Recessionista: Deluxe-Looking DIY Gifts for Cats and Cat Lovers


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Holiday 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

When you’re on a budget, sometimes it can be hard to find gifts for your cats or cat-loving friends. It seems like every cool item is beyond the price range of most mere mortals. But fear not: There are lots of DIY alternatives to expensive gifts. Check out a few of my favorites.


1. Cat art

I don’t know about you, but I love receiving hand-drawn pictures of my cats — or any cats at all! If you’ve got a talent for drawing, painting, or printmaking, why not give your cat-loving friend a portrait of her feline family members? You can buy inexpensive frames in a variety of sizes, and sometimes even with archival acid-free mounts, at discount stores.

Drawing Cat iTunes
There are even phone apps to help you create cat art.

2. Cat toe flats

Love those fashionable kitty shoes but hate the price tag? Get a pair of round-toed ballet flats at your favorite discount shoe outlet, and draw cat silhouettes on the toes. In fact, you can even use these designs to make custom cat toe boots or sneakers. It’s easy to do, and all it requires is some masking tape and leather or fabric paint.

Learn how to make your own (or someone else’s) pair of custom cat toe shoes at Julie Ann Art via Cat and Bot.

3. Custom cat mug

Custom mug image courtesy Tried and True
Custom mug image courtesy Tried and True

There’s nothing quite like a custom caffeinated beverage container to start your day right. With a little porcelain paint (available in pens and tubes at craft stores) and a mug of whatever size and shape works best for your intended recipient, you can create a sweet gift. Porcelain paint comes in a variety of colors. If you’re intimidated by freehand drawing, get stencils and a paintbrush and let someone else’s artistic talent do the work.

Get instructions on how to make your own cat mug at Tried and True.


Pet Project has links to instructions on how to make a crackle toy, a mouse toy, and a fish toy.

1. Cat scarf

Photo courtesy Adventures in Making
Photo courtesy Adventures in Making

With an inexpensive scarf, a rubber stamp, and an ink pad, you can create one-of-a-kind gifts for your cat-loving friends. Although the instructions I’ve seen feature a white scarf and black ink, don’t let that limit you: The most important rule is that the color of the ink on the stamp must be darker than the color of the fabric. Other than that, go nuts!

Learn how to make a hand-stamped black cat scarf at Adventures in Making.


1. “Feather” cat toy made of felt

With some felt, a bell, some string, and a plastic wand or wooden dowel, you can create the awesome bird teaser toy of your cat’s dreams. Get some medium-thickness felt and cut out two or three feathers in various sizes and colors. Tie them together along with the bell, then tie the other end of the string to the wand or dowel.

2. Crocheted cat bed

Crocheted cat bed photo courtesy of Dabbles and Babbles
Crocheted cat bed photo courtesy of Dabbles and Babbles

Cat-quality yarn and crochet hooks are inexpensive. There are lots of free crochet patterns for cat gifts. It’s a trifecta of inexpensive win for those with a talent for tying yarn in knots.

To avoid potential problems, don’t use stretchy yarns or loosely woven patterns. These beds are fun to make, and you even can match the bed to your cat-loving friend’s décor.

Find free patterns for an assortment of toys and beds at I Heart Cats.

3. Knitted or crocheted cat toys

A plethora of patterns are available online for catnip-filled toys, bouncy toys, jingly toys, and pretty much any other kind of feline diversion you can imagine.

Images courtesy I Heart Cats
Images courtesy I Heart Cats

If you’re worried about yarn and cats, fear not: Well-made crocheted or knitted cat toys don’t unravel into potentially dangerous strings. I have several crocheted cat toys, and they definitely have stood the tests of time and vigorous play.

Image courtesy Cats Protection
Image courtesy Cats Protection

The U.K. charity Cats Protection has instructions on how to knit Captain Cat-Battler, a cool pirate-themed mouse toy.

4. No-sew cat tent

Images courtesy Instructables/jessyratfink
Images courtesy Instructables/jessyratfink

If you’re as crafty as I am — which is to say not at all — then a no-sew tent is an ideal gift. With a T-shirt, a piece of cardboard, and a couple of wire hangers, you can make a cat tent fancy enough to make your wealthy feline-loving friends jealous. Add a yard or a yard and a half of fleece, folded a couple of times, to make the bottom of the bed soft and comfy.

Instructables has the full instructions on how to make your own no-sew cat tent.

Read more by JaneA:

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline authors, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.

Let Catster answer all of your most baffling feline questions!

Starting at just


Follow Us

Shopping Cart