Sacramento native RuEtta Gray knows a lot about keeping cats entertained. The long-time animal rescue volunteer has designed and created cat tunnels, trees and scratchers, pet beds, custom cat hammocks and full-fledged “catios.” Recently retired, Gray now uses her experience and graphic design school training to make items for local animal organizations, including Front Street Animal Shelter and Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode. There are many easy, inexpensive ways to make your own cat tunnels at home; several ideas are outlined below.
Decorate the cat tunnel with fabric, stickers, duct tape, coloring book masterpieces, giftwrap, contact paper and more to compliment the decor, personality and style of the home your cat is kind enough to share with you. Put “kissing booth” sign under a tunnel window and wait for your cat to stick out that adorable, fuzzy face, or attach stars cut from glow-in-the-dark sticker paper. Create an indoor jungle for your cat by putting plants beside or draped over the tunnel. Real plants can be messy or unsafe for cats to ingest; consider using faux greenery or check the ASPCA’s list of pet-safe plants.
Gray is a big fan of coroplast, sheets of inexpensive, corrugated plastic found in some hardware stores, which can be used to make lawn signs and many other things. Gray recommends using a small coroplast cutter, easier and more effective than a knife, to score a sheet into three sections length-wise. Fold it into a triangle and simply tape the top two edges together, preferably with packing tape or duct tape. Cut a few windows on the sides, decorate and invite your cat in to play.
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One of the easiest DIY cat tunnels can also be the most stylish, using thick floor mats or anti-fatigue mats. Simply curl one into a tube lengthwise, and secure firmly with heavy tape. Thinner or lighter-weight mats may not stay open as a tunnel, although Gray notes that most cats will happily sit on them regardless.
Gray recently made a tunnel for kittens being fostered by Front Street volunteers. Using an inexpensive SAKRETE building form tube from a hardware store, she cut off a lengthwise slice with an X-Acto knife. She cut small “windows” in different shapes along both sides of the tube, which are perfect spots for little paws to reach through. Cut a length of fleece and/or fabric that will fit around the tube, and use glue to attach it. “I like aerosol Super 77 adhesive,” says Gray. “It holds everything even when clawed!” The fabric can be cut to open the windows, the flaps glued inside for extra support. Gray used an 8-inch diameter form for the kitten tunnel, but suggests using a 10 or 12-inch tube for adult cats.
Cardboard boxes and paper bags are probably already your cat’s favorite thing, so just cut open the ends to form a tunnel. You can tape together multiple boxes and bags to make things even more exciting. Don’t be surprised if your cat jumps on or wiggles into them as you work.
Do-it-yourself projects are fun, but there is a wide range of commercially made cat tunnels as well. Look for one that has at least one opening on the side; cats can peek through the holes and grab toys that are dangled over the tube. Visit local pet supply shops, like Trends-n-Treats in Folsom, to pick up a ready-made and made-for-fun tunnel.