As a volunteer foster parent for many litters of kittens, I have gone through more than my fair share of cat and kitten toys. Aside from the invisible kitty gnome that must have a huge stockpile of cat toys under her bridge (couch) somewhere, I like to send a newly adopted kitten off with their favorites to play with in their new home. That habit can be costly! And even my adult cats just so love getting a new toy, even if it is identical to one they already have – it just smells new, and they know it and find it oh-so-exciting! So over the years I’ve figured out many free or almost free DIY cat toys to supplement the fancier ones I buy at pet supply stores. I also have tons of them, so I can rotate “new” ones in each week, and put a bunch away for a month or so. Here’s a list of  creative ideas to inspire you!

Note: please use common sense and do not leave anything that could be ingested with kitty when you are not there watching – especially the ones we’ve * starred * below. Take those toys out only for supervised play. 

  • empty cardboard boxes (you can cut holes out for more fun, or use soda boxes)
  • wine corks
  • balled up tin foil*
  • balled up paper*
  • pipe cleaners (fun to twist into different shapes)*
  • baby socks tied in a knot
  • large water bottle caps
  • bendy straws with the bendy ends cut into boomerangs*
  • bottle caps
  • toilet paper or paper towel rolls cut into rings and/or pulled into cardboard squiggles
  • empty plastic pill bottle, scrubbed out with hot water, put a few bits of cat food in it, cap back on
  • cat toy-size twigs from outside*
  • paper grocery shopping bags (with any handles cut off)
  • milk jug rings*
  • empty thread spools
  • ping pong balls
  • baby carrots
  • brussel sprouts

Update #1: Here’s a great idea for making DIY toys out of cardboard cut-outs, thanks to Roland for sending this to us! He says his cat loves the ball shape one as it rolls.

Update #2:  Thanks to Jenny for this almost-free great idea! “I just read your article, and thought I’d add one to your list of inexpensive cat toys. I get the largest pom-pom I can find from a craft store (usually about 2 inches), they come in a pack of four for 99 cents. I put them in a sealed baggie with cat nip, give them out one at a time, and my kitties love them. They are light weight, glide across the floors and my kitties get plenty of exercise. When they have licked and batted it around long enough to get tired of it, one of my four thoughtful kitties put it in their food dish and I replace it with a new one in a couple of days!”