Commercial cat toys are convenient, brightly colored, and fun, but they can be expensive and come with many plastic parts. Instead of worrying about your carbon footprint when buying new toys for your cat, try your hand at DIY eco-friendly alternatives.
The following projects use cardboard, leftover fabric scraps, and other recycled materials. These cat toys are also easy and fun for kids to make, and your playful kitty is bound to love them.
Click to skip ahead:
- Projects Using Recycled Cardboard
- No-Sew Projects Using Leftover Fabric
- Projects Using Other Recycled Materials
The 13 Eco-Friendly DIY Cat Toys
Projects Using Recycled Cardboard:
1. Cardboard Ball by Instructables
|Materials:||2-mm-thick cardboard and non-toxic glue|
|Tools:||Scissors, compass, template, and a pencil|
If you like to shop online, you likely have cardboard boxes piled up somewhere waiting for your next trip to the recycling center, but that’s not the only way to recycle them.
Cats are fascinated by cardboard. They’ll scratch at it and gnaw on the edges, which makes it the perfect material for creating cat toys. Grab a pair of scissors, non-toxic glue, a few cardboard boxes, and a pencil to make these super simple cardboard balls for your cat. It can take a while to ensure that each circle is a perfect size, but the result is perfect for batting around the house.
You can also adapt the idea and cut out the center of each circle to make a hollow sphere. Place a bell inside to make an eco-friendly jingle ball.
2. Toilet Paper Roll Puzzle Toy by Instructables
|Materials:||Toilet or kitchen paper rolls, a cardboard box, nylon or string, and bells|
|Tools:||Pencil or pen, non-toxic glue, and scissors|
If your cat loves to reach into small places when they’re playing, you can recycle old paper rolls to make puzzle toys for them. This is a simple and quick project that only requires a few supplies. Use an old cardboard box as a frame, and cut out the bottom panels. Decorate the box however you want, and fill the inside with toilet paper rolls; you can use paper towel rolls too and cut them to different lengths. Before you secure the rolls in place, remember to tie a few bells or other toys inside a few of the rolls so your cat can bat at them while they’re playing.
Be careful which toilet paper rolls you recycle for this project, as some brands might use glue that is toxic to animals.
3. Cardboard Mice by Do Unto Animals
|Materials:||Cardboard, toilet paper rolls, sisal rope, and glue|
|Tools:||Scissors, a pencil, and a cardboard mouse template|
Your cat might not care what their cat toy looks like as long as it’s fun to play with, but it’s always fun to give their toy a personality of its own. For example, you can turn a toilet paper roll into a simple cardboard mouse with spare cardboard, glue, and sisal rope. If you have kids, this project is a fun one to get them involved in.
This one has a free template that you can download if you want to avoid measuring or designing the ears and nose yourself. Secure the ears and nose in place, and remember the tail! You can also wrap the toilet paper roll with sisal rope to give your cat something sturdier to dig their claws into.
4. Toilet Paper Roll Treat Toy by Glue Sticks & Gumdrops
|Materials:||Toilet paper rolls, foam sheets or construction paper, glue, and cat treats|
Combining playtime with your cat’s favorite treats is one of the best ways to get your cat interested in investigating a new toy. This eco-friendly treat toy uses recycled toilet paper rolls and construction paper. It’s a simple, great project if you need a quick, temporary replacement for a broken toy. The best part is that you don’t need to use glue at all unless you decorate the tube with construction paper.
Remember to not seal the ends of the toilet paper roll when you fold them unless you replace the treats with a bell. Leaving the ends unsealed will allow your cat to puzzle their way to retrieving the treats inside.
5. Toilet Paper Roll Ball by Thrifty Jinxy
|Materials:||Toilet paper roll and non-toxic glue (optional)|
Toilet paper rolls can be used for a wide variety of DIY projects, such as toilet paper roll balls for playful felines. Since this DIY project is so easy, it’s a great option if your cat has lost their favorite ball somewhere and is pestering you to play with them.
There are two ways that you can put this together. One, use non-toxic glue for a sturdy construction, or two, let the toilet roll strips hold themselves in place. Your cat can keep their minds active by undoing the toy as they play.
6. 3D Cardboard Mouse by Instructables
|Materials:||Cardboard, tape, and non-toxic glue|
|Tools:||Mouse template, knife, and a cutting mat|
If you’ve got a cardboard box left over from a recent delivery or a previous project, turning it into a cardboard mouse is the perfect way to encourage your cat to play. This 3D cardboard mouse has a printable, ready-made template to make it easier for you to cut out the pieces. Glue the pieces together with non-toxic craft glue, and wait for the toy to dry before letting your cat play with it.
You don’t have to limit yourself to cardboard mice either. The plan includes templates for a ball and a jack so you can give your cat a bigger variety of toys to play with while using the same piece of cardboard.
No-Sew Projects Using Leftover Fabric:
7. Recycled Sock Toys by The Links Site
|Materials:||Old socks, string or wool, plastic bags, or other crinkly material|
Washing machines are renowned for stealing socks, so we all have a few odd pairs lying around. Those lonely socks can make great cat toys. The original DIY design uses a plastic bag that’s tied securely inside the sock, but if you’re not comfortable using a plastic bag, use another material that makes a satisfying crinkle, like foil or even paper. For extra security, you can place the first stuffed sock inside a second to give it extra support.
Tie a secure knot in the open end of the sock, add string, and you have a crinkle toy! While this project doesn’t require sewing, you can add a few tassels with a needle and wool if you want to.
8. Fleece PomPoms by Sensibly Sara
|Materials:||Cotton string and scrap fleece material|
If you’ve made a cat bed or something similar before, you probably have scrap fabric lying around. A strip of leftover fleece might not look like much, but it’s perfect for making a pompom toy for your cat.
A needle and thread or a sewing machine isn’t necessary for this project; you just need a pair of scissors and string to secure everything together. Remember to leave enough of a tail on the string so you can keep your hands away from your cat’s claws when you’re playing together.
9. Tulle Crinkle Balls by Allison Murray
|Materials:||Tulle, crinkle material, and string or thread|
|Tools:||Scissors, Clover pompom maker, or cardboard|
Pompoms are among the easiest cat toys to make, especially if you have enough scrap material. You can use tulle if you have leftovers from a previous project to make fluffy cat toys like these tulle crinkle balls. Experiment with strips of other fabrics, but remember to include a crinkly material to make these toys interesting for your cat.
Although the original DIY plan uses a pompom maker, don’t worry if you don’t have one on hand. You can use two pieces of cardboard to make these pompoms too.
10. Catnip Knots by April Loves Cats, Crafts & Fun Stuff
|Materials:||Polar fleece fabric, and dried catnip|
For cats that adore catnip and toys, these catnip knots are quick, easy, fun, and durable enough to withstand rough play. Since the design is so simple, you don’t need to purchase new fabric to make them. Utilize leftover scraps of fabric from a past project or even strips of an old, worn-out t-shirt.
The knots don’t require sewing or glue. It’s also easy to replace the catnip once the scent wears off; simply undo the knot, and replace the dried catnip inside before retying the fabric.
11. T-Shirt PomPom by Craft Forest
|Materials:||An old t-shirt|
Most people have at least one battered old t-shirt lying around that’s too frayed or worn to donate to the local thrift store. Instead of tossing it away, though, try turning it into a t-shirt pompom. You’ll need a sturdy pair of sharp scissors for cutting through multiple layers of fabric, but this design doesn’t require any other materials or tools.
As this pompom won’t crinkle, it’s a great option for cats that prefer quiet toys. It’s also light enough for them to carry around easily if they’re a fan of playing fetch.
Projects Using Other Recycled Materials:
12. Wooden Spool Cat Toy by Life is Sweeter
|Materials:||Wooden thread spools, varying lengths of ribbon, washi tape, and non-toxic glue|
|Tools:||Scissors and a hot glue gun|
Cats often find the simplest things to be fun to play with, including the thread spools from your sewing machine. While you’re likely to be using modern plastic thread spools, you can use empty wooden spools to make cat toys.
The wooden design gives these toys a durable, long-lasting quality with a unique, vintage feel. You can decorate with washi tape or scrap fabric and use different-length ribbons as tassels. Or, simply use the thread spool as is, and enjoy watching your cat bat it around the floor.
13. Tasseled Cork Toy by The Links Site
|Materials:||Wine corks, wool, or string|
|Tools:||Nail, hammer, pliers, and a darning needle|
Most people enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a long week, and at some point, your cat has probably taken interest in the forgotten cork when the bottle is empty. You shouldn’t let your cat play with the cork straight out of a wine bottle, but with a bit of preparation, it can make a sturdy and unique DIY toy for your kitty. If you want to play too, thread a piece of string or yarn through the center of the cork to make a tasseled cork toy.
Although this project is easy, remember to thoroughly sterilize the cork before letting your cat play with it. Alcohol is toxic to animals, and you’ll need to clean the corks to keep your cat safe.
DIY projects present you with perfect opportunities to recycle old material or use up scrap fabric that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Eco-friendly cat toys can be made from anything, such as a simple ball made of cardboard or a pompom made from an old t-shirt. They’re quick, easy, and super cheap too. We hope that this list has helped you find an eco-friendly DIY plan to try for your cat’s new toy!
Featured Image Credit: Cat Box, Shutterstock