Repurposing T-Shirts into a DIY Cat Cave and Handmade Cat Toys

Repurposing T-Shirts into a DIY Cat Cave and Handmade Cat Toys

Your old t-shirts (or perhaps a favorite tee that has a stain or no longer fits) are absolutely IDEAL for upcycling into a DIY Cat cave and a few simple cat toys. I love using repurposed clothing in projects, but I rarely recycle t-shirts. But for this pet tent and kitty toy projects, the jersey knit fabric of t-shirts is positively ideal.

It’s not my first time upcycling things for our kitties, either. Remember this hanging cat scratcher that I made?

diy cat scratcher from an antique cheese grater

But back to the task at hand- a DIY cat cave (and toys) from T-shirts!

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DIY Cat Cave or Pet Tent

This all started when the the clothing company Tipsy Elves sent an email to Cottonball.

Yes, it came through my inbox but was addressed to Cottonball.

They wanted to send him one of their USA t-shirts to create a DIY cat cave!

USA t-shirt from Tipsy Elves to be used for a DIY cat cave

The only other craft “ingredient” that I needed was a cardboard box.

Because neither of our kitties would be considered “dainty”, I used a larger moving box for the cat tent. Before getting started, I tucked in the flaps of the box so I had one side that was completely open.

Pet tent with a cardboard box and recycled t shirt

After watching this video on making a DIY Cat Cave, I gave it a go with my t-shirt and box.

And guess what? It totally worked. In about two minutes’ time, I had a DIY cat cave! 

Repurposing t-shirts as a cat tent with a large cardboard box

But would Cottonball use it?

Like most cats, he likes to make decisions himself- so I knew I couldn’t force him to like it.

But I worried over nothing! He embraced the cat tent with little hesitation.

Cottonball cat in a DIY cat cave with a recycled t-shirt

I’d say that the DIY cat cave from an upcycled t-shirt was a complete and total success in our household, wouldn’t you?

Upcycling t-shirts and a cardboard box into a pet tent

Once the DIY cat cave was complete, I decided to repurpose a few thrift store t-shirts into handmade cat toys!

Repurposing t shirts into cheap cat toys and a DIY cat cave

Recycling T-Shirts as Handmade Cat Toys

First, I snipped off the bottom hem and then cut the shirt across just under the sleeves.

Repurposing t shirts into t-shirt yarn for crafting

Then, it was time for the tedious part: cutting the remaining t-shirt fabric into one long strip to create “yarn”.

Making the t-shirt yarn for cheap cat toys

After a few minutes of cutting, I had my t-shirt yarn, which I proceeded to pull through my hands to give it that curled-edge look that jersey fabric gets.

T-shirt yarn for catnip toys and cat toy ball

And you-know-who supervised me from the DIY cat cave the entire time!

Next, it was time to make a pom-pom! I wrapped my jersey yarn around a piece of cardboard, snipping off a bit at the end to tie around the middle. 

DIY cat cave and t-shirt yarn for cheap cat toys

After that, I slid the wrapped “yarn” off the cardboard, and tied my extra piece tightly around the middle, wrapping it twice. Finally, I snipped through all the loops and trimmed the ends all the way around, I had a cat toy!

And yes, Cottonball noticed it RIGHT away.

Pom pom cat toy from t-shirt yarn

To make a second cat toy, I cut out two matching fabric squares. After sewing the edges together along three sides, I gathered a handful of fiberfill and some catnip.

Catnip toys for cats by repurposing t shirts

Then, I simply stuffed the almost-finished toy with fill and nip, pinned it close, and sewed along the open edge.

Repurposing T-Shirts into a DIY Cat Cave and Handmade Cat Toys

And just like that, I had made a DIY cat cave and two different cat toys by repurposing tshirts!

Wouldn’t it be “pawsome” to use your old t shirts for this? Cats love free toys the best, anyway…

Cat tent and DIY cat toys from recycled tshirts

Luckily for me, I have a playful kitty that enjoys posing in the cat cave like a little model cat. 

Repurposing tshirts into a DIY cat cave or pet tent

Our new favorite game is to toss the cat toys into the cat cave and then he runs after them.

Cat tent and catnip cat toys with recycled t-shirts

If you enjoyed this upcycling idea with old t-shirts, then you may also be interested in these reusable produce bags made from kids t-shirts, as well!

Reusable bags for fruit and vegetables by upcycling a t shirt

Craft on!


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Recycling t shirts into a pet tent and DIY cat toys

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Sarah Ramberg is the owner of Sadie Seasongoods, a website that celebrates all things secondhand. From upcycling ideas and thrifted decor to vintage-centric travel itineraries, Sadie Seasongoods is a one-stop shop for anyone who loves thrifting and approachable repurposing ideas. Sarah is also the author of “Crafting with Flannel” and has been featured in numerous media outlets and magazines.


  1. Cottonball is a fabulous model, he is so cute. I will need to try the catcave thing but I will probably have to bribe my cats with fresh catnip. Now the toys they will like with no problem. These are good ideas for kitty.

  2. We have lots of kitties and lots of boxes and shirts. This is such a great idea!!

  3. Cottonball is such a pretty boy! Great upcycling ideas, Sarah! I had t-shirt yarn ready to go and so I just made a pom-pom for our two cats. Barney played a bit with it already. 🙂 Thank you for the inspiration!

  4. Margaret Fretwell says

    Love these ideas. What did you do with the sleeves, etc. to make it all lay flat along the sides of the box?

  5. What a great idea! We don’t have a cat but I could totally make these for my sister-in-law’s cat. Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday this week!

  6. Haha…this is hilarious. Love the idea!

    I would love for you to share this with my Recipes, Crafts, Tips and Tricks Facebook group:

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  7. this is brilliant! thanks for sharing! #welcomeHomeWednesdays

  8. Cottonball is very photogenic and you are very clever!

  9. My cat will love this. Going to put my kids on this when they get home. They’ll love to make it and Puddles will love to hang out in there. Cottonball sure is a lucky kitty and he looks just like our Lina, who passed over to the rainbow bridge a couple of years ago. She was such a sweet kitty!

  10. Awww! Cottonball is so cute! I love the easy Cat Cave and toys! I actually think one of my dogs would use it more than the cat!! Thanks for sharing!

  11. So cute and practical, too! Thanks for sharing at the Celebrate Your Story! link party!

  12. That is adorable!! How easy and fun to make! Thank you for sharing with us at the #HomeMattersParty

  13. My cats would have loved the toys and the Cat Cave. We lost our kitty a couple of years ago and haven’t gotten another. Thank you for sharing at Vintage Charm.

  14. Oh the cat cave is pure genius! Such a star your kitty is. We so appreciate you joining the Thoughts of Home on Thursday gathering. May you have a delightfully lovely weekend.

  15. So cute and clever, Sarah! Cottonball is adorable and downright pawsome. Love your creativity and wonderful sense of humor 🙂

  16. Hahah what a great idea. Definitely pinned for my cat Squeakers!

  17. Awww, Cottonball is so sweet!! Look at his cute face looking from inside like saying: hey this is my new cave! I don’t have cats, but I do have bunnies and a bunch of boxes of our recent move, I may try something similar for them. I am sure the girls would love to try at least!

    Thanks for sharing with us at Sweet Inspiration party, enjoy the rest of the week!

  18. My kitties would love this DIY! What a sweet looking cat.Thanks for sharing at the Inspiration Spotlight party. Pinned & shared.

  19. Thanks for sharing at Peace, Love, Linkup! The next party kicks off tomorrow at 6! Hope to see you there : )

  20. The has to be the absolute cutest shirt idea I’ve ever seen. I can tell you love your kitty and I <3 that. Thanks for sharing at The Creative Circle!

  21. Very cool, and Cottonball looks very pleased with his cat cave and toys! I am going to have to make one of these cat caves for my furbabies.

  22. Kathy A. says

    I think my 2 cats would love this. At Sun. School, the kids and I do an annual project for the local animal shelter. I am “marinating” pom poms in a jar of cat nip to use as toys; we tie them onto thin elastic, then tie the elastic onto a non pointy-bamboo skewer, sometimes with a jingle bell. We’ve braided shirts into dog chew/tug of war toys. NOW I need some tee shirts and the right size boxes!

    If you think a cat might not go into a box, a sprinkle of cat nip or a few cat treats would probably convince him!

  23. First of all, your cat is just gorgeous! What a great idea! My boyfriend works for Chewy, and we have seven cats. Of course this means we have lots of boxes. I can even use my old wrestling t shirts to make customized ones for each cat. I’ll be excited to try this. And the toys, too. Thanks!

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