Why do cats enjoy playing with toys?

Whether they’re excitable kittens or serene older moggies, most cats love to play. And there’s good reason for this – playing mimics the hunting instincts that cats have inherited from their ancestors, the African wildcat.


Through play, cats can act out natural behaviours such as stalking and pouncing, which in turn releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. For owners, playing with our cats can be endlessly entertaining and is a great way to bond.

The UK’s biggest cat charity Cats Protection shares its top tips for creating your own handmade toys and games for your favourite feline:

How to make cat toys

Eggbox puzzles

Cats love the opportunity to exercise their minds and use their natural hunting skills. You can make mealtimes more interesting by popping a portion of your cat’s dry food into old, clean, eggboxes. Once your cat has mastered scooping out the food with their paw, you can build up the challenge by closing the lid or loosely wrapping the food in scrunched up paper hidden inside. Always give your cats a ‘helping paw’ and show your cat how to use it first to prevent frustration or boredom.

Catnip socks

Catnip - otherwise known as catmint or Nepeta Cataria – is a perennial herb renown for creating an ecstatic response in cats. While it doesn’t affect all cats, roughly 50-70%, sniffing catnip can cause a notable reaction in some cats, who may spend several minutes rolling around in a state of pure bliss. If your cat loves it, you can make your own homemade toys with any old socks – simply pop in a couple of spoonfuls of dried catnip, securely knot the end and give to your cat to enjoy.

Fishing rod cat toy

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Photograph by Cats Protection

Fishing rod toys are a fantastic activity for cats young and old, and you can easily make your own. Tie a length of string to the end of a short wooden rod (a garden cane works well) and secure with heavy duty tape. Secure a small cat toy to the end of the string, adding some artificial feathers if you have any. Then simply dangle and drag to attract your cat’s attention! Make sure your cat is able to catch the toy periodically, as cats can be left frustrated if they’re unable to catch their “prey”. Ensure that fishing rod toys are safely out of the cat’s reach once play time is over.

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Cats love boxes

Never underestimate just how much fun cats can get from an empty cardboard box! Try cutting out a couple of holes for cats to dash through or collect a few to create a moggy mini maze. Cats love to climb, so look out for larger boxes which they can use as their own lookout post, and don’t forget to add a snuggly blanket for the all-important cat nap.

Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat charity - to find more tips from the charity about caring for your cat visit cats.org.uk/help-and-advice



Cats Protection is the UK's largest cat welfare charity and have experts in all aspects of feline welfare. They help around 200,000 cats and kittens every year thanks in no small part to their network of over 230 volunteer-run branches and over 30 centres.