4 min read

5 Awesome DIY Puzzle Games: Turn Your Cat's Food and Treats into Toys!


Written by Aurus Sy

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 05/14/2021, edited: 09/16/2022


When it comes to mealtime, our pet cats have it easy. All they have to do is wait for their bowl to be filled and served to them. Then they leave when they’re done. But the truth is, your cat would rather work for their food, as they are a natural hunter who revels in stalking and chasing prey, if given the chance.

Today’s indoor cats don't have a lot of opportunities to hunt prey; however, they still need to fulfill their instincts. This is where puzzle feeders come in. Why should you use food puzzles instead of just putting your cat’s meal in a bowl?

Puzzle feeders:

  • Allow your cat to fulfill their instinct to hunt and forage. 
  • Encourage your cat to eat more slowly, which is helpful if they need to lose weight.
  • Prevent your kitty from getting bored, which in turn prevents destructive behavior.
  • Prompt your cat to use their noggin. 

The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money to keep your furry friend mentally stimulated. You can buy puzzle games if you wish, but you can also make DIY toys using items that you most likely already have around the house. 

Here are some food puzzles for cats that you can start making right now!

The Toilet Paper Roll

An empty toilet paper roll can keep your cat entertained if you know what to do with it. Here’s how to make a really quick and easy DIY puzzle feeder for your feline friend:

  1. Cut out a few holes in an empty toilet paper roll. Make sure they’re large enough so that treats can fall out. 
  2. Crumple up a paper towel and stick it in one end of the roll. 
  3. Place a few treats inside the roll.
  4. Stuff the other end with another crumpled paper tower.
  5. Alternatively, you can close the roll by folding the ends instead of using paper towels.

This is completely optional, but you can cover the roll with sparkly tape to make the toy prettier and catch your cat’s attention.

The Toilet Paper Roll Ball

As one cat behaviorist said, an empty toilet paper roll is the key to the food puzzle kingdom. This homemade puzzle feeder will require a bit more work, but it’s still very easy to do: 

  1. Cut a toilet paper roll into small strips so that you get about 4-6 loops.
  2. Insert one loop into another. They should now look like an X.
  3. Place a couple more loops over the first two loops until you form a little ball. It should be able to hold its shape without any tape or glue.
  4. Put some treats inside the ball. 

Your cat can get the treats either by rolling the ball so treats fall out of the gaps or by taking the ball apart. The more loops you use, the fewer gaps there will be for treats to fall out. Again, you can cover the loops with sparkly or colorful tape to make it even more interesting for your furry friend.

The Egg Carton

Don’t throw out that empty egg carton yet! You can turn these ordinary cardboard trays into a fun puzzle game for your cat, and with minimal effort. Just follow these steps: 

  1. If your egg carton has a cover, cut it off with scissors. You will only need the part that has compartments.
  2. Place dry cat food in some of the compartments. Leave a few empty ones. 
  3. Put small toys and ping pong balls over the filled compartments, as well as some of the empty spots.

Your cat will have to figure out that they need to move the toys and balls out of the way in order to get the food.

The Foraging Box

If your feline friend is ready for more of a challenge, then they’ll enjoy this DIY puzzle game. You will need a low cardboard box, yogurt cups, and of course, toilet paper rolls. 

  1. Cut the toilet paper rolls into different lengths.
  2. Using a hot glue gun, stick the rolls and cups to the inside of the box. Space them out so that there’s a bit of room between the items. 
  3. The cups need to be upright, but the toilet paper rolls can be vertical or horizontal. For horizontal rolls, cut out holes that are big enough for your cat to stick their paw in before gluing them to the box. 
  4. Place dry cat food or treats in the cups and toilet paper rolls. 
  5. Increase the game’s difficulty by adding a few toys both inside and between the cups and rolls.

Remember to let the hot glue dry before giving the puzzle to your cat!

The Vending Machine

This homemade food puzzle is similar to the Foraging Box but provides a different experience. The materials needed for this project are a cardboard box (a shoebox would work great) and the magical toilet paper rolls. 

  1. Apply hot glue to one end of a toilet paper roll and stick it inside on the bottom of the box. 
  2. Repeat until the box is filled with toilet paper rolls. The rolls should be standing side by side without any gaps in between.
  3. Adhere the short side of the box to the inside of the lid so that box and lid are perpendicular to each other. The lid will serve as a stand and a tray.
  4. Put treats or kibble in the rolls. 

Your cat will have to reach inside the toilet paper rolls to scoop out the food, which will then fall to the lid. If your cat is having a hard time figuring out this puzzle, move the food closer to the outer edge of the rolls so that it's not hidden all the way in the back.

As with any toy, be sure to supervise your cat during playtime. If you notice any damaged parts, either fix them right away or just make another puzzle. Happy DIY-ing!

Got a purrific DIY puzzle idea for cats? Share it with us in our comments section below, and tag #wagwalking or @wag on Instagram for a chance to be featured on our feed!

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