Training Toys for Shelter Cats, and Any Other Cat.

IndentAt the Michigan Humane Society we train our shelter cats to reduce their stress and give them mental stimulation and enrichment. Training a cat can be challenging because an animal needs motivation to learn. In a shelter the cats are usually free fed, meaning they always have plenty to eat at all times. So food rewards are not usually going to be enough motivation to think and learn.
IndentThe one thing shelter cats crave most is play time with a human. Cats are not aloof and independent, they want to spend time with people. Here is a video of us training a cat with these toys.
IndentI designed these toys to be used with shelter cats. They are not very durable and allow us to easily sterilize them between usage. One end is a spiral shape and could get hooked on a cat's ear or paw. That end must be held in your hand at all times.
IndentThese toys are not suitable for solo play or for small children to use. I use these toys with my own cats because one of my cats enjoys tearing them up and I can easily fix them. Your cats at home may enjoy them too, but be careful with them.
IndentMaking these toys requires straightened music wire 0.032 to 0.039 inches in diameter. This is not usually available from local hardware stores. You can usually get it from specialty hobby stores or on line at
Indent These wires often come in 72" lengths which can be cut in half to make two toys or in 36" inch lengths, which don't need to be cut. 
IndentCutting music wire requires a special purpose tool or the more common "Dremel" rotary tool with cutting wheel. Music wire is high carbon steel and will ruin your ordinary wire cutters or pliers.
IndentThis picture shows commonly available materials and tools you will need in addition to the straightened music wire.
Tools you need to make cat toys.
First you cut your music wire into 36" lengths. Use a cutting wheel or a special purpose tool.
Cut cat toy wire into 36" lengths
Use a cutting wheel carefully if you don't have the special tool. The wire gets hot so keep fingers away from the cut. Cut with the sparks flying away from you and wear protective eye goggles to avoid an eye injury.
Cut carefully, while protecting your eyes.
The cut end will be a bit sharp after the cutting wheel is done. So next you use a grinding wheel to smooth the cut edge flat.
Grind the cut edge flat so cats don't get poked.
Now use the needle nose pliers to make a 90 degree or right angle bend about 1/4" from the end.
Bend cat toy wire 90 degrees.
Make it a sharp bend. Remember where the wire was in the plier's jaws so that you can make more bends the exact same length.
cat toy wire bent 90 degrees or a right angle
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Copyright 2011 Don Wells. Special thanks to Michelle for pictures of her making toys.