Sunday, January 26, 2014

DIY Cat Puzzle Tutorial

If you know me, you know that I am totally addicted to my two cats: Smokey Bones & Felis Lynx Rufus. I always try to improve their environment, and make up for the fact that I can't let them out here in Colorado. I have been reading a whole lot about cat puzzles lately, and on the web I saw many viable commercial options that could be easily made into a do-it-yourself project. So off I went, to get some supplies, and here is the result of my efforts. Smokey is modeling the result for you here.


Supplies List:
- One (or more) disposable food containers
- Utility knife
- VERY sharp scissors
- Black marker
- Rubbing alcohol
- Lighter
- Small rubber adhesive casters
- Small cat toys/balls (at least one with a bell - for stimulating sounds)
- Cat kibble or treats

Here is my starting piece. A food container of about 9½ cups capacity. A larger size would be nice, but smaller than this wouldn't probably work. I purchased a pack of 2 at King Sooper (Kroger brand) on sale for $1.99


I flipped the container upside down, and I secured some rubber adhesive casters - to help stabilize the puzzle on my hardwood floors.


I used shot-glasses to draw my shapes onto the lid with a black marker.


I put the lid onto a wooden cutting board, and I scored X shapes inside my circles with an x-acto knife. I used these openings to insert the scissors and cut out the circles. 


After cutting all my openings, I removed the leftover black marker with some rubbing alcohol.


 I then burnt the edges, of the openings, to smooth them out (paws and jagged edges don't go together!)


At this point I gathered some old toys and put them into the container. Rufus is supervising the work, to make sure I do it right! You don't need to buy toys for this project. The point is to make it affordable! So you can use old toys you already own, or make your own - with found objects. You can use the plastic safety ring from a milk jug, you can crumple-up some paper and make paper balls, or you can even use buttons or items that your cat naturally plays with. I would advise to have a bell in the box...just for extra auditory stimulation. I used two bells, one is inside the larger lime ball, and one is attached to the mouse's tail. 


Here is the Quality Control Inspector making sure all is kosher and ready to go!


At this point I added some treats to the toy-mix...


...I put the lid on the container, and watched the cats gather round to inspect it! ^__^


Smokey Bones said: "I can smell it! But where is it? Oh, there! I see it!"


The most rewarding part? I sat down, relaxed, and watched the show! LOL


It may take a while for them to figure it out, but that's part of the point! These type of puzzles, feed into their primordial hunting instinct. They also get a great deal of satisfaction when they do get a treat out, it's hilarious to watch when Smokey succeeds! LOL.


I added a corner opening that same day. I quickly realized that the 3 circles alone, may be too challenging for beginners. I wanted them to be challenged, but not frustrated because they could not 'catch' any prey at all. I feared that if they got frustrated, they would abandon the idea altogether.


I also immediately made a second puzzle box, to ensure that one cat is not hogging it...leaving the other one to merely watch from a distance. I have since used regular kibble in the box so I can use more than a few pieces and they can play longer (treats are very caloric and I try to only feed 2-3 a day per cat).

This is an easy project for anyone, and a very interactive toy that will help to keep the cats entertained while I am gone. It can also be a very effective tool for feeding fast eaters, or for overweight kittycats. It's just so versatile and so easy to make. I can't think of a reason why ANYONE should not make one...or many for their fur babies! 

I hope you and your feline companion enjoyed this tutorial! Team Cat Mojo! 

  












39 comments:

  1. Great idea. Off to create one for the guys.

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  2. This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing how you made it :)

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    1. No problems StarSpry. I had fun and it was easy, quick and cheap!

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  3. great idea thank you! i dont have a torch - any ideas on how i can soften those edges?

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    1. You could take pumice stone, sandpaper or maybe even a foam nail file and smooth the edges.

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    2. Very true Jen. As Teri said you can use any abrasive aid that you have around the house. The important thing is that you smooth it out enough so that they don't get hurt. The plastic on the lid is thin, but cutting with scissors made a lot of small ridges that were sharp. I wanted to make sure I made them safe!

      A regular lighter worked as well, when I made the second box :)

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  4. This is fabulous. Won't work for my 18ish year old boy. He pretty much sleeps all the time. But I'm pinning this so that if I get new kitties who are playful I can make it for them. Sure beats paying the big bucks for a commercial one. I have plenty of old toys that my boy doesn't play with that I can use. Thanks for the creative and low cost idea!

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    1. Mary, is your boy not food driven? Does he not come when you shake the treat bag? I believe that it would not be too exhausting, even for an OLD fluffer-nut ;) Maybe you can give it a try, making larger holes on the lid? Or only the corner holes (easier)? I would give it a go anyhow. What have you got to loose? Your old fellow may yet surprise you! LOL

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  5. What a creative and great idea! You must have been a cat in another lifetime, 'cause you sure know how they think and what they love!

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    1. You made me smile a little strongheartwoman :)

      I guess that maybe I was a cat in other life. I am quite obsessed with them in this life ;)

      Thanks for reading the blog!

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  6. This is wonderful.. I gotta try it!! Thanks for the terrific ideas.

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  7. Wow Amazing!
    Thank you for idea!

    sorry for my owful english but i'm italian! :D

    Thanks Again!

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    1. Ciao Sarah, guarda caso lo sono anche io ;))
      Quindi se per caso hai qualche domanda non farti problemi e chiedi pure.

      Il tuo inglese e' perfetto, hai sbagliato solo una letterina aweful si scrive con la A, non con la O. Per il resto e' tutto giustissimo :))))

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    2. ciao Susi! Facciamo diventare questo thread di commenti una piccolissima Little Italy ;)

      Ho trovato il post via Pinterest e sono felice di aver scoperto, insieme, un blog interessantissimo e diverso dal solito. Congrats! Tornerò a leggerti con più calma appena ho un minuto libero. Qui abitiamo con tre tigrotti e, in loro onore, abbiamo chiamato Vibrisse il minuscolo b&b che abbiamo ricavato dalla stanza per gli ospiti :) A presto e grazie per le fantastiche idee!

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  8. I made one of these for me Leelo. She's have a ball with it!!

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    1. Am glad you did! Your Leelo will enjoy this for days to come :))

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  9. Thanks! So simple and yet so brilliant!
    I've just made one half an hour ago and both cats were really taken with it.
    Also I think it will be convenient to store small toys in it (mice, balls etc.) when not in use.

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    1. Yes, Diana I do put toys in the box...both to provide for extra texture/sounds, but also to get them some off the floor. LOL. My girl seems to have just as much fun getting all the toys OUT of the box, as she does hunting treats ;)

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  10. LOVE this! Gonna make one (or more) for our crowd! :-)

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    1. Please do Penelope! They will sure enjoy it. :)

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  11. Took my part Siamese (very active, and curious) cat less than 10 minutes to figure out how to put both paws in a hole and pull until the lid came off. Lulz :p Contemplating either gluing the lid down or making smaller holes.... She's quite pleased with herself lol

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    1. LOL. That's a pickle there! LOL
      I think smaller holes would work. I need to make 2 more boxes with smaller holes as well. By now it's gotten too easy to get the treats out!
      ...but my lids are super tight. Did you buy the Ziplock containers? That's what I used...

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  12. This is a great idea, thanks for posting it!

    Burning plastic is--well, it's carcinogenic, so at least melt edges smooth outside! Or file smooth and/or tape over edges.

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    1. Yes, I am glad you brought it up. I burned it OUTSIDE!
      ...but my best solution was to get a sharper scissor set. For my second box, I got a brand new manicure scissor and that did not need any smoothing ;)

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  13. My cats stuck their heads through the holes right away and got scared! I think I made the holes too big and thank goodness I did not tape the lid shut first! I think it's a good idea to let people know to watch their kitties playing with it the very first time!

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    1. As you can see Dot, the holes in my puzzle box are just a little bit bigger than a paw. I would never have made holes big enough for a cats' head to fit through...that would defeat the purpose. LOL.
      Also with ANY new toy/interactive item you should be monitoring your pets...safety first! :))

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  14. If you don't want to use the rubber feet, just put globs of hot glue and let them dry instead. Thanks for the great idea!

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  15. how does your cat get these treats out?? I made this for my cat but all she can do is put her paws in and bat the treats around and get frustrated. I even made the corner hole like you showed. I have fingers and had a hard time trying to reach in and get the treats out so I don't know how she is going to do it ???

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    1. How big/small are your openings? How food driven is your cat? Those are the two questions to ask :) I have one EXTREMELY motivated cat (who is uhhhmmm, not smart LOL) who got this in 2 days. He puts his little paw in, and sometimes just take it out to lick the 'dust', but most often he does what we would do he just makes a fist around the treat and fishes it out. ^__^
      My other cat is NOT food driven. However, she is super smart. She also got it in a few days, but not 2. Maybe like 5 or 6 ;)
      She does the same.
      Don't get frustrated. Make the holes bigger, so that you can access the treats and pinch them out (between index and thumb) and show your cat how it's done. Do this for a few days and she'll get it. The frustration is part of the fun. She MUST be able to get some treats. That's for sure. But not so quickly that she does not need to try hard. The trying is what satisfy their hunting needs.
      So keep at it Kel and when the old box becomes too easy (because the holes are too big) make a new one. I am about to do that myself. At the moment Smokey Bones eats ALL treats in less than 5 minutes. LOL

      Good luck and let me know if this works out.

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  16. This is a cool idea but unfortunately my Viper Kitty will not eat treats or kibble and would get bored quickly with the toys...

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    1. Astelzer, you are right, if they don't care about treats they would not enjoy this. But do they like other food? You can try with kibble, but also with chicken breast pieces or anything that can be cut in chucks and will not be too messy. You can wash the container daily, but I would not use pate' ;-)

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    2. she does like meat. I will have to try it out with chicken :) thanks for the suggestion.

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    3. No problem AStelzer :) I hope it works. As long as it something in 'chunks' it should work. Today I gave them dehydrated liver. They like that LOL.

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  17. hello! how can i reach you??? I'm a freelance writer and I'd love to use this post in a feature for a popular website I'm writing for - can you contact me at tamar@ihavecat.com thank you!

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  18. im making one right now? is it critical that the lid be a little see-through? cuz mine is not! oops :)

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    1. Well, I don't think its impossible for them to figure the puzzle out without the vision-aid. Cats have a very keen sense of smell. They may be just as fine with a solid top :) Let me know how it goes.

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