Catster Tips
Share this image

6 Ways to Entertain Your Cat on the Cheap

It needn't be expensive to engage a cat; here are ideas made from household materials.

Catherine Holm  |  Feb 11th 2016


A little bit of creativity can go a long way, especially when entertaining cats. With six healthy cats in the household, we’ve accidentally — and deliberately — devised cool new ways to entertain. These strategies don’t have to be expensive. In fact, some of them are wonderfully simple and effective. The joy factor for the cats, and for me (who gets to watch) is a nice bonus.

Here are some of the cheap entertainment I’ve created.

1. Egg carton with kibble

I once brought home a toy from a pet conference — a small plastic contraption that holds kibble. The toy was shaped like a large spinning top. The cat would bat it across the floor to get at the kibble, which would gradually come out through openings in the side. This was great fun but ridiculously easy for the cats. My husband came up with a better idea. We took an empty and clean egg container, put a few kibble pieces in it, and taped it shut. It made a nice rattling sound, and it slid well across the hard floor. The cats went nuts trying to get at the kibble, and the egg openings are just the right size for paws and legs.

The egg carton, full of kibble!

Norton and Rama were captivated by this homemade toy – egg carton with kibble rattling inside.

Caveat: If you have a cat that loves to eat any kind of material, you would not want the cat to ingest egg carton material (styrofoam or other).

2. Finger under the bedspread

If you’re not worried about encouraging biting behavior, a finger dragged under a bedspread is a lot of fun for some cats, and great exercise, too. I’ve always been able to do this with my cats, but I don’t have bite-y cats, either. If you have a cat prone to biting or clawing, encouraging this kind of play is probably not the best option.

3. Flimsy material floated across the floor

This is great fun, especially if the material is flimsy or silky in texture. It works particularly well on a hard floor, but I’ve had success dragging material over carpeting, as well. Drag the material, and watch your cat rush it. The cat might even jump on the material and take a ride. The caveats, of course, would be making sure that no loose threads on the material are ingested by your cats. I’d avoid material with really thready edges, or material that sheds threads easily.

4. Small throw rug on a hard floor

Some of my cats have gleefully ridden a small throw rug. Start to drag the rug, preferably on a smooth, hard floor. If your cat is so inclined, watch your cat fling himself onto the moving rug and ride it. Some cats will take to this more naturally than others. Watch where you’re dragging the rug so that you don’t run into something that could hurt the cat.

zorro tent

My cats all love this really cheap cat tent, purchased from Target. You can create the same thing with a box that might be partially covered.

5. Tea bag with a tab

Some kitties are so easily entertained. Norton, who’s quite curious, can be trained to play with anything. As we prepared tea recently, Norton entertained himself for several minutes swatting at the teabag tab. It’s light and it made a click-y sound as he tapped it with his paw. Texture and weight are everything when it comes to cat toys. Throw it away when you’re done so that an overly curious (or really oral) cat doesn’t try to eat the tea bag or tab.

6. The (clean) foil ball

This one makes me a little nervous because I dread the thought of cats ingesting foil. On the other hand, it is the perfect toy. It’s light, it makes noise, and it seems that cats can’t resist it when you throw it. You get exercise, too, unless you have a cat who will fetch and bring it back to you. The caveats here are to use clean foil (so that your cat isn’t tempted to ingest pieces of it) and to always put the toy away or throw it away when done.

What are your creative ideas for entertaining your cat on the cheap?

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, and a contributor to Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. She’s also a yoga instructor. Cat love living in nature and being outside every day, even in winter. She is mom to six adorable cats, all of them rescues.