once that step has been mastered, you can then move on to the next phase.
13. Social Interaction
Throughout history, cats have been seen as aloof, independent animals. But recent research has shown that they are a lot more social than we originally thought, and form strong bonds with their owners. While it is important to keep your cat physically and mentally active to prevent boredom, the joy that comes from a good old-fashioned cuddle cannot be underestimated!
14. Bring the outside in
Let’s finish things off with an easy and effective tip; consider hanging some bird feeders near a window that your cat likes to sit at. When all kinds of colorful birds start to fly by, your kitty will have her very own live TV show to enjoy!
Quick tip: If you happen to live in a suburban area with little nature to enjoy, there are some great TV shows for cats that you can stream off Youtube & Netflix.
There you go, that was our list of the best DIY enrichment ideas for cats. We hope you found some inspiration to get creative!