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Household Items Cats Like to Play With When Out of Toys: 13 Safe Options

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat playing yarn

Generally, cats need regular exercise to stimulate their brains and stay fit and healthy. Experts recommend you provide your cats with at least 20–30 minutes of playtime every day, especially if they are indoor cats. Toys are the best way to make sure they get exercise.

However, cats prefer playing with other stuff other than with their own toys, and usually, these could be everyday household items in your house. Even if you do get them an expensive toy, there is no guarantee that your cat will acknowledge their existence, let alone play with them.

This article will highlight common household items cats like to convert into their playthings when they run out of toys. Keep in mind that every cat is different. What one cat may like may be disinteresting to another.


The 13 Items Cats Like to Play With When Out of Toys

1. String

Credit: Tony Campbell, Shutterstock

Usually, many households have twine, a length of wool or string lying around. While you may not think twice about a string, this remarkably simple household item can be a source of entertainment for a playful cat. You need only pull a string slowly near your cat to get its attention.

When playing with your cat using a string, you better get a second string to minimize the risk of injury to your fingers because cats have very painful bites. However, never allow your cats to play with a piece of string unsupervised because, once ingested, it can cause serious gut problems.

2. Crumpled Paper

cat playing crumpled paper
Image by: MVolodymyr, Shutterstock

Cats adore playing with crumpled pieces of paper. They enjoy the noise the paper makes as well as the texture. This is perhaps why commercially sold cat toys have a crumpled section in them.

If you are out of cat toys in your house, simply crumple a piece of paper and throw it around your house for the cat to chase after.

3. Paper Bags

cute ginger cat sitting in a paper bag and looking curious sideways
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

Some cats can never get enough of paper bags. You may even find it quite hard to empty your groceries without your furry friend trying to climb into the bag.

Paper bags are especially enjoyable for cats that love the sound of crumpled paper. Just put a paper bag on a hard floor surface and add a toy inside it to try and encourage the cat to slide it around.

However, despite being fun, plastic bags can quickly escalate into a disaster. Similar to children, cats are also at risk of getting caught in plastic material and suffocating. Moreover, cats can bite bits of plastic and swallow them, thus obstructing their digestive tract. So, never allow your cats to play in plastic carrier bags. Instead, give them paper and fabric bags.

4. Yarn

Cat with a lots of yarn
Image Credit: LesiChkalll27, Shutterstock

Though an expensive cat toy alternative, you can ball up some yarn and give your feline friend to play with. Cats love playing with items that they can bite and hook their paws into. They also like batting yarn balls around, chasing after them, and looking for them beneath furniture in your living space.

Cats also enjoy playing with yarn even when not balled up. They often equate it to a mouse tail or something equally enticing to play with. Whichever the case, yarn can keep your furry friends entertained for hours.

5. Cardboard Boxes

Image Credit: Chris Boyer, Unsplash

Cats love boxes as much as young kids do because they have the same appeal level as paper bags. In fact, many parents and pet owners have endured the heartache of purchasing an expensive gift only for the cat to play with the packaging instead of the toy itself.

The cat may choose to knock, hit, jump in and out of the cardboard box, or even sleep in it.

Why cats get so excited about cardboard boxes, we may never understand. However, it is a cheaper alternative to cat toys and wouldn’t get lost under furniture. If your cat is disinterested in climbing into the cardboard box and exploring, sprinkle some catnip into the box to pique its interest.

6. Baby Toys

cat playing duck toy
Image Credit: MarinaTr, Shutterstock

If you have young children in your home, cat toys may be unnecessary. Cats enjoy playing with small-sized toys specifically made for kids. Whether a Barbie shoe or a stuffed animal, cats will find a way to amuse themselves with it.

Felines will enjoy playing with small and light items that they can push or chase around the house with reckless abandon. But of course, you must ensure that neither your kids nor cats play with toys that are small enough to swallow because of choking hazards.

All in all, children’s toys make excellent cat playthings. But keep in mind that neither kids nor cats like sharing their toys.

7. Paper Towel Rolls

paper towel on plain background
Image Credit: MabelAmber, pixabay

Paper towels and even toilet paper rolls make excellent puzzle toys for cats to play with. Just try putting a cat toy or even food in the middle and enjoy watching the cat figure out how to access it.

Puzzle feeders make for great mental stimulating exercises too. They also offer a lot of benefits, including reducing anxiety, boredom, and general destructive behaviors in our feline friends.

Just ensure that you replace the paper towel rolls if the cat tears bits off them.

8. Jewelry

cats playing jewelry
Image Credit: Leila Alekto Photo, Shutterstock

Cats enjoy playing with jewelry because it is usually dangly and shiny. If you notice that your cat likes playing with your jewelry, ensure that it is big enough. Anything small, like rings and earrings, can be a choking hazard.

However, necklaces with large fake beads make excellent cat playthings. Felines enjoy the sound that beads make when dropped on the floor as well as the fact these types of necklaces travel far and fast when thrown around. This makes for a great exercise regimen, and cats can have endless hours of entertainment playing with them.

9. Shoe Laces

British Short-hair Cat beside shoes
Image Credit: horvathta, Shutterstock

Cats always find shoelaces entertaining to play with, especially when still attached to a shoe. Felines have a somewhat weird obsession with shoes and can spend hours rubbing their bodies against shoes abandoned in closets or placed next to doors.

If the shoe laces are untied and dangling on the sides, cats will find them more pleasurable to play with. They will bite them, bat them, and play with them for hours on end.

However, you will want to ensure that your furry friend doesn’t play with your good shoes because they can easily ruin them with their sharp razor teeth.

10. Socks

cat playing rainbow sock
Image Credit; Fredricka Jackson, Shutterstock

Cats love socks! If you own a cat, you have probably spent a lot of time trying to find a missing sock only to find it next to your cat’s bedding. Socks can be very enjoyable for cats to play with, especially if you dangle them over your cats and let them paw them.

This sort of game will help you create a stronger bond with your feline companion. You can even sprinkle catnip on a sock to create a solo toy.

However, as with most cat toys, ensure that your cat is supervised while playing with socks because they can easily tear them into shreds and swallow them, causing intestinal problems.

11. Balls

cat playing with a ball and a tunnel at home
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Bouncy balls, small balls, or simply balls purchased with children’s toys are considered a source of unbridled entertainment by all animals, cats included.

Granted, a cat may not fetch a ball like dogs would, but it will enjoy chasing the ball back and forth across the floor alone or with a human partner. Balls are also a great way to distract your cats, especially when you need some alone time.

12. Laundry Basket

a maine coon cat in a laundry basket
Image by: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Cats absolutely enjoy sitting on laundry baskets, especially if there are warm and clean clothes in them. They will enjoy it even more if a ball is placed underneath a laundry basket that has been turned upside down.

Your feline companion can spend endless hours trying to get the ball underneath the basket by poking their paws through the spaces and pushing it around.

13. Couch, Cushions, and Blankets

bengal cat kitten in white blanket
Image Credit: Vanilin Ka, Shutterstock

Forts made from blankets are an endless source of entertainment for cats. Much like cardboard boxes, blankets, and cushions provide a safe hiding place for your cat to relax and reduce stress, especially for cats suffering from anxiety and those that have just moved into an unfamiliar environment.



As much as we love our furry feline friends, we do not have to spend a fortune purchasing expensive toys for them. You probably have several of the items listed above lying around in your house. There is no better way to repurpose unusable items in our homes than converting them into play items for our cats.

Depending on your cat, you can have it entertained with any of the household items highlighted on our list. Just make sure that you play with your cat daily, ideally for about 30 minutes. Playtime will not only keep your cat active and healthy but will also reinforce your bond with them.

Featured Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

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