This simple cat toy takes around five minutes to put together. Cost should be well below $1 (I don't think it even reaches the $0.50 mark.) My cats (4 cats of different ages and temperaments) cannot resist it. This is essentially a homemade "Cat Dancer" (http://www.catdancer.com/products.htm), with some minor changes.
For this project you will need:
Step 1: Main Material- Wire
You will need a length of steel wire. Locally it is simple termed "alambre" ("wire" in Spanish, a loanword) so I can't really give much detail. Any wire will do as long as it is stiff enough to hold its shape but flexible enough to bend. Copper will not work as it is too soft. You want something springy so that the movement will attract the cat's attention. The wire should be able to spring back from being pulled on by the cat.
I got my wire from leftovers of one of my dad's projects. Roughly a yard; precision is not really important for this project- just make sure the wire can support its own weight. Thickness/gauge is anything you feel comfortable holding for around 15 minutes of play time, so nothing too thin. Something around the thickness of a charging cable should be fine.
The wire should have a curve to it. Most wires do, since they come from spools. You want this curve; curve + springiness = cat toy.
Step 2: Lure End
Using the needle-nosed pliers, make a small loop at the end of the wire. This is to prevent the pointy end from causing injury. Make another loop about an inch from the end. This will help hold the lure (see next step) in place.
The loop i made by grasping the wire with needle-nose pliers then wrapping it around one of the jaws.
Step 3: Lure
The lure is simply made of pieces of crumpled paper. Tear a small hole in the paper, pass it through the loop and twist it to hold it in place. Two or three pieces work great because they add an additional rustling sound that adds to the stimulation.
Step 4: Handle
The handle is made on the other end of the wire. Put a loop at the very end, then roughly bend the wire in the same way as the image. I got the shape through trial and error so it's a bit hard to explain. The plane the end loop ends up on does not matter, but you'll want the lure roughly perpendicular to you.
Step 5: The Deluxe Feature
Cats like to hunt. Their play is hunting. This is the "killer app" of the toy. If you hold it in the way pictured, the toy becomes a lever with your index finger as a fulcrum. Pushing your thumb on the bend will cause the lure end to jerk around erratically, mimicking prey. Your cat will go nuts.
Step 6: Play With Cat