Playing with your cat is vital to her health. A stimulating environment keeps her active mentally and physically.
Cat toys don't have to come with a price tag. In fact, virtually anything can be an inexpensive and cheap toy for your furry friend. She can find joy in cardboard boxes, discarded newspapers and even ice cubes.
But for true joy, she needs you to play along! Use your imagination with some objects found around your house and make up some games for you and your cat to play together that won't cost a dime!
Here are seven ideas to get you started playing with your cat:
1. Piggies in the Blanket
Cats love nothing more than to "hunt." Give them something to chase by sliding your hand underneath a blanket. She'll be pouncing in no time. If her claws are out, a thin blanket might not be enough to protect your fingers from scratches. If need be, use a stuffed animal or other object to protect your fingers from your fierce predator.
2. Toss Crumpled Pieces of Paper
Don't recycle that junk mail quite yet. Crumple it up and throw it in front of your cat. She'll likely bat it across the floor, chase it down and swat it away again. You might be surprised if she starts "fetching" it and bringing it back to you to throw again and again and again.
3. Let Your Cat 'Read' the Newspaper
Like with the blanket you can move an object under the paper (a spoon, pencil or chopstick). She'll find it irresistible not to try to catch it. Or tent the paper and let her hide underneath while you walk by dragging a ribbon or string. Attack!
4. Bag It
There's something about a crinkly brown paper bag that can keep a cat entertained for days. Make it interactive by scratching the side while she's inside. She'll go after any shadows or sounds she hears. Its always a good idea make holes on both ends of the back so that in case your cat tips the back on top of her she isn't in danger of trapping herself in.
5. Totally Tubular
This one takes a little DIY effort in your part, but you can do it! Take a small box, like a shoe box or empty tissue box with the lid cut out. Add (empty) TP rolls so they're standing vertically in the box. You'll need about a dozen to fill it. (Use a hot glue gun to glue the tubes together, because they'll end up all over the house. If you're okay with that, then skip this step!) Now it's up to you: You can cut small holes out of the opposite end of the box and stick a toy through different holes for the cat to try to catch (think whack-a-mole) or you can put treats in the tubes then block them with small crumpled up pieces of paper or cloth and let your cat work to get them out.
6. Ice, Ice Baby
Play a little ice hockey with your cat. Sit on a tile or linoleum floor and bat an ice cube back and forth with your kitten. First one to score wins!
7. DIY Cat Condo
You could of course just give your cat an empty box for hours of endless pleasure. Rescue a cardboard box from the recycling and cut some cat-sized holes on each side. But why just one box, when you can make a cat condo? Stack several boxes and drape a blanket over the top to create the ultimate kitty fort.
Cats make their own fun. Follow their lead, and you'll dream up plenty of games using common objects around your house without ever having to take out your wallet. Now go forth and play!
P.S. Please make sure to pick up any string, ribbon or similar objects when you're done playing with your cat. Some cats have been known to eat string and similar objects that may require medical attention.
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer in Erie, Pa. She has a goldendoodle named Maddie who always has to sniff the exact same spot in the neighbor's yard during neighborhood walks.