DIY Homemade Dog Toys and Cat Toys: An Upcycling Guide

How to Repurpose Clutter into Engaging Pet Toys

This article looks at ways to make homemade dog toys and cat toys from common household items, and discuss tips if you are looking to buy sustainable toy alternatives.

By Laura Dolgy of The Kind Pet

Our pets enrich our lives in unimaginable ways, and as responsible (and sustainable) pet owners, it is our responsibility to give them a stimulating and happy environment without sacrificing the planet.

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Win-Win: Homemade Dog Toys and Cat Toys

While clutter may build up in our homes, it gives us the opportunity to recycle common materials into entertaining toys for our cherished friends. Repurposing junk into pet toys not only reduces waste but also improves our pets’ quality of life and enrichment.

How Repurposed Toys Increase Enrichment

Repurposed toys provide your pets with excellent enrichment possibilities, amusement, and improvement to your pet’s general wellbeing in the following ways.

Mental Stimulation

Repurposed toys that involve problem-solving skills, such as puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys, stimulate your pet’s mind and encourage it to plan. 

These activities keep their minds active, reducing boredom and offering mental stimulation. For instance, the suggested muffin tin puzzle tests your dog’s cognitive skills as they work out how to get the balls out and get to the treats that are hidden inside.

Physical Activity

Many recycled toys, such as interactive cardboard structures or rope toys, encourage physical activity and help with weight control and general wellness. Cats may explore and play within the cardboard box sculptures, while dogs can enjoy a game of tug-of-war with a homemade rope toy.

Sensory Engagement

Repurposed toys provide sensory enrichment with their textures, sounds, and scents. Sock squeakers stimulate your dog’s senses with their various textures and crinkle sounds. You can even add catnip or other pet-safe scents to the repurposed toys to further encourage play.

Bonding and Socialization

Playing with your pet while utilizing reused toys can foster a closer connection through trust and interactivity. Making DIY toys can help you strengthen your bond with your pet and reward good behavior when you interact with them during interactive play or training sessions.

Tips & Safety Recommendations for Repurposed Toys

While turning trash into pet toys is a great way to interact with and amuse your furry pals, it’s always crucial to put their security first. Here are some tips and safety recommendations when using repurposed toys.

Opt for Pet-Friendly Materials

Make sure the materials used to repurpose goods are safe for your pets. Avoid using hazardous substances, ingestible small pieces, and sharp edges that could hurt them. To make safe and pleasant toys, choose materials that are long-lasting, pet-friendly, and non-toxic.

Watch Your Pet During Playtime

Repurposed toys can keep your pet entertained for hours, but it’s important to keep an eye on them. Check the toys frequently for any indications of damage, loose pieces, or wear and tear. To avoid mishaps or your pet ingesting something dangerous, take away and replace any toys that are no longer safe for them. The Humane Society has an article on pet toy safety for more info.

Size Matters

Take your pet’s breed, size, and chewing habits into account while selecting toys. Toys should be big enough to prevent choking hazards or unintentional eating. To avoid any potential problems if you have numerous pets, make sure that each one has a toy that is the right size.

Clean and Sanitize

To preserve hygiene and stop the growth of bacteria or germs, regularly clean and sanitize reused toys. Use the proper cleaning techniques for the item being cleaned, such as washing with pet-safe detergent, applying disinfectant sprays, or washing fabric toys.

Keep an Eye on the Level of Play

Pay attention to how much your pet is playing. During play, certain animals may become overly animated or rough, which could result in injury. It’s better to turn their focus to more appropriate toys or seek advice from a qualified trainer or behaviorist if you detect extreme hostility or destructive behavior.

DIY Homemade Dog Toys and Cat Toys: Cat snuggling a soft toy while lying on a couch

Common Household Items to Repurpose

There are potential pet toys hiding in all of our homes. Sometimes all that’s really required is a little creativity. If you happen to have clutter around your home, consider repurposing them into toys for your furry friend!

Trust us, your cat and dog will care less whether you’re giving them a repurposed or newly bought toy. All they really care about is having fun! Here are some of our favorite common household items to use.

Cardboard Fun

Common household items like cardboard boxes can be made into cozy hiding places or engaging puzzle toys. 

Create access points and hiding places for goodies or toys by cutting holes and openings of various sizes into the boxes. Your pet will find this to be an interesting challenge that promotes exploration and mental agility. Additionally, you can build a multi-level play structure with ramps and entrances for cats by stacking boxes of various sizes.

Sock Squeakers

Squeaker toys never last, and they’re problematic for the environment as well. Try this instead! Place an empty plastic water bottle inside a sock, knot the open end, and watch as your pet squeaks and crunches its way through. This recycled toy stimulates both the aural and tactile senses, making it a great toy for your pup.

DIY Rope Toys

You can easily make rope toys for your pets out of used towels or t-shirts. Make sure to cut the fabric into long lengths and neatly braid before use. You can then add knots at both ends to increase the strength. 

These handcrafted rope toys are ideal for engaging in interactive play and tug-of-war matches with your pet. They also encourage physical activity and stronger bonds between you two.

Muffin Tin Puzzle

You can easily turn an old muffin tin into a fun puzzle toy for your dog. Put small toys or goodies in each muffin cup, then cover each with a tennis ball. The challenge of removing the balls to reveal the hidden goodies will keep them entertained for hours! Make sure to also try various size balls to really challenge them!

Toilet Paper Roll Treat Dispenser

Hold off on throwing away those used toilet paper rolls! Make use of them as straightforward treat dispensers. 

Create a pocket by flattening the roll and folding in one end. Your pet will enjoy rolling the tube around to get at the treats that are inside.

DIY Homemade Dog Toys and Cat Toys: Dog chewing on a bone-shaped soft toy

Need to Buy Toys? Opt for These Sustainable Alternatives

There are lots of wonderful sustainable toy choices available that you may buy new if you are unable to discover anything around the house to upcycle. But how do you choose the most sustainable options? We advise you to check where products are made and to select products made in your country and as close to home as possible. Look at packaging materials and opt for those with minimal to no plastic. We also recommend using sustainable materials like hemp, organic cotton, recycled rubber, and more when seeking for new cat or dog toys. This type of material will have a better end of life option over plastic that can contaminate waterways.


Hemp-based toys are becoming more and more popular in the pet toy market since they are sustainable and biodegradable. Look for dog toys made of hemp fabric or cat teaser wands with hemp strings. These toys are strong, secure, and eco-friendly.

Organic Cotton

Pick toys made of organic cotton, which is farmed without the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Organic cotton toys are safe for your pet to chew on and are gentle on their teeth. Try to find stuffed animals or rope toys manufactured from organic cotton.

Natural Rubber

Choose toys made of natural rubber, which is a dependable and long-lasting substance. Toys made of natural rubber are both biodegradable and free of dangerous chemicals. Look for dog toys made of natural rubber, such as chew toys, balls, or reward dispensers.


Cork toys can be used to make fun items for cats and dogs because cork is a renewable and biodegradable material. Cork balls or soft toys filled with cork offer a portable and environmentally responsible alternative for interactive play. These toys offer a distinctive texture and are kind to your pet’s teeth.


Bamboo is a quickly expanding and sustainable material that can be used for pet toys. Look for bamboo-handled cat teaser wands or bamboo-filled dog toys. These playthings are sturdy, long-lasting, and earth friendly.


Biodegradable and renewable materials are used to make wool felt toys. They are supple, strong, and pet-safe. For cats and dogs, look for felt balls or felted plush toys.

Turning Junk into Play

Clutter can be turned into entertaining pet toys, benefiting everyone. It not only lessens waste and lessens the influence we have on the environment, but it also gives our furry pals stimulating and enjoyable experiences. We can exercise our imagination and resourcefulness by utilizing objects that are already in our homes to design one-of-a-kind toys that are tailored to the needs of our dogs.

So, rather than throwing everything away the next time you find yourself surrounded by clutter, consider the possible treasures you may make for your pets. Use your creativity to repurpose those items, then see how happy your animal pals are with their new toys. Let’s make our pets’ lives better by transforming junk into pet-friendly treasures.

two women holding a dog and a cat

Author Bio:

Laura Dolgy is the co-founder of The Kind Pet, a sustainable online pet store and resource dedicated to reducing our pets’ and our own impact on the planet. Discover their tips on how to become a more sustainable pet owner.