3 min read

5 DIY Puzzle Toys for Pet Parents on a Budget


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 08/18/2021, edited: 08/18/2021


Is your dog or cat growing bored of their usual toys? Does your pet scarf down their food without tasting it? Food puzzles might be the solution! Food puzzles are an excellent boredom buster and a great way to pace your pet's eating.

Mental stimulation is so important, especially for dogs, since boredom can lead to undesirable behaviors and destructiveness. Food puzzles are "furrific" for getting those gears turning in your pet’s brain.

Food puzzles are widely available online and in pet stores, but why buy one when you can DIY one? You can make a food puzzle for nearly nothing with household items. With a bit of work and some creativity, toilet paper rolls, baking tins, and old water bottles can become fun puzzles that will give your pets hours of fun. In this guide, we'll walk you through DIYing 5 puzzle toys that are "pawfect" for pet parents on a budget.

Water bottle treat dispenser

Have some water bottles lying around that you've been meaning to recycle? Transform them into a treat-dispensing puzzle toy with a pair of scissors and some treats. Simply cut a few treat-sized holes into the side of the empty water bottle and fill the bottle with treats. Make the holes smaller or larger to increase or decrease the difficulty. Cats and dogs will enjoy batting this toy around for hours!

Cupcake tin puzzle

This cupcake tin puzzle is paws-down the simplest DIY on this list. All you'll need is a cupcake tin, some treats, and tennis balls. Just fill the tins with your treats and place the tennis balls on top for a fun brainteaser that's sure to have your pup begging for more. Up the difficulty by placing treats in one or two tins rather than all of them. This game is perfect for practicing scent work with your dog — plus it’s safe for rough players!

Toilet paper roll puzzle

Rather than tossing your old toilet paper rolls, why not repurpose them into a fun interactive toy? All you'll need to do is fold down one end of your toilet paper roll and stuff treats inside. Next, fold down the other end of the toilet paper roll and toss it to your pup or kitty. Keep in mind this puzzle isn't the best option for rough players since cardboard shreds easily.

Deluxe toilet paper roll puzzle

This puzzle is a little more elaborate than other puzzles on this list, but trust us — your cat will love it!


  • large cardboard box
  • 6 to 8 paper toilet paper rolls
  • treats
  • a hot glue gun


  1. Cut out one side of the cardboard box so you have a flat piece of cardboard.
  2. Hot glue the toilet paper rolls to the cardboard box, making sure to place some vertically and horizontally to increase the difficulty.
  3. Place the treats inside the toilet paper rolls and watch your pet go wild.

Cats "pawticularly" enjoy this puzzle since it allows them to paw at their food and practice their hunting skills.

The hide-a-treat game

You're probably familiar with the shell game, and this game works just like that! For this game, you'll need 2 plastic cups and some treats.

Set the treats out on the floor and cover them with a cup. Place 2 empty cups on either side of the treat cup and mix them up while your pet watches. Then comes the fun part! Watch your pet sniff and paw at the cups to find the jackpot.

Well, there you have it: 5 DIY food puzzles for pet parents on a budget. Always supervise your pet when using these puzzles and take them away when they become damaged. Use sturdier puzzles for rough players. Most of all, have fun!

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