Pet parents everywhere understand that cats and dogs are sometimes picky—or downright strange—when it comes to their favorite toys. You could spend hundreds of dollars on high-end toys and beds at the pet store, but your cat might ignore them, gravitating to a cardboard box or a loose strand of yarn instead!
Using household objects your pet is already attracted to as toys can be a great cost-saving measure. However, not all of your homemade toys are safe. It’s important to be mindful of which objects are safe for cats and dogs to play with and which could potentially cause a health problem!
Try these safe toys
There are tons of everyday objects you already have lying around the house that can make excellent toys for cats and dogs. Some become toys as soon as you toss them on the ground, while others might require a little sewing or assembly.
Great creative with these objects to create simple toys your pets will love day in and day out.
- Paper bags: Did you go shopping or pick up takeout recently and are now left with an empty paper bag? Cats are particularly drawn to these crinkly hiding spots and can spend hours diving in and out of bags left on the floor. To make sure these are as safe as possible, cut off the handles or loops before letting your cat play. If they start to bite and shred the bag, replace it with a new one.
- Cardboard boxes: If they fit, your pets are sure to sit! Empty cardboard boxes are some favorite found objects of both cats and dogs. Turned on their side, they make excellent hiding spaces that help your pet feel secure. If you’re feeling creative, make a pet obstacle course or cardboard castle by cutting out holes and connecting multiple boxes.
- Ping pong balls: Ping pong balls are inexpensive objects that cats and dogs alike will love to chase and play with. They’re an ideal choice because they can’t be broken or ingested easily.
- Scrap fabric ropes: Does your pup love to play tug of war? Create your own fabric ropes by using scrap fabric found around the house. Cut strips out of old towels or T-shirts and braid them together, finishing each end off with a knot. Your pup will love to chew and play with their new rope! If your dog likes to shred toys, only let them play with fabric ropes under supervision.
- Paper towel or toilet paper rolls: Have you recently finished off a roll of paper towel or toilet paper? Use the leftover cardboard roll as a toy! Some cats enjoy batting the empty rolls around on their own. You can also cut holes in the rolls and fill them with treats to create a puzzle feeder.
- Plastic bottles: Sturdy plastic bottles also make excellent toys for pets to chase and dig treats out of. Dogs attracted to crinkle toys often love to chomp on empty water bottles, so make sure you’re not giving them a flimsy plastic one. Larger bottles can be filled with treats or kibble with the cap left off, so pets can bat them around to knock food out. Always make sure you remove the label before letting your pets play!
Skip these unsafe objects
Unfortunately, cats and dogs are also attracted to a number of everyday objects that aren’t safe for them. These items might be choking hazards if your pet tries to swallow them, or they could cause an intestinal blockage.
Think twice before you instinctively toss one of these objects to your pet to play with.
- Rubber bands or hair ties: Elastic or rubber bands entice cats because they are small, easy to bat around and can be flung across the floor for a good chase. However, they are also quite easy to swallow, potentially leading to choking or obstructions.
- Milk rings: Milk rings are also popular pet toys, but they aren’t always safe. Pets might break apart and swallow these small plastic pieces.
- Plastic bags: While paper bags make excellent cat hideouts, plastic bags should always be kept away from cats and dogs. Pets can easily become trapped or entangled in plastic bags, potentially suffocating them.
- Loose string: Loose string is a cat’s biggest weakness…in more ways than one. Whether in a singular strand or hanging loose from something like a ball of yarn, string is easily swallowed and is one of the leading causes of bowel obstructions in cats.
- Tin foil balls: Balls made out of aluminum foil might appear safe, but they can be dangerous if your pet likes to bite or chew their toys. Aluminum foil breaks apart easily, and both cats and dogs can get sick from eating lots of small tin foil pieces.
It’s totally possible to keep your pets entertained at home using only household objects—just consider the object’s safety before it lands in your pet’s paws. As a general rule, steer clear of small objects, easily breakable objects or objects that have loose string or yarn that can be swallowed. By being cautious, your pet will stay safe and have endless fun!