Educator How-To: Create Your Own Cat (or Dog) Toys

March 19, 2020
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Ever get frustrated after buying your precious fur-baby the nicest, most fancy toys on the market to come home and have them ignore it for some piece of fuzz they dug out of your trashcan? DESPAIR NO MORE, because today we’re going to make them a fancy toy out of that very same trash!

So here’s the deal, I have way too many cats and while they may seem sleepy and lazy, cats need daily stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. ENTER TOILET PAPER TUBES. There are all sorts of cat toys you can make from them and here are a few I have personally tried out myself with great success.

*Remember! Nothing can take the place of some good old fashioned interactive play time! While everyone loves treats and these are great forms of enrichment, don’t forget that taking time to play with your cat is so important for a happy pet!

Treat Mats

Does your cat scoop their food out of the bowl to eat? I know mine does. I thought he was a weirdo but apparently he’s not the only one! This toy gets their little brains working since they have to figure out how to get treats out of the various tubes that are glued to the mat. Cats naturally use their paws to catch and hold on to food so this toy encourages that natural behavior and rewards problem solving with treats!


  • Flat piece of cardboard (If you feed your cats wet food the bottom of the container the cans come in works great.)
  • 7-10 toilet paper/paper towel tubes
  • Glue, tape or hot glue (Hot glue worked best for me since my cats like to destroy the things I give them.)


  • Cut the cardboard piece so that any edges have been removed and it is just a flat piece.
  • Next, you’ll want to cut your tubes into various lengths. This gives a bit of a challenge when they’re trying to fish treats out.
    • You also might cut 1-inch slits around the edges of some of the tubes to add a little flare.
  • Once you’ve prepped the tubes, it’s time to arrange them flat on the cardboard.
    • How you arrange them is up to you! I varied it by having some full tubes laying horizontally next to each other with more on top and perpendicular. I also had some of the shorter tubes standing up vertically so that the cats have to reach in to scoop the treats out.
  • TEST TIME. Grab you kitty’s favorite treats, place them throughout the mat and encourage them to forage for them. If they look confused, that’s okay! They’re probably just a little rusty! Keep them engaged by letting them smell the treats and soon enough they’ll be channeling their inner wild cat!

Treat Pockets

This one looks a little wacky and is pretty simple but it forces your feline friend to work for their treats! As you can see my cat couldn’t wait to play with all the trash I collected. Note: this is a different cat than the one previously pictured – they just look similar and are equally nosey.


  • Toilet paper tube
  • Feathers, string, yarn, plastic stoppers from drink cartons or from milk jugs – basically anything you have around the house that you know your cat loves. I took feathers from a fancy toy that they don’t care about.
  • Glue, tape or hot glue


  • On one end of the tube, use your thumbs to fold one side down toward the hole in the tube. Fold the other side down so that it overlaps. It should look a little bit like cat ears with two points and the hole is now sealed! Now repeat on the other end.
  • At this point you can glue or tape the enticing bit of string and fuzz to the points on each end or even just along the tube itself. We just want a little Pizazz to get your cat’s attention!
  • Insert treat (make sure they smell it first) and let them have a blast!
Authored By Jayme Schlimper

Jayme joined the Museum team in 2015 as a Youth Education intern and has loved every minute of it! She was hired full-time in Fall of 2016 and realized that cuddling bugs and teaching kids about science are pretty much the best things ever!

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