October 22nd, 2012
Pets need their own toys to keep them busy, or they may choose something from your clothing or household items to tear up instead. But anyone who has shopped the pet stores for decent toys has found them to be expensive and often easily destroyed in a short time.
Whether you have a cat or a dog makes a big difference in the types of toys you choose. Cats are easily amused by the simplest things, and can often be so finicky as to totally ignore store-bought toys. A few free toys you can make for cats from discarded items around the house include:
- Toilet paper or paper towel tubes
- Empty paper bags and boxes, especially if you make holes in them for viewing ports
- Raw veggies like leafy lettuce, carrot circles, or pieces of celery
- Empty pill bottles (be sure to wash the inside well), and you can add some dry rice or beans to rattle around inside
- Pipe cleaners and aluminum foil balls (always supervise play with these items)
- Sock toys – stuff an old sock and tie a knot in the end. If your cat likes catnip, you can put some inside.
- Hollow plastic Easter eggs
- Unsharpened pencils or old pens with the ink cartridges removed
- Twigs and leaves
- Hanging toys – if you have an old baby play gym or a piece of PVC pipe, you can hang a few items like bottle caps or feathers with short cords that can’t get tangled (shoelaces are good for this)
- Knit or crochet a toy out of yarn scraps
- Build a kitty condo out of scrap wood and carpet, it will look like the expensive ones at the pet stores and cost a lot less; inexpensive carpet remnants are often found at home improvement centers or carpet stores if you don’t have any around the house.
Durable dog toys are a little harder to create, and depend on the size of the dog. Amusing a smaller breed is easier, because many large dogs can chew up anything, including furniture and wood trim on your house! They can even destroy some of the “indestructible” toys in a matter of minutes.
- Most dogs love to play with ordinary sticks
- Braided scraps of fabric or fleece are great for puppies and small breeds. You can use old t-shirts and worn-out jeans, but you have to be sure to remove any scent from the owner or they will go after good clothing that has the same scent.
- Old discarded garden hose can make a good toy if you cut a 6-12″ length, thread an old t-shirt through it, and tie knots at each end. However, you may have to put away good hose between uses, or it may get chewed up as well.
- Make a hole on each side of an old tennis ball and thread a couple feet of rope through it, you can use remnants or an old jump rope. This makes a good tug, fetch, or chew toy.
- Put an old tennis ball in a sock and tie a couple of knots (use cheap new socks to make sure it doesn’t have your scent on it)
- Remove the stuffing and any eyes or buttons from an old plush toy and sew it back up for an inexpensive cuddle toy. Supervise play with these, in case they try to chew off the ears or other small parts.
- Discard the caps from empty 2-liter plastic bottles, let them play with the empty bottles or insert a few pieces of dog food that will rattle until they get them out.
- Put small empty plastic water bottles inside a sock and tie a knot. You can add dried beans for a rattling sound. The crackling sound inside when they bite or squeeze it keeps them amused, but be sure to discard the cap.
- Toilet paper or paper towel tubes will amuse dogs too, but only for about 10 minutes.
- Most dogs love toys that squeak, but be careful to insure that they can’t remove the squeaker and swallow it. For large breeds, this may require purchasing heavier-duty toys, but they can be found more cheaply by comparing prices online and checking Buxr pet deals. The Kong Squeezz line has so far proven to be both popular and indestructible at our house.
The best thing you can do to have well-adjusted pets is to spend time with them. Everyone enjoys a good game of fetch or Frisbee. Remember that your pets can have a short attention span, and they love novelty more than anything. You can achieve this by gathering up the toys they’re tired of, and re-introducing them again later. We’ve found that rotating old toys always makes them seem new again. Toys are a combination of fun, challenge, and treat – if you motivate the dog with a treat, it will enjoy learning how to solve the puzzle in order to get another treat. And often your pets amuse themselves in comical ways, as you can see here in these videos.
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