10 Great DIY Gift Ideas for Shelter Animals

Not everyone can afford to donate money to their local animal shelters, especially around the holidays when finances are already stretched to the limit. Luckily there are ways to bring holiday cheer to homeless animals without breaking the bank.

Homemade pet toys, beds and treats are all great gift options. Involving children in these projects is a great way to teach them about giving back and kindness to animals. It’s a good idea to check with your local shelters and rescue groups before starting a project to make sure they can use the items you plan on making. Following are ten great gift ideas for shelter animals:

Catnip Sock Toys

Lauren Jones, Humane Education Coordinator at Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown said kids in her classes made tons of catnip socks for cats at the sanctuary. Catnip socks made by local Girl Scout troops were also a big hit with the cats at the Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society in Ringwood, NJ and at the Humane Society of Walden, NY. All that’s required to make these really cool cat toys are old unwanted socks without holes, empty cardboard toilet paper rolls, dried catnip, non-toxic glue, a fabric pen or felt material to make eyes and a mouth for your sock characters. Following the wikihow instructions, you can make a sock fish, a sock mouse or a long catnip sock.

Protective Shelters for Feral Cats 


Many shelters have teams of volunteers who care for feral cat colonies in the community. Some of these cats may live on shelter properties. Wind-proof shelters help keep these cats warm and dry. Helpers4Shelters in Orange County, NY, a nonprofit that sponsors feral cat shelter building events, recommends following Roughneck Homes Outdoor Protective Cat Shelter Instructions. To build a shelter for one feral cat you will need an 18 gallon Rubbermaid tote, a Styrofoam cooler, straw, duct tape and an Exacto knife. Alley Cat Allies also offers step-by-step instructions on building feral cat shelters.

Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Roll Toys for Small Pets

Exotic Animal Supplies offers some great tips on making toys for small pets like rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils using paper towel or toilet paper rolls. Refer to the company’s animal specific list of what materials are safe and which items are toxic and should be avoided before starting your craft project. Gift ideas include a Hanging Twirly, a Cardboard Hay Tube, and a Cardboard Pellet and Treat Ball. Depending on the toys you make, supplies range from cardboard tubes, scissors, string, glue, and a pen or pencil.

Cage Comforters

Ellen Ribitzki at the Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter said they were thrilled to accept a recent donation of crate-size beds made from old comforters. Besides making soft, comfortable beds for the animals, she said these small beds are way more practical than full-size comforters as they don’t take up too much room in the washing machine. Pethelpful offers great tips on making a snuggle sack bed from an old comforter. The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals also offers instructions on making cage comforters.

Cat Tents

How about making a cat tent where shelter kitties can enjoy hiding out? Blogger Jessi Wohlwend shares how the tent she made was a great hit with her cats and shares instructions on how to make one at home. All you’ll need is a box, a T-shirt and wire hangers!

Pet Treats


If your family likes to bake, consider making treats for pets. The Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA offer recipes and instructions for making Oat Dog Biscuits and Apple Crunch Pupcakes. The Petfinder team offers a round-up of pet treat recipes that will be sure to delight shelter animals. Before getting to work, though, check with your local shelter or rescue group to make sure they accept homemade pet treats.

Adopt Me Bandanas


Wearing colorful bandanas is a great way for shelter pets to get noticed by potential adopters. Adding “Adopt Me” with fabric markers makes an even bigger impact. These gifts are easy to make and could very well help shelter pets find new homes. Instructions for making a bandana for rescue dogs at pethelpful.com reminds readers to use washable cotton or cotton blend fabrics for this project.

No-sew Pet Beds

A no-sew pet bed is a great gift idea for shelter dogs and cats. The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, IL offers instructions on how to make these beds using just fleece, a ruler and scissors. Shelters often use towels and blankets for the animals in their care but according to the Anti-Cruelty Society, homemade pet beds are the most comfortable for shelter animals.

Cat Wand Toys

Cats love to stalk and hunt prey and they certainly don’t mind if the toys are homemade. The Anti-Cruelty Society provides guidelines on how to make wand toys to help staff and volunteers engage shelter cats. The only materials you’ll need for this project are a cardboard tube from dry-cleaner hangers, an empty cat treat pouch, electrical tape and scissors.

Adopt Me Dog Vests

Adopt Me dog vests are used by shelters and foster parents when walking dogs in the community. Like the bandanas, these colorful vests attract attention and let people know the dogs are in need of forever homes. Blogger Pam Irie makes these vests for her local shelter and offers instructions on HubPages.

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