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I Made My Own Cat Toys Using Cardboard Tubes and a Box

Two easy toys (and some treats) excited my lazy senior cat and brought out my kitten's genius.

Angela Lutz  |  Apr 7th 2017


Over the years, I’ve spent a small fortune purchasing beds, feather toys, and catnip mice to appease entertain the three fluffy tyrants kitties who have taken over my home live with me. A problem with this, of course, is those toys get lost under the couch within a few days, and the beds sit collecting dust on the windowsill while my kitties play with twist-ties and sleep on the pile of dirty laundry in the closet.

The lesson here is simple, if a bit cliched: The best things in life really are free. That’s why when I came across a few easy ideas to build cat toys out of stuff I already have lying around the house, I gathered the necessary supplies and got to work.

With nothing more than cat treats, cardboard tubes, a box, and a few minutes of time, I created two toys that entertained me as well as my cats.

For this arts and crafts project, cats are recommended.

For this arts and crafts project, cats are recommended.

The first toy required three things: an empty toilet paper roll, cat treats, and kitties — though I suppose a human might be entertained by this contraption for a couple of seconds if you opted for, say, Girl Scout cookies instead of Feline Greenies.

Basically all you do is fold down the ends of the toilet paper roll and put the treats inside. It will look something like this:

catster-homemade cat toys 8

As you can see, I decorated my new cat toy in honor of the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals. Then I tossed it on the floor and let my kitties have at it. Bubba Lee Kinsey, age 15, and Salvador, age nine months, batted it around the rug for several minutes, intoxicated by the catnip-flavored treats they could smell but not touch. Honestly, I was surprised to see Bubba so engaged by a toy, as he normally rolls his eyes and goes back to sleep whenever I bust out the feather wand.

My cats might have been amused, but they seemed unable to extract the treats from the tube. I finally gave them a hand by creating a larger opening at one end.

Bubba Lee Kinsey and Salvador attempt to get the treats out of the tube.

Bubba Lee Kinsey and Salvador attempt to get the treats out of the tube.

Within a few seconds, Salvador had caught the tube between his teeth and dumped the treats on the floor in front of him. I was so impressed that I nearly let him devour the whole pile, but instead I snatched a couple for Bubba.

The second toy required a few more tubes. In addition to toilet paper rolls, I cut up a paper towel roll and used rolled-up sheets of notebook paper. You’ll also need a box and cat treats.

This is all you need to create two different kinds of cat toys.

This is all you need to create two different kinds of cat toys. Seriously.

Just fill the box with tubes of varying heights and randomly toss some treats in the tubes. According to the original poster, “the purpose of this game is to get the cats using their brains on how to fish the treats from the tubes.” The finished product will look something like this:

catster-homemade toys4

From watching Salvador and Phoenix, age seven, attempt to use their brains to solve this riddle, I learned two things. First, Phoenix is incredibly tenacious. Despite all evidence to the contrary, she never stopped believing she could cram her head inside one of the tubes and reach the treats if she just tried hard enough.

Phoenix might not have had the best approach to retrieving the treats at the bottom of the tube.

Phoenix might not have had the best approach to retrieving the treats. Salvador, on the other hand, nailed it.

My most important discovery, however, was learning that Salvador is basically a Mensa scholar. After sniffing at the contraption for a few seconds, he stuck his adorable white paw inside one of the tubes and fished out a treat. It wasn’t a fluke, either — he did it multiple times. Eventually I felt sorry for Phoenix, so I dug out a few treats myself and gave them to her.

When the cats were done playing, they ate some more food from their bowls and took a nap. Though I was skeptical at first, it turns out it really is that easy to entertain my cats — at least until the treats run out.

Read more from Angela Lutz:

About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her three cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey, Phoenix, and Salvador.