Cats are incredibly intelligent animals with strong hunting instincts. Despite years of domestication, our beloved feline companions have remained ‘wild’ by nature, meaning they’ll need plenty of stimulation and play opportunities to remain healthy and happy. There are literally hundreds of toys and puzzle feeders on the market for you to choose from, but there are also limitless ways you can create your own toys from simple items you already have in the house!
In this article, we’ll share some of our best 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 toys regularly, so your cat doesn’t get bored!
Ready to get creative? Without further ado, here are some of our best DIY enrichment ideas for your cat:
Simple box puzzle feeder
In the wild, cats naturally search and hunt for their food. So why not make lunchtime more fun by creating a puzzle feeder? 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.
Crafted catnip toys
Catnip is a natural stimulant for cats, so is a great 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, you can 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 this one, 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.
Homemade scratchers / 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.
Tip: You can also glue old bits of carpet onto sturdy wooden frames and hang them up for your cat to investigate, scratch, and knead to their heart’s content!
If you can’t find wood, cardboard will work well 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.
Homemade wand toys
Every cat loves 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!
Cats love to explore, and especially enjoy investigating high-up places. Cat trees can be fairly expensive, so why not make your own by gluing or screwing wooden crates together and then attaching felt or carpet to the bottom sections for added comfort.
If you are looking for something simpler, then grab a load of boxes, cut cat-sized holes in them, and then attach them together to create your cat his very own play for!
Cat ice cubes
These are a great option for those hot summer days. They are also a fantastic way to encourage your cat to drink more. Simply fill ice cube trays with a selection of tasty meat or fish chunks (you can also add a few cat treats if you wish), 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!
DIY Cat beds
Cats sleep a lot during the day (and also at night!), so a good soft cat bed is not a luxury but rather a must. Feeling creative? There are endless possibilities with this one, so go have a look at which items you already have lying around the house.
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!
Kittens are particularly fond of these! All you need is a large cardboard tube or box to make a fun toy that will keep your kitty entertained for hours. Try attaching soft furnishings to the inside or outside for added textural enjoyment. You can also cut holes in the tube for your cat to investigate, or hang safe dangly toys inside for your cat to play with when he runs through. Crinkly toys will be especially enticing to young cats. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even attach tunnels together to create a more elaborate jungle gym for your cat.
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! Such climbing apparatus also has the added benefit of keeping your kitty off the back of your couch!
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!
Cat 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!
DYI Cat garden
Bring the outside in by creating a cat garden for your kitty to explore. Many plants have a calming effect on cats and are known to provide multiple health benefits. For example, Parsley is known to be good for cats that suffer from urinary tract infections. 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. Good options include:
Valerian: Cats love sniffing and eating this medicinal herb. It contains a pheromone called Actinidine which is known to be attractive to cats.
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.
Cats are incredibly intelligent animals so stimulate your kitties’ mind by introducing them to clicker training. Most cat breeds love the challenge, especially if they are rewarded with treats when they get things right! With training, it is important to start slowly to avoid any frustration, as this may prevent your cat from wanting to try again.
Full instructions: How to clicker train your cat
In the beginning, reward your cat for performing a behavior or movement that is similar to what you want to see as the end result. For example, your cat lifting his paw off the ground, when you are aiming to get him to give you his paw. Then you can progress to the next stage when he has mastered the first step.
Throughout history, cats have been seen as aloof, independent animals. However, 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!
There you go, that was our huge list of the best DIY enrichment ideas for cats. So what are you waiting for…? Get creative, and have fun!