“Christmas is a time for treating the ones we love, whether they’re family, friends or felines” said Daniel Warren-Cummings, Cats Protection’s Central Behaviour Officer. “There’s lots of things that cats really enjoy about this time of year – from curling up in front of somewhere warm to getting up to mischief with all the empty boxes which are often left over once the presents are open! Making your own cat toys and treats is a great way to keep Christmas costs down and is also a fun activity to keep children occupied during the school holidays.”
Here are Cats Protection’s top tips (with helpful links) for feline-friendly goodies which are both simple and cheap to make.
Feeding enrichment activities: Cats love different ways to make feeding time more interesting. Commercially-produced food balls are available in shops but homemade versions are cheap and easy to make. Hiding dry food in a clean, empty egg box will give cats the chance to enjoy batting their way to their food. For a different take, try suspending a large, clean yoghurt pot with some holes in it to allow biscuits to fall out just above the cat’s head height – cats will love working out how to bat the food out.
Fishing rod toys: These are a fantastic activity for cats young and old and you can easily make your own. Tie a length of string to the end of a short wooden rod (a garden cane works well) and secure with heavy duty tape. Secure a small cat toy to the end of the string, adding some artificial feathers if you have any. Then simply dangle and drag to attract your cat’s attention! Make sure your cat is able to catch the toy periodically, as cats can be left frustrated if they’re unable to catch their ‘prey’. Ensure that fishing rod toys are safely out of the cat’s reach once play time is over.
Toilet roll puzzles: Collect a good supply of toilet roll tubes and stack them on top of each other to create a mini wall of tubes, secured with sticky tape. Hide a portion of your cat’s daily allowance of dry food or a cat nip toy within the tubes - cats will love using their paws to fish out the goodies hidden inside.
Cosy cardboard den: Cats don’t need fancy expensive cat beds – a cardboard box and a blanket or old jumper works just as well. If you’re feeling creative, or want to give the kids a challenge, use felt tips or paint to jazz it up. Avoid using tinsel to decorate as it can cause serious illness if ingested due to the blockages they can cause.
DIY scratching stations: All cats need access to somewhere they can scratch to keep their claws in tip-top condition. For a cost-effective addition to scratching posts, look out for old carpet samples which are often cheaply available or even free at carpet shops. Or you can make your own from cutting up a cardboard box.
Catnip knots: Most cats love catnip and will spend hours engaged in energetic play with it. For a simple homemade toy – which also finds a use for odd socks – simply fill a sock with a couple of tablespoons of dried catnip, knot the end and trim off any excess.
Homemade balls: A ball of tin foil can make a perfectly adequate toy, as long as the cat can’t swallow it.