Introduction: DIY Puzzle for Cats

Take 2 days to build a puzzle for your cats and see how quickly they can solve it (or destroy it). Just kidding. I won't allow them to destroy the puzzle, it was too much work. That's what my already destroyed couch corner is for. The 2 days is also optional, depending on how pedantic you are and how perfect you want everything to be.

This puzzle has 3 parts for them to figure out. A spinning drum with little holes, a maze, and a hidden compartment. The end goal is to roll, scratch and move the parts until they find all the treats that are hidden everywhere. When you have multiple cats, time them, and see who is the dumbest of them all. I already know who will lose from my four cats; the one who can't smell food in your hand when it's right under her nose.

I made everything with materials that are available in most households and did the build without needing any power tools. With a few things and a cardboard box, you could create a puzzle that will entertain the munchkins for hours to come. That or they'll lose interest in a matter of minutes, depending on their mood or personality. But hey, it's all for the love of our animals and I know at least two of my cats will love the stimulation.

Side note: My measurements are done in millimeters; I will however try and include measurement in inches for our American friends as well.


Materials you'll need:

1. Cardboard box or two

2. 8mm (5/16 inch) wooden dowel rod/stick

3. 10mm (3/8 inch) wooden dowel rod/stick

4. Two 10mm (3/8 inch) nuts

5. Two large 10mm (3/8) washers

6. Paper fastener

7. Two small strips of Velcro about 7mm x 25mm long (1/4 x 1 inch)

8. (Optional) Clear semi hard or rigid plastic (I cut up an old flip file cover, but Perspex or any plastic that will hold its shape will do)

Tools you'll need:

1. Cutting mat

2. Utility knife (There is a lot of cutting so be sure to use sharp blades; it will make your work much easier)

3. Long ruler, preferably steel

4. Pen/pencil to mark measurements

5. Glue gun and glue sticks

6. Saw to cut dowel rods

7. Masking tape or any kind of tape

8. Compass

9. Paper puncher

Step 1: Cut Base and Cover

Measure and cut two identical rectangles from a cardboard box. Mine measured 395mm x 430mm (15.5 x 17 inches). This will be for the base and the cover.

For the frame of the base, cut many 20mm (0.78 inch) wide strips. Preferably in the length of the base but the strips can also be patched as long as they are all the same width.

Step 2: Shape the Frame

Use the glue gun to paste the strips in the form of a frame around the base. Paste it layer by layer until 4 levels of pasted strips are applied.

Step 3: Make the Maze

For the maze, cut many 15mm (0.59 inch) wide cardboard strips. On the lower half of the base, draw a rectangle that is 40mm (1.57 inch) away from the inside wall of the frame, on all 3 sides except for the top. The top of the rectangle will be 140mm (5.5 inch) away from the top side frame's wall. As was done with the frame on the borders of the base, use the 15mm strips to shape the rectangle's frame. Use the glue gun to paste the strips layer by layer until 4 layers are reached.

Draw a maze in whatever shape you would like and cut the strips in the sizes that is needed to form the maze. As with the frames, paste the strips layer by layer until 4 layers are reached

Step 4: Prepare the Cover

Measure the inside wall of the maze's frame and cut the same size and shape out of the cardboard cover that was cut earlier (in step 1). Make sure that it will align with the maze's inside wall.

Step 5: Cut Holes and Window

At the top of the cover board, mark where the poles should be for the rolling drum and cut the 2 holes. Mark where the compartment should be and cut the window out. See photo for reference.

Mark the base to see where the poles and window should be positioned in order to be aligned when you'll add the cover later

Step 6: Foundation for Poles and Compartment

To ensure that the poles and rolling drum will be stable and solid, make a foundation. To do this, cut 8 scrap pieces of cardboard that measures 60mm x 70mm (2.36 x 2.75 inch). In the middle of each piece, cut out a circle that is the same diameter as the poles, which would be 10mm (0.39 inch) for a 10mm dowel rod. Glue 4 pieces together, position the holes to align with the holes that was made on the cover board, and glue the 4 glued pieces on to the base board. Do the same for the other 4 pieces for the 2nd pole.

For the compartment, use four 8mm x 10mm pieces of cardboard. Cut out a square from all four pieces, leaving a border that is 17mm (0.67 inch) wide. Glue all four pieces together. Position the glued pieces on the base board to align with the window that was cut out of the cover board, and glue to the board

Step 7: Compartment Door

To make a door for the compartment, print or draw an oval shape that is 10mm in diameter. 10mm (0.4 inch) in length and 7mm (0.27 inch) in width. Trace the oval shape onto cardboard and cut it out. Use a paper puncher to punch a hole on the short edge of the oval cardboard piece.

Cut out a little square, about 30mm x 20mm (1.1 x 0.78 inch) and punch a hole in the middle of the square with the paper puncher.

On the cover board next to the cut out window, punch a hole left from the window. Glue the little punched square on top of the hole. Use a paper fastener to fasten the oval piece on top of the square. Make sure that the oval door can easily open and close the compartment.

Step 8: Rolling Drum Walls

Print a template of a hexagon that has a diameter of 140mm (5.5 inches). Use the template to cut two pieces of carboard into the hexagon shape. On the template, draw lines to and from each opposing corner, in order to see exactly where the middle is. Use the compass to draw a 10mm (0.39 inch) circle exactly in the middle of the template. Cut out the circle and use the template to draw the same circles in the middle of the two cardboard hexagons and cut the circles out.

Cut six rectangles pieces out of cardboard in the size of 210mm x 70mm (8.26 x 2.75 inches). On five of the cardboard pieces, cut little triangles randomly at various places. The triangles should be big enough for you cat's favorite treat to pass through, but not too big to easily fall out when the drum spins. The inside of the drum should be accessible to add treats. For access, cut a little square out, in the middle of the sixth cardboard rectangle piece. A cover or little door will be made in a few steps

Step 9: Make the Rolling Drum

To make the drum, use masking tape to fix the rectangle cardboard pieces to one of the hexagon pieces. Tape the short side of each rectangle piece to one of the sides of the hexagon. Lift up two of the rectangle pieces and tape them together. Lift the next piece and tape it to the previous piece until all pieces are joined and a 3D hexagon is formed.

With a glue gun, glue the second hexagon piece onto the top of the structure. Use the glue gun to glue all the seams together on the rest of the drum, including the first hexagon's borders that's been held together with tape up to this point. Position a large washer over the hole in the middle of the hexagon and glue it to the cardboard. Do the same on the other side with the other hexagon wall. The washers will ensure that the drum can spin effortlessly.

Step 10: Poles and Bar

For the bar, cut off a 230mm (9 inch) piece of rod from the 8mm dowel rod. For the poles, cut of two pieces of rod from the 10mm dowel rod, each measuring 220mm in length. Use the glue gun to bond the nuts to sides of the poles, at the edge of each pole.

With a compass, trace six circles onto cardboard: Two circles with a diameter of 70mm (2.75 inches), two circles with a diameter of 60mm (2.36 inches) and two circles with a diameter of 50mm (1.97 inches). Cut out a 10mm (0.39 inch) hole in the middle of each circle. Take one circle of each size, align the holes, and glue the 3 pieces together. Repeat with the remaining three circles. Position the glued circle pieces over the holes made on the cardboard cover and glue the pieces to the board.

Step 11: Rolling Drum Door

Measure the square that was cut out from the wall of the drum. Cut a cardboard piece that is a little bit bigger than the square. Glue the Velcro strips to the drum, one strip on each side, next to the square that was cut out. Glue the two remaining Velcro strips onto the cardboard piece. It should be aligned to the Velcro strips glued to the drum.

Step 12: Finish Construction

For a sturdy structure, use enough glue to secure one end of the bar by gluing it into the nut that is fixed to one of the poles. Put the drum on the bar by sliding the bar through the two holes that's on each side of the drum. Glue the other end of the bar by pressing it into the nut of the remaining pole. Press the structure onto the base and cover board by pressing the poles into the holes of the cover board. Make sure the poles are pushed all the way down to ensure that a sturdy structure is achieved.

(Optional) To make the maze more challenging, more unreachable nooks and crannies can be made by covering parts of the maze with pieces of rigid or semi rigid plastic. Choose spots on the maze which you would like to cover. Places on the maze which will be difficult to reach when a cat can't paw those spots from above. Cut pieces of plastic in the shapes of the spots which you would like to cover and glue the pieces to the maze walls.

Step 13: Let the Cat Games Begin

Finally, it's time for the cats to figure out the puzzle. Hide treats in the turning drum, in the compartment and around the maze. How long will it take them to find and reach each treat? If all else fails, it will at least make an interesting scratchpad to destroy.

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