If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you're probably bored of seeing pictures of the very first kitty toy I've created for my Etsy shop – the catnip cuddle whale. I first made a smaller size of one of these whales for my own cats, but quickly made another, larger one after seeing our plus sized cat try to cuddle it – it looked more like a minnow than a whale… I made these first ones using wool blend felt and soon realised that these wouldn't stand up to extended play as I watched one of our cats bite at it in his usual manner – quite aggressively, as if he were plucking feathers out of a bird… After seeing that, I made another version with good quality woven cotton ticking, retaining the hand stitched details, which passed our cats' rigorous product testing 😀
When I made my first catnip cuddle whales to fulfill my first orders a few weeks ago, I knew I'd really enjoyed making them, but hadn't realised quite how much… Since then I've spent a lot of time thinking about kitty toys and treats and, well, things kind of snowballed from there, as they tend to do with me 🙂
Our cats have a big basket of toys in the living room that is full of all kinds of things – the usual garishly colourful pet shop purchases (most of which came via my Mum who, for many years, liked to buy our cats Christmas presents, which they liked to ignore). Then there are lots of pet shop stick toys with interesting things on the end that are mostly destroyed after only minutes of play due to the poor quality construction, some common place household things that became toys (whether I wanted them to or not) and the things I make for them. They do adore the sticks and one particular pet shop buy called Mr Beaver – basically a brown fur pocket that I can put catnip in – but their favourites, I'm happy to say, are the things I've made for them and the 'found' items like feathers from the garden.
Givng your cat toys, and especially playing with the toys with them, is such a great way to bond with them and show them affection. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but I find that it generally isn't easy to give a cat a cuddle to show them that affection. Elijah, our long haired tabby who hates being brushed, will put up with me half picking him up and kissing his head for approximately 1.76 seconds, as long as he's waiting for me to feed him and trying to stay on my good side at the time. He'll also come and snuggle up between us on the bed and allow himself to be stroked for quite a while (he prefers Mark to do this), purring like a maniac, until he decides enough is enough and his bushy tail starts flicking in warning (the purring continues, obviously – it wouldn't be any fun for him if he couldn't finish things off with a few mixed messages). Badger, our black and white boy is much more open to me cuddling him – I can even pick him up and kiss him for a few seconds before he starts to wriggle and he frequently settles next to me on the bed for tummy massage morning and night, but only if him indoors isn't around (he's only allowed to stroke him when invited, and then never on the tummy!).
So it's fair to say that our cats aren't that into cuddles – unless you count the times that Elijah cuddles your arm with his teeth and claws if you are stupid enough to stroke his tummy when he shows it to you, which I mostly don't…
So over the years I've realised that taking the time to hand make them quality toys to play with and giving them their own things to cuddle and claw to their heart's delight as well as the occasional foody treat, is a great way to give them a virtual cuddle and I got to thinking about putting together our cats' favourite things into a kind of 'cuddle collection' that other cats can enjoy:
I had to start by popping a catnip cuddle whale into the collection and that was quickly followed by a crochet woolly ball, also heavily laced with catnip. These balls are a good size for wrestling with and they get a little bit felted over time, which makes them look even better. The wool does smell pretty sheepy – it is an eco, undyed natural wool and the stuffing I use is also all wool – it's as close to wrestling a real ruminant that most kitties will ever get!
Next came the feathers and the stick. As anyone who has bought a standard pet shop feathers on a stick toy will tell you, they don't last too long – most kitties go into prey overdrive when taunted with these toys and get stuck right in to pulling them apart. For this reason, I did a lot of research and testing when putting together my feather fascinator! I used some brilliant tutorials on YouTube to learn how to make the most robust feather toy I could using chenille covered pipe cleaners and the strongest nylon bonded thread to hand wrap each feather into place individually. Then I went further by adding some black insulation tape to make sure that kitty's mouth or paws wouldn't come into contact with the wire inner of the pipe cleaner. More YouTube watching was required then to learn how to join the thread to the stick robustly, without the need to use icky glue. Watching how to hand build a custom fishing rod taught me how to hand wrap my super strong thread onto my wooden dowel 'rod' and pretty seamlessly hide the start and end of the thread securely under the wrapping. Another fishing video helped me learn to make a very secure knot to tie the thread from the dowel to the feather toy and, for additional durability, I crocheted the thread into a chain construction too!
A cuddle collection wouldn't be complete without some favourite treats, so I added a little cello cone with some of our cats' favourite biscuit treats in it and then, the piece de resistance, a small tin of Japanese Katsuobushi – the equivalent of kitty caviar! If you haven't ever come across it, Katsuobushi is dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna used in Japanese cooking that is shaved into very thin flakes and drives cats potty! It's high in protein, low in fat, sodium and calories – as long as kitty doesn't eat too much, which he or she will, if you let them…
So there we go – a great big cuddle for kitty, in a gift box! Not that we need an excuse to spoil our beloved kits, but I originally thought that these would make the perfect Christmas present for a cat, and they would, but they'd also be great for someone who has just got a new cat or kitten too maybe? Then I got to thinking that they'd be a perfect present for a cat lover rather than gifting them those cat themed gifts like books, note cards, tea towels, oven gloves – cat lovers will be very familiar with these kinds of gifts – much better to give them a box of things that they can use with their cat to give them a great big virtual hug 🙂
You can find the kitty cuddle collection in my shop, here. It comes in a cardboard gift box as shown in the pictures, all ready to gift – simply add a gift bow if you like – if you do, odds are that the ribbon will become another toy for kitty too!