We've discovered that it doesn't take much to entertain our cat, judging from the missing straws, pens, pencils, coins, and other small objects that used to have their own places around the house. A piece of paper or aluminum foil, wadded up, or a ping pong ball will test the agility of any cat. Those little oblong rolls of holiday crinkle-tie ribbon are especially attractive, whether in the package or loose with the end trailing. A craft store feather offers another intriguing toy for your cat. String, tied to a twig or held in the hand, when moved, can lure a cat to follow it around the room. Just be sure that loose pieces are not left for the cat to enjoy unsupervised or you may find it ingested and requiring a trip to your veterinarian for removal. When all else fails, try walking around with your shoelaces untied, but be prepared for your cat to pounce on them.

Commercially available catnip toys have a mesmerizing effect on cats. For a more economical version, sew two pieces of fuzzy material together and fill with catnip -- just don't overfill since catnip can be addictive. A good scratching post can be made from a long thin block of wood. Glue carpet remnants around the wood and put a hole in one end. Attach a thin rope through the hole and hang the carpet-covered block from a doorknob so it hangs about six inches above the floor. Your cat will be able to climb on it, swing from it, and scratch to his or her heart's content. An added feature is that it will save your furniture if rubbed with a little catnip.

Don't overlook the value of a paper bag or cardboard box. Turned on its side, the paper grocery bag becomes a vehicle in which the cat can shake, rattle and roll. The cardboard box, with some loosely wadded newspaper, can provide a nesting place that piques your cat's curiosity.

The benefit of all these toys is that your cat will have exercise, your kitten will develop coordination, and you will be spending time with your pet. Try it!

Pat Jauch is secretary of Caledonia Animal Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 4054, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819; www.caledoniaanimalrescue.com.

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