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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Van de Kieft

Top 5 Free DIY Cat Enrichment Products Your Feline Friend Will Love

Updated: Apr 2

I purchase lots of commercial toys for my cats. But after a few days they are bored. Using things you have around the home can be just as good and sometimes even more entertaining for your cat.


Cat sitting in a cardboard box
Luke sitting in a Chobani yogurt box. The Chobani box is great since it has holes all around the bottom which makes for a fun play session. Luke was grabbing that home-made wand attachment through the holes.

1. Packing or Tissue Paper


Packing paper is one of my cat's favorite things. It has many uses. You can simply put a large strip on the floor and see what happens. In my home, it's like a cat magnet. There's a cat on it almost immediately. You can also toss a toy on it or move your wand toy underneath to make playtime more exciting.

I also layer several pieces, or fold it on top of a tunnel. The cats can run into it, under it, and over it for hours. It's crinkly and fun.

My cats also love to sleep on it. Another option is to cut the paper into large strips and fold it for sleeping. I put it into cardboard boxes and it's a huge attraction for resting on.

You can also crinkle it up in a large box and throw some treats inside for your cat to rummage through. It's like a giant treat puzzle.

Cat sitting on packing paper
Josh loves to hunt in packing paper. I attached the wrapper of a Green Tea bag to a wand toy which the cats enjoyed.


2. Wand Toy Attachments


A lot of clients tell me that their cats won't play. Once they start making their own attachments or buying smaller commercial ones, everything changes. Adult cats prefer to chase realistic prey and many of the commercial toys are quite large.


Some home-made options that I like to use with my cats are shopping bag handles, straws, plastic ties, a feather, or ribbon. Note that I put these toys away after playtime so my cat does not eat something that can be harmful. For more details on how to make your own, check out this blog post Easily Create Wand Attachment Toys Your Cat Will Love.


DIY cat wand toy attachments
3 Favorite DIY wand attachments: straw, paper shopping bag handle and a Post-It

3. Home-made Beds


Towels, blankets and small cardboard boxes make some of the best cat beds.


I find my cats prefer the small cardboard boxes that come with a case of canned food over an actual cat bed that I purchased for them. They also enjoy a folded towel or fleece blanket. I recommend an elevated surface for a bed instead of the floor. If you take your bed, or folded towel and put it on an elevated surface such as a dresser, window seat, couch or bed, then it's a much more attractive option since cats like to be up high instead of low to the ground.


Cats really like options and choices so instead of just offering one bed, put a few options in different spots to see what your cat likes. I find each of my cats have 2 to 3 different favorite spots. The rooms vary, the height varies, and the substrate varies. So, try a small cardboard box, a folded blanket and a folded towel in different locations, off the floor and let your cat decide where they want to rest.


Cat resting on packing paper and a towel
Two favorites combined! Josh resting on packing paper on top of a towel.

4. Olfactory Enrichment


I love to buy catnip and silvervine for my cats from MeowyJanes, however, I limit how much I offer of those since they can become nose blind to it. There are so many other interesting things that your cats can sniff. When you're making dinner, let them smell the ingredients. Most green herbs are safe for your cat. Give them a piece of parsley or basil to smell and investigate. If you're making scrambled eggs, offer a small unseasoned piece to your cat. It's a safe healthy protein that your cat may enjoy. It's another interesting smell.


What else is around your home that might have an interesting odor? Todays mail, the shopping bag your brought home, or the package that just arrived? Outside smells are new and interesting.


Cracking the window open is a great idea for your cat to enjoy the fresh air and smelling what's outside.


Cats bird watching at a window.
There's nothing better than bird watching with fresh air. If you're opening the window wide, test out your screen to make sure it's safe.

5. Food or Treat Puzzles


If you're offering your cat hard food, I highly recommend transitioning to a puzzle or some way for your cat to work for their food. Working for food is great enrichment and is a natural way to feed, as cats are designed to be hunting and foraging for food.


An empty egg carton makes a great starter puzzle. Simply remove the top, put the eggs in a bowl in your fridge and then add hard food to the egg dents and let your cat work it out. You might want to start out easy by filling one dent with a lot of food while your cat figures out how it works. There are lots of home-made ideas at foodpuzzlesforcats.


One fun way I have my cats work for food is creating a scavenger hunt. I hide pieces of hard food and treats around my home for the cats to find. They spend time with their nose up in the air trying to locate the food and eventually, no matter how hard I hide it, they find it. Check out this cool video showing what that looks like for a cat who is an expert forager.


Cat using an egg carton as a food puzzle
Luke grabbing treats from an egg carton.

I hope this blog post helped you re-evaluate what items you have around your home that can also be great cat enrichment products. It's fun to buy stuff for our cats, but sometimes DIY options can be even better.


Check out my Favorite Products for more recommendations.


About the author: Jennifer Van de Kieft, CAFTP, FFCP, PNCC is located in Brooklyn, NY. She is certified in feline behavior and pet nutrition. She owns Cat Advocate, a feline behavior consulting company. She provides cat guardians with the strategies, tools and knowledge needed to address their cat's behavior issues. Jennifer provides virtual consultations throughout the United States.

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