Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Tucson

Homemade Pet Playthings: Easily Crafted Toys and Treats

Nov 28, 2023 04:30AM ● By Ruth Roberts, DVM, CVA, CVH, CVFT, NAN
Homemade Pet Playthings


As pet guardians, we know the joy of spoiling our beloved furry and feathered friends with toys, treats and accessories. While such diversions can offer hours of fun and bonding, some store-bought items can pose dangers, including choking hazards, intestinal blockage and damage, or exposure to harmful toxins used in plastics.

Safer, non-toxic options can be handcrafted using items found around the home. By recycling materials and avoiding the packaging that comes with store-bought items, do-it-yourself toys and accessories are more eco-friendly and sustainable. Guardians can even involve their pet friends in a DIY project as a way to spend quality time together, have fun and foster a stronger bond. Here are a few ideas.

Recycled T-Shirt Tug Toy

Dogs love a good game of tug-o-war, and this project is a simple way to repurpose old T-shirts. Using scissors, cut a garment into thin strips and braid them together tightly. Tie a knot at each end and enjoy a fun and safe exercise toy.

Catnip Toys

Make catnip toys a feline friend will love with a few pieces of felt, some cotton stuffing or shredded pieces of old clothes, and catnip. First, cut the felt into small shapes like birds or fish. Next, sew two sides together, leaving a small opening. Sprinkle one tablespoon of catnip over the stuffing, fill the toy and sew up the opening.

Feline Scratching Post

Scratching is an essential behavior for cats, but commercial scratch posts can be expensive. Instead, create one using recycled materials like cardboard or leftover carpet. Cut the material into a long rectangular shape and wrap it tightly around a sturdy base, such as a wooden post or pole. Rub the material with catnip and watch the kitties scratch to their hearts’ content.

Rabbit Castle

For rabbits, consider converting a cardboard box into a cozy manor. First, cut doors and windows into the box and make sure the edges are smooth to avoid injury. Place a soft blanket or cushion as flooring to create a comfortable space for the bunny. Add some tunnels made from cardboard and watch them have fun exploring their new hideaway home.

Pet Bandana

This project is a bit more time intensive, but the result is worth it. To create a stylish pet bandana, simply cut fabric into a triangle shape, hem the edges and add a snap or tie to secure it around the pet's neck. Personalize it by embroidering the pet’s name or a fun design.

Birdseed Ornaments

For avian lovers, birdseed ornaments in the yard are a fun and easy project that can involve the whole family. First, prepare unflavored gelatin in a bowl following the instructions on the package. Add a tablespoon of corn syrup for each package of gelatin used. Stir birdseed into the gelatin mixture until the liquid disappears. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for about ten minutes or until it firms up.  Fill cookie cutters with the seed mixture, press down firmly and insert a two-inch piece of a straw near the top of the ornament. Refrigerate overnight. Gently remove the ornaments from the cookie cutters and replace the straw with a string. These homemade feeders will nourish neighborhood birds during the winter months when food is scarce.

Cat Teaser

Cats love string. Unfortunately, playing with a piece of string, yarn or ribbon can lead to life-threatening complications, as they can become entangled in a cat’s intestine. A homemade cat wand allows them to chase, bat and chew without risk. Cut cotton, leather, sisal or hemp into strips about one foot long. Glue the strips of material one piece at a time to the end of a 12-inch wooden dowel or metal tube. Continue adding the material strips to the end of the rod until there are four or five layers. Tie a piece of material around the rod next to the last layer and tightly wrap it around the ends of the other strands to keep everything in place. End with a knot and a dab of glue, if necessary.

Sock Toys

Make an inexpensive, washable ball using those mismatched socks that seem to magically appear at the end of the laundry. Stuff a long sock with three other socks and tightly tie it off to make a solid ball. Another option is to braid several socks and tie them together at either end to create a durable rope.

Ruth Roberts is an integrative veterinarian and holistic health coach for pets, as well as the creator of The Original CrockPet Diet. Learn more at