Have you found the perfect cat toy?

Jaggy playing

Cats are strange. You are at their beck and call. They decide when you get their attention and how. If they don't like something—it will be made clear. And despite all this—we continue running around them. They have us wrapped around their little paws. :)

Cat toys

Cats are hard to please. They decide things. When it comes to toys—you can spend vast sums of money on getting that 'perfect' toy. Only to realise when you get home, your cat has no interest in it or maybe for five minutes, you get their interest. They are thinking, 'here we go again. I'll look interested and the human will give me some decent food once I've made them smile'.

I've been through countless toys—here are a few:

  • Mouse kits
  • Roller circuits
  • Feather wands
  • LED pointer light
  • Radio controlled ball

They have all had a limited amount of success. One toy that has kind of worked but could be made better, is the feather wand. I have a few issues with them:


  • Rod and string are too short
  • The feather is either real or made from plastic
  • The string is made from plastic
  • The rod is usually made from plastic
  • They don't last long/wear well

I've looked for an all natural wand but I've not been able to find any. And some of these 'feather wands' are expensive. £20 for a small plastic rod, with a short plastic string and a plastic feather. All red flags for me.

Making a cat toy

Six months ago I decided to make my own. How hard can it be? It turned out to be easier than I thought. I needed to find three components:

  • A wooden rod
  • Natural string/rope
  • Non-plastic feather

The wooden rod I bought from Wickes for about £2.50. The string I decided on a thin 4mm cotton rope. I have used it for my bag making. The feather replacement was an interesting problem. Cats don't care what they are chasing as long as it moves and has a good shape. Whatever I used had to stand up to abuse from claws and very sharp teeth. I decided to try some Kraft-Tex. I cut it into a short rectangular strip. I used brown Kraft-Tex.

Putting it together was straightforward. I had to drill a hole at one end of the rod for the cotton rope. I attached the rope to the rod with a knot. Punched a hole in the Kraft-Tex strip (7-8cm long) and attached the other end of the rope to it. The wooden rod is about 1m long. The rope is about the same length. This length feels better for throwing or dragging around the rope. It allows for different types of throwing or dragging styles.

I made three prototypes. I did try a longer rope—over 1m long but I found 1m works best. One of the Kraft-Tex 'feathers' had natural catnip sprayed on it. I ditched this after one use. It made the cat behave strangely. This depends on the cat. It did not affect another cat at all. I also tried two Kraft-Tex strips but I found one was better.

 

As soon as I started playing with the cats using these new all-natural wands—the cats loved them. The long throw or drag you can achieve is fantastic. Almost 2m from the end of your hand—fab!

Dragging the rope over a hard surface creates an interesting sound for the cats. So does rubbing the wooden rod on the Kraft-Tex strip.

You can throw or drag the rope around corners and keep a good distance from it. This gives you more sliding and rolling options for the cat :)


These are the 'tame' play sessions. It is not easy to record with the other hand.

Wear and tear

After using the new wands for a day, I was confident that they would wear well. The rope did come undone a couple of times but nothing that could not fixed. The ropes did not get damaged. The Kraft-Tex strips were holding out well.

Six months later—the wands are used almost every day and they are in very good condition. I've not replaced anything. The rope has not come undone. The Kraft-Tex strips are still in very good condition. It's an amazing material.

Repairability

These new toys are very easy and cheap to repair if when the time comes. The rope can be removed and replaced. The same is true for the Kraft-Tex strip. If for some reason the wooden rod needs replacing—that's easy too. As a bonus, everything can be recycled.

What do the cats think?

I can say without hesitation the two cats I have played with, love playing with their new toys. They don't get bored and there are many ways you can play. This is not some sort of magic toy that will make your cat play. You have to play with the cat—it does not work by itself. Sometimes you will play for about 10 minutes. There are times you will play for hours. Cats are strange—they decide when they want to do things. Like, wake you up at four in the morning to play!

 
These are the 'tame' play sessions. It is not easy to record with the other hand.

Costs

Each one costs me no more than about £5 to make. That is fantastic for an ethical cat toy. One that will last a while and that can be repaired. What more could you want?

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