By Kim Robson:
We’ve all seen it happen: you buy the latest greatest dog or cat toy, only to bring it home and watch your pet play with the box it came in. (Kids do it, too!) Why not just eliminate the expensive store-bought toy and let them play with what interests them in the first place?
Let’s begin with dog toys. The easiest thing you can make is a tug of war rope. Take a two- or three-foot length of cotton rope and tie a knot at each end, or use sturdy braids made out of old t-shirts. You and your dog can spend hours together playing tug of war, but keep it limited to around 15 minutes so as not to hurt his teeth. This game is interactive, fun for you both, and is great exercise for your dog.
Old tennis balls are obvious toys. But you can also punch two holes in one and pull a rope through. Tie a knot at each end to secure. Great for tug of war and fetching. Another fun option is to tie multiple knots to secure rings of dried sweet potato.
Take a length of fabric and tie a knot in the center. Then tie another knot around the first one. Repeat until you have one big ball of fabric. Great for chewing. In the heat of summer, you can soak it in water or beef stock and freeze it. He’ll love chewing at the ice.
Make a homemade Kong out of a plastic milk bottle. Discard the top and put a few treats inside. He’ll spend hours scratching at, rolling around, and tossing that bottle until every last treat has been retrieved. You can do the same thing by cutting a slice into a tennis ball and inserting treats.
Or, shoot, just give them the empty milk bottle. That’s it. They LOVE carrying them around.
Have an empty (but not totally cleaned out) tub of peanut butter? Give it to your pup for hours of hilarity.
Take a small plastic soda bottle, discard the cap, and squash it. Place in an old sock and tie the end. He’ll love chewing it, and the crackling noise it will make is irresistible. Perfect for dogs who love squeaky or crinkly noises.
Now, let’s move on to the kitties. Sure, you can sew up homemade catnip toys. Old t-shirt sleeves are great for this. But what else?
Everyone knows that cats love cardboard boxes. Even big cats love them. But why? First, it’s something new in their environment and covered in interesting smells. Second, cats love to curl up in small, tight spaces. They feel secure and safe; they can watch, hide, or lie in wait for “prey”; and they can dash out for ambushes before retreating. Third, cardboard is soft enough for cats to chew on, but sturdy enough to stand up to their chewing and clawing.
Some of my favorite homemade cat toys are made out of cardboard toilet paper or paper towel tubes: Take a paper towel tube and cut strips about four inches long and 1/4 inch wide all the way around one end. Repeat at the other end. My cat loves this “squid” toy. She grabs it with both arms and bites off the “tentacles” while using her back feet to rip at the other end.
You can also place treats inside a toilet paper tube and fold the ends down to make a rattle. They can work on getting the treats out. Or if you’re worried about ants (as I was this past summer), put a few dried beans inside instead. Cats love batting these rattles around.
Does your work entail regular shipments of stuff in boxes secured with plastic packing strips that have to be cut away? Save a few and tie them into a knot at one end. The raspy noise they make on a hard floor is irresistible to cats, and they can chew on them to their hearts’ content. They’re so tough they’ll never break or shred. My cat used to get one wrapped around his body and go tearing around the house chewing on it.
Here’s our Gracie surrounded by her favorite toys. With one exception, they’re ALL homemade toys. There’s no need to break the bank purchasing toys from China, when they’ll probably be ignored anyway in favor of simpler pleasures.