How to make a heavy-duty cat toy

No food tonight, so if you don’t have or don’t like cats, come back in a day or two for an on-topic, food-related post. If you have playful cats that are somewhat destructive, then stick around.

The kittens have a bazillion toys, which is good because they love to play. They are quite capable of amusing themselves, but their favorite game is playing with a human-held toy on a string or stick; usually this is a feather on the end of a string, attached to a stick. They leap around like nuts and are generally extremely amusing. However, they are very hard on their toys and tend to destroy them quickly. They eat through strings, so many toys get tied back together again and again until a string that started out several feet long is suddenly a few inches long. They even break the sticks the strings dangle from. And of course, they destroy any feathers on their toys within seconds. And you don’t usually know if feathers were humanely sourced. So I set out to make a heavy-duty dangle-type toy they would have a harder time destroying.

What you need:

various ribbons
about 1 yard cord elastic

plastic cord/cable cover (for hiding electrical cords along walls), about a yard long

I went to the hardware store and scouted out things to use for my “stick”. I tried several different things and what worked best was this Cordmate Cord Cover:
. I think this is the same thing; it was a little cheaper at Home Depot, where they also had longer lengths you can buy separately and cut to fit, which was even cheaper. I bought the kit with 3 36″ lengths because I wanted 36″ and don’t have a saw. It was $10, but I can make two more toys.

I bought a few different types of red ribbon for the “feather”. They were 55 cents to $3 a yard at the fabric store, although I happened to get 25% off those prices. I chose red because I have a theory that cats see red best, and I know red was definitely Tigger’s favorite color. The color, of course, doesn’t matter, so get what you want. I got one type of ribbon that was lightly wired, to provide a bit of the stiffness you’d find in a feather. I got another one that was more gossamer, like the soft parts of a feather. And I got a heavier velvet one that was strong enough to attach to the string to without tearing. So pick out some ribbons and then cut them into lengths about 6 to 8″ long.

Take two pieces of the sturdiest ribbon you have and line them up, back to back, then sew a buttonhole near the top. (If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can just snip a hole, but sewing a buttonhole will really help reinforce it.)

Put a pin at one end of the buttonhole and use a seam ripper to rip the middle of the hole open. (The pin stops you from ripping too far.)

Arrange the rest of the ribbons in a way that they fan out a bit and then put them between the two you’ve sewn together with the buttonhole. Pin.

Sew all ribbons together just under the buttonhole. I used a zigzag stitch and went back and forth a few times to make it as secure as possible. You can do this by hand if you don’t have a sewing machine.

Cut a length of the elastic. I have found that 30″ the ideal length, so cut 32″ or so. Tie one end through the buttonhole and trim the end. Other than possibly some very sleek, round elastics, most of them will tie a very tight knot that won’t come undone (I had to cut the knots on the prototypes I made that I didn’t like).

The cord cover comes with a self-adhesive strip on it for attaching to a wall. You could leave it on and just not peel the paper off, but eventually it’s going to start coming off as you handle it and get all sticky. So just get rid of it now. It took me about two or three minutes to rub the adhesive off with my thumb. I tried using a razor to scrape it off, but the thumb was a lot faster and easier.

The cord cover is also flat on one side (the side you peeled the adhesive off of), and rounded on the other.

Put the flat side on a table, hanging over by an inch or two, and then drill a hole, about 1/2″ down, through both sides. (I love projects that involve using my grandfather’s drill!)

Push the other end of the elastic through one of the holes, then pull it out through the top of the rod. You may need to use tweezers to pull it up, but I just kept pushing it until it popped up on its own.

Tie the elastic.

And that’s it!

The cats love it! It’s very, very, very hard to take pictures of them playing with it, though. I really need a video camera to properly catch it, and I should, because they can be hilarious. Gomez especially does these bizarre contortions mid-air that are amazing, but I just can’t get them on camera! So these pictures are pretty shoddy, but they’re the best I got at catching them in the air:

Torticia tends to get lazy and starts lying on her back, expecting the toy to come to her, although I always go and pick her back up and make her play properly because she’s getting pudgy!

It’s a bit hard to make Mezzie out in front of the glare on the glass behind him, but here he is leaping from his cat tree.

And doesn’t something look really wrong with the angle of Tort Reform’s head in this one?

Finally, since this is a cat-only post, here is a sequence of pictures I took the other night after giving Gomez catnip. He’s a surly drunk! Mezzie likes the ‘nip, but Tortellini doesn’t do more than just kind of sniff it daintily and look at Mez like he’s crazy for eating it. But just seconds after eating some and rolling around it in, Mezzian always starts beating his poor sister up!

Fortunately, Tort Reform just puts him right back in his place.

Okay, that’s it for tonight – back soon with food, I promise!


  1. FoodFeud Said,

    February 20, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    So cute! I love the action shots! This is a good idea, too. My cat does the same lounge around thing; I never thought to pick her up and make her play…aww thanks for this!

  2. MsDerious Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 4:40 am


    We live with two senior rescue cats (15 & 18) and they still love to play. The 18yr old loves anything string/tape like and often spends hours playing with toggles/tassels on clothing.

  3. Mom Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 9:01 am

    I can’t even figure out where Torticia’s head actually is in the one picture. Gomez looks very silly with catnip all over his body. One time Dracula came out of the basement with cobwebs strewn all over his face and ears, and he went around thinking he was looking like his usual dignified self.

  4. Lisa Goldstein Kieda Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    Love this post! So are you taking orders? How much to purchase this handmade lovely (be sure to include postage to Utah!!)?

    I have four cats that still think empty boxes & bags are the best thing ever. I can’t imagine how they would react to such a fabulous provocateur.

  5. renae Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

    Lisa, no plans to sell them, but I do have an extra two “sticks”. If you email me your address, I’ll make you a toy. 🙂

  6. Anna Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

    OMG These cats are adorable and very nice post.

  7. susan Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Oh boy…I flipped through that one a few times. I love the action shots. I also love all the nicknames that wind up being so far from their given ones. One STORE BOUGHT toy my trio love is the thing a ma string…they haven’t broke it yet. Oh if only I was as crafty as you!

  8. jamie Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    AWESOME cat prints. Made my heart sing! 🙂 Long live gomez and torticia!!

  9. Josiane Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

    That toy does indeed seem to be of the heavy-duty variety! It looks like a really good solution for your toy-destroying kitties. Fun!

  10. heather Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

    Oh, I love this post! I too have an all black cat and a tortoise. This made me giggle so I am headed home to make them a heavy duty cat toy!

  11. Lisa Goldstein Kieda Said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    Hi Renae – please email me at work:

    I can then email you back with my address…

    However, you need to tell me one hardcover or two paperbacks that you’ve been wanting to read. I will then mail them off to you as a thank you. Sounds like a fabulous trade to me.


  12. Melisser Said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

    What a fun project! Those cats can fly!

  13. radioactivegan Said,

    February 23, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    Oh, man, you make me want to get a kitten every time I come here! I don’t think Lilly would be too happy about it, though :
    I’m going to try to make one of these for her; hopefully she doesn’t think she’s too dignified now for some playing.

  14. Martha Said,

    March 2, 2011 @ 9:14 am

    I love your calico kitty. She is beautiful! I have a calico at home…I’ve always loved there markings! 🙂

  15. April Said,

    September 9, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    LOVE the cat photos! I had a calico that looks just like yours when i was younger.

  16. Veggie Kate Said,

    May 29, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    *lol* So glad a friend shared your site with me. I love it! Great food, great crafts, great pics 🙂 Can’t wait to read more of it!

  17. Grandmother Wren » Blog Archive » The Thursday 13 – Make Cat Toys for Your Cat Said,

    June 7, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    […] heavy duty cat toy for your active […]

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