Cats love to climb, claw, leap, and hide. Providing them with legal opportunities keeps them from countertop cruising, clawing furniture, playing gravity experiments with your fine breakables, or otherwise getting into furry trouble. Toys and legal outlets go a long way toward preventing or re-training poor behavior. All of these contribute to what behaviorists call a "cat-considerate environment" that naturally relieves stress that can cause many behavior complaints.
A variety of commercial cat toys are available that tickle the fancy of the most jaded feline fanatic. But you can spend a wad of cash and go through quite a selection before finding the one toy that your cat adores. The rest end up ignored, while she plays with the empty box. So why not listen to what she’s telling you? Go with “cheap thrills” of homemade toys and you’ll have purrs rumbling.
Favorite Homemade Cat Toys
- Empty box. Cats love to hide inside small containers, and peer out. Try tipping a box upside down, propped up on a small object like a book, and watch Kitty wriggle underneath to hide inside. Offer a whole series of empty cartons and boxes, turning them on their sides or opening two ends for tunnel fun. If they get too beat up, simply toss them and get a new box.
- Empty bag. Paper bags left out on the floor provide hours of entertainment. Be sure to cut any handles off, though. Otherwise, you run the risk of the cat having her head and neck caught through the opening, and scared spitless trying to escape as it “follows” her.
- Wads of paper. Toss these into one of the empty bags or boxes and watch the fun! An empty tissue box, with a wad of paper inside, offers the cat some “fishing” fun.
- Puzzle Toy. Purchase an inexpensive translucent plastic storage box or use an old cake saver (the one you plan to throw out). Cut paw-size holes in the seal-able lid, then toss treats, bells, or other fun items inside before sealing the lid. Kitty can see her paw move and fish for the objects.
- Flashlight tag. Some cats become obsessive, but within reason, games of "chase the light" entertain many cats.
- Ping Pong ball or walnut. Throw one into the empty bathtub and watch the cat play, batting it around and around. But the empty tub keeps it contained so you won’t kill your knees fishing it out from under the furniture.
- Feathers and pompoms. Wonderful innovative creations can be found at cat shows and pet product stores—but you can get cheap alternatives in bulk at craft stores or even in the “notions” section of fabric and sewing stores. To really spice up the attraction, seal a handful of pompoms in a baggy filled with catnip to absorb the aroma.
Ideal Cat Trees
Vertical space tickles the feline fancy. Cats want resting spots above the floor (higher the better!), and they prefer upholstered/carpeted to smooth surfaces. Warmth also gets their motor going, so positioning near a sunny window doubles the cat's pleasure with lookout entertainment and sunbathing potential. When possible, choose cat trees with single-size cat perches so cats don't have to share the space.
The 1+1 rule (one cat tree/scratch object per cat, plus one) keeps the whole clowder happy.
You can find gorgeous cat trees and kitty condos online and at your local pet products stores. But your pocketbook may not be able to afford the lovely color-coordinated, covered-in-carpet cat furniture. Don’t be discouraged. Your cat won’t know or care how much her kitty gym cost, or if it matches her stunning blue eyes.
Making Cat Ladder Playgrounds
You can make an inexpensive “cat playground” she’ll love using a wooden ladder, which has all the attributes your cat loves. That includes multiple levels for more than one cat to lounge, and height that surely exceeds any countertop or table surface in your home. You can dress it up and really make her purr.
Visit the home products store and purchase a length of hemp rope. Wrap this around and around one of the “legs” of the ladder, as well as one of the lower steps, and secure with glue. This offers the cat a scratch surface, but leaves some wood bare for the kitties that prefer a wood surface. Reserve a length of rope or use ribbons to tie cat toys onto some of the lower rungs as well, for additional cat paw-pat fun. Finally, pull out the paint rack and secure a fluffy cat bed or cardboard box there for lounging or hiding.
You don’t have to buy high-dollar entertainment for your cat. She loves you no matter what, and may even prefer cheap thrills.