When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, watching cats play was a form of entertainment. It gave my parents and siblings endless hours of laughter and fun. Everyone we knew, friends and relatives, enjoyed watching cats play. A catnip mouse was, perhaps, the only
cat toy one could buy then, leaving ample room for clever hands to fashion things to lure cats into a playful mode.
A cat loves to play. It swats, bats, pounces, lunges, twists, runs, chews, stalks, springs, twitches, jumps, claws and rolls — antics that make us laugh and smile.
It’s easy to make simple toys that will keep a cat happily entertained. They require no special skills to make and can be made of materials found around the house.
I learned to make this toy from my mother, and I have no doubt she learned it from her father. You will need half a newspaper page or a sheet of copier paper and a length of sturdy string or yarn. Fold the paper in half, then twist it a few times so that it is tightly crumpled. Tie the cord in the middle of the scrunched-up paper. Drag the toy along the floor slowly and watch as the cat crouches and gets ready to pounce. When you get tired of playing this cat game — and you will — loop the string over a doorknob so kitty can bat at the toy all by himself.
I chose to make this toy in the shape of a rodent, but it could be any shape — a circle or a square, a bird or an egg. The cat really won’t care what shape it is. You will need a scrap of felt or wool cloth, a tiny bit of fiberfill stuffing, some black embroidery floss and a quarter-teaspoon catnip.
For a pattern, I drew what looked a lot like the letter D turned on its side, but with one side of the curve flattened out a bit. I cut that from the felt. I also cut a narrow, oval piece to serve as the “belly” of the toy, a narrow strip for a tail and two little pieces for ears. With needle and thread, I sewed the two D-shaped pieces together using an overcast stitch. Next, I sewed in the belly piece, leaving an opening for the stuffing and the catnip.
After the mouse was stuffed and the opening stitched together, I sewed on the tail and the ears. I added French knot stitches for eyes and pulled through a few threads to serve as whiskers. I tossed the catnip mouse to the cat and in a flash, she pounced, tossed the toy into the air and proceeded to have herself a good time.
Feathers on a stick
First, assemble the materials for this toy. You will need a quarter-inch dowel at least 2 feet long, a few feathers (I snipped some from a feather duster), string, a few pieces of shoelace, yarn or other cord about 5 inches long, a small bell, several buttons and 4 inches of duct tape.
Tie the buttons and the bell to the lengths of yarn or cord. Lay the piece of duct tape, sticky side up and widest edge toward you, on your work surface. Lay the end of the dowel or stick on the tape near one narrow end so that the dowel end takes up three-quarters of the width of the tape. Arrange the feathers and strings on the tape. Wrap the tape tightly around the dowel. And there it is, another cat toy.
Dangle this in front of kitty’s nose and watch her eyes get big as she contemplates the fun the two of you are going to have with this gizmo. Well, actually, kitty will have most of the fun, you will just be the cat slave who waves the thing around. A lot.
A word to the wise: My cat likes her toys so much she wakes up in the middle of the night to play with them. She thinks I ought to wake up at 2:30 a.m. and have fun, too. This is not fun. I put the toys away at night and pull them back out in the morning.
If it has been awhile since you took time to watch a cat play, try it. You’ll be amazed at how much you laugh.
Designing Women, a nonprofit volunteer corporation that works directly with local community organizations that benefit women and girls, will hold its fifth annual fine art and craft show 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at Longfellow’s Greenhouse, 81 Puddleduck Road in Manchester.
Twenty-five female artists and craft artisans will display their high-quality handcrafted pottery, handbags, glasswork, handwoven clothing and accessories, home accents, stained glass and sculptural ceramic art. A Touch of Health will offer chair massages and Longfellow’s will feature several end-of-season sales. The suggested $2 donation at the door and all lunch and refreshment proceeds will be donated to Winthrop’s Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center. For more information, call The Potter’s House at 582-7985 or visit http://designingwomen.org.
Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.