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The Best “Free” Cat Toys

June 24, 2012

Cats, especially those with CH, can be expensive. But the great thing is their toys don’t have to be.

Photo courtesy Maggie Osterberg

It always amazes me how fascinated our cats become with some of the most mundane things. In fact, most people would view this list below as things most commonly found in the trash — but to our cats, they can be treasures.

So if your cat is bored with all of his fancy toys you’ve purchased for him, try out one or some of these:

Paper: It’s probably the simplest toy in the world, as well as the biggest hit. Crumple up a piece of paper and give it a toss. It’s amazing how long it can hold your cat’s attention.

Empty toilet paper tubes and paper towel rolls: I didn’t believe these until I tried them, but there certainly is something magical about the tubes. I think part of the intrigue is due to the noise they make when they fall on the ground. Cats can’t resist!

Photo courtesy absoblogginlutely

Milk rings: The rings that you can pull off the top of a gallon (milk, juice) container are a staple in my home. So much so that each Christmas my brother gives our cats *dozens* of these rings that he has collected through the year. The cats love them.

Straws: If you have straws at home or happen to bring one back from a fast food restaurant, tie it into a knot and toss it to the floor. Like milk rings, your cat will likely bat it all around your house (and under your furniture!). The plus side to straws and milk rings is that they’re lightweight so your cat can carry them around your home.

Soda bottle caps: Like ping-pong balls, these plastic caps can roll (a plus!) and tumble.

Plastic prescription containers: Try filling (emptied and clean) plastic prescription containers with rice, beans or something else that would make an intriguing sound. To make sure your cat won’t somehow get the top off, glue the lid on.

Sock toys: Take a sock that has lost its partner, fill it with some stuffing (fiberfil, cotton, etc) and perhaps a bit of catnip. Tie the end into a tight knot, and toss it to your cats. Depending on the size and length of the toy, it can turn easily into an inexpensive Kickeroo.

And if you want to take it up a notch, put any of those things in a:

Paper bag: The classic cat toy. There’s just something about being able to hide in it — although usually their rears are sticking out(!), combined with the crinkly noises it makes. Remember to cut off the handles just to be safe!

Photo courtesy Mr. T in DC

Box: Just like little kids, cats love boxes. I think a box-loving cat is one with a great imagination. If your cerebellar hypoplasia cat has trouble climbing into it, place the box on its side or cut a hole in it so they can walk in.

And don’t bother with purchasing a laser pointer — often my cats find light reflecting from a mirror, cellphone, or other shiny surface just as intriguing. We move the small mirror so the spot of light shines on the ceiling and walls. The cats just love it. If the reflected light isn’t working for you, try a flashlight.

As with all toys, please supervise your cats while they play. They can be quite silly and curious, which can definitely end in some sort of accident — either getting their head stuck in a bag’s handle or trying to swallow something they shouldn’t. Please make sure that anything you give your cat cannot be chewed into pieces, swallowed, or injure them in any way.

What are your favorite “free” toys to give to your cats? Please share in the comments!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Lauren Torggler permalink
    June 24, 2012 11:40 pm

    I almost never buy my CH cat Mimosa any cat toys except a teaser toy with feathers here and there because she NEVER plays with them. She is way more interested in using whatever is “mine”.

    I find that she loves any type of pen or highlighter. I usually give her the “dead” ones and if I don’t have any of those I let her have mine and just take them away when I leave so she doesn’t get the top off of them. She swats them around the room or carries them around in her mouth, even though they are practically bigger than her, and drops them at my feet to play “fetch”.

    As you mentioned, she also loves the plastic prescription containers (cleaned and without pills of course). I sometimes put a treat or two in there just so it makes a sound and if she ever did get it open, at least she wouldn’t be harmed by eating anything inside. She also loves wine corks because they roll and since she is SO tiny, even though she is full grown, I don’t have any fear of her swallowing those.

    I think that as a CH cat, she prefers toys that are more in her “control” or more up to her “speed,” so to speak. Any time we have purchased some “fancy” cat toy that moves on its own or does some fancy trick she gets completely overwhelmed and refuses to use it. She is entirely more content with her “free” cat toys and it has saved my husband and I tons of money!

  2. June 25, 2012 6:22 am

    – Pipe cleaners [aka chenille sticks] – when I found my craft box was being raided I carefully turned the ends in, not wanting wire ends to hurt my furbabies, and left them to it. One pipecleaner regularly travels up and down stairs and has been tied in a knot somehow in the middle.
    – centres of cotton reels – I sew a lot [and take GREAT care NEVER to leave a needle threaded, cats can survive eating pins and needles, OR thread, though it’s not desirable, but thread attached to needles WILL kill them. Period] and I have a lot of spools. These are especially desirable tossed into the bath where they make a wonderful noise rolling about.
    – several short lengths of wool tied in a single overhand knot in the middle.
    – pom-poms made in the traditional way on 2 circles of card, but do be careful to tie them VERY TIGHTLY to finish them off, if you have a cat that’s good at dismembering toys.
    – for some reason, mint toffee wrappers are top dollar. Shiny green foil, or is it the smell? My confectionary choice is determined by my cats’ play preference. Anyone else that daft?
    -and of course the usual selection of lids, little scrunched up balls of paper and if I’m not careful, my spectacles. They are, however, utterly uninterested in cheap shades bought just for them to play with.

  3. Catherine Paciotti permalink
    June 25, 2012 10:00 am

    Dotty also loves pens–I have a friend who brought me over a huge pile of old dead ballpoint pens with the innards removed to give her until she loses them under the furniture or a door. She always wants up on my desk so she can play with my good fountain pens, which I won’t let her have. She also loves mints–starlight mints–not just the wrappers, she carries the mints around wrapped up and plays with them. Any piece of string–but I always make sure to tie it into a circle so she can’t swallow it (string can get swallowed and wrapped up around their intestines, I’ve read). And my ponytail holders. If she sees my undoing my hair, she’ll climb up on the couch and onto the table where I put the holder, pick it up in her mouth, and abscond with it. I still buy her little fur mice and other toys–I’m just a sucker, I guess–but she’ll play with just about anything. She loves to play!

    • June 25, 2012 12:32 pm

      oh yes, empty pen bodies! thread and string are NOT good in kitty innards, tying it in a circle is a good idea. We have a piece of pink rope, too big to eat, which also travels about, it was what I tied my karabiners together with. I guess it must be something in the smell of the mint they like, Catherine! we had a very favourite toy until it got lost – I must do another – which was a pen body threaded onto about a foot of string tied up, it could get dragged places and made lovely noises clattering down the stairs. I think it may have gone between the stair banisters and the hardboard that encloses them…..

  4. LaNeise Sims permalink
    December 2, 2014 5:11 pm

    My kitty cats too love whats already listed like the straws (watch your cups!), paper bags, boxes, and any beverage tops. But I found that the small bouncy balls from the gumball machine amazes them. Give em a little bounce and they’ re off! Its always something other than the toys I purchase.

  5. September 22, 2016 11:52 am

    I tried the paper one since I have tons of art paper….never again. He chewed it into small tiny tiny pieces an had it spread everywhere and then proceeded to try and eat some of it…….not the best idea for you or him……

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