In April of this year, my library hosted an unusual program–my cat-loving colleague teamed up with several local shelters to host a cat adoption preview. The shelter personnel talked with patrons about how to go about choosing a pet to adopt; a local veterinarian gave cat care advice, and, of course, there were adoptable cats on site. While the patrons were not able to adopt animals on the spot, they were able to meet several candidates for consideration. Prior to the program, we ran a drive to collect donations of cat food, litter, and treats for the shelters, and I wanted to get the teens involved somehow. After some thinking and scouring the internet for ideas, I decided to have my TAB members make toys to donate to the shelters. The catnip toys we made were so easy and so well-received by the shelters that it’s become a go-to project for me when the library is between programming sessions and there aren’t as many chores for the TAB to do.
The best thing about this project is that, for the most part, we already had the supplies on hand in our craft closet! The hardest part was sourcing the catnip. A friend of mine makes cat toys to sell at craft shows and buys dried catnip in bulk, so I just bought some of her supply, but it’s also available in smaller amounts from pet stores like PetSmart and PetCo. If you want to get a reasonably-priced supply that will last for a very long time, check out the San Francisco Herb Company. It costs about $4.00 per ounce, but you only need a tiny bit of catnip for each toy, so $10-15 worth of catnip could keep you in supplies for a good long while.
Making the Toys:
The pattern we used is available as a printable PDF from the Michigan Humane Society.
For each toy, you need:
- Scrap fabric, felt, or flannel. We used 8”x10” felt sheets and could get about four toys out of a single sheet.
- Polyfil stuffing. You could also use mylar, tinfoil, or scrap paper to make the toy crinkly.
- Hot glue (You can be enterprising and teach your teens to hand-sew for this project, but mine won’t sit still that long and hot glue is just as effective.)
- Sharpies for decorating
To make the toys, cut a felt sheet in quarters and fold each quarter in half. Next, draw half a heart along the folded edge and cut it out. This will give your finished toy a mouse shape! Fold the heart in half lengthwise and hot glue it partway shut. Stuff it with polyfil and add about a teaspoon of catnip, then hot glue it shut the rest of the way. Then, use felt scraps to give your mouse ears and a tail, or just decorate it with sharpies.
Each toy actually took far less catnip than I originally thought, so I ended up with leftovers. You can freeze leftover catnip in plastic baggies and it will last for months, so I just bagged up the leftovers and my TAB now makes cat toys on the regular. It’s a great way for them to help not just the library, but the greater community as well.