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Cat play tunnel: How to get your cat to play

Cat looking through red cat tunnel

Would your cat love a cat play tunnel?

© Dalibor Valek - Shutterstock

If you asked your cat if they need a cat play tunnel, the answer would likely be a resounding yes! But are cat tunnels really worth it?

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the

Cats love to play and sleep, and aside from eating, that's probably their two favourite things. A cat play tunnel provides the perfect place for them to do both. Cats also love to hide, whether during play with you or their feline siblings or because they feel scared.

If that's not enough to convince you, read on to learn more about cat play tunnels.

Do cats like play tunnels? 

A cat tunnel is a great treat for your feline friend as it indulges some of the behaviours they would naturally display in the world, such as playing, hiding, running and pouncing. There are single one-way cat play tunnels, while some have different sections that you can link up.

For outdoor cats, they can pretend that they are the king of the jungle when they venture outside, prowling from place to place. But for indoor cats, their jungle is your home and can feel rather restrictive and maybe even boring. While they may have many great cat toys for indoor cats that promise endless entertainment, a cat play tunnel gives your cat somewhere they can hide in, chase their four-legged siblings in and sneak up on whatever is waiting for them on the other side.

A cat toy can give your moggy hours of fun. But sometimes, they aren't interested in their cat toys and want something else.  A large cat play tunnel with several sections, or ones equipped with hanging feathers, bells or objects made out of crinkly paper that make rustling sounds can provide your cat with limitless entertainment.

How to get your cat to play in the tunnel?

Your cat will probably already be a little curious about the new cat play tunnel but may need some extra encouragement to use it.

  • Placement: If your cat seems unsure, put the tunnel in the middle of the room so it has plenty of room to check it out while feeling safe.
  • Toys: When your cat looks through the tunnel at one end, dangle a toy in front of the other end. They won't be able to resist running through the tunnel to grab the toy. You can also put some fun toys inside to entice them in.
  • Playtime: Use the tunnel during play sessions with your cat. Be at one end of the tunnel and call your cat to you or hide outside the tunnel and play a game of peek-a-boo with them.
  • Treats: To encourage your cat to go in the tunnel, you can put a few tasty treats inside. Just make sure you don't do this every time, or they'll come to expect it!
  • Overnight: Leave the tunnel out overnight as your feline friend might be more interested in exploring it under cover of darkness.

Don't try to force your cat to use the tunnel. Some cats love cat play tunnels and take to them immediately. Some just need a little more time.

How to make a cat play tunnel

While you can, of course, buy a cat play tunnel for your feline friend, they are also pretty straightforward to make yourself. You don't have to spend hours on it, and it doesn't need to be particularly elaborate or fancy. After all, your cat won't really care what it looks like.

Cardboard cat play tunnel

A homemade cat play tunnel can be as simple as cutting two cat-sized holes in either side of a cardboard box, so they have something to crawl through. If you want to make a larger cat play tunnel, so they have more space to explore, connect several boxes together, line up the holes and secure with tape.

Use an old PVC pipe

You can build a cat play tunnel out of an old PVC pipe to create something more permanent. Cut the pipe to the size you want, whether you want to make it for a little kitten or a more elaborate multi-room cat play tunnel. You can even cut in a few shapes for windows. Just make sure that the windows are large enough for your cat to climb through. Most cat play tunnels have a diameter of around 13 to 14 inches, so make sure you use the right size tubing.

Add texture and comfort with carpet

Some old carpet is ideal for a cat play tunnel as it gives them something to really dig their claws into and is soft and comfortable enough for them to sleep on. You can attach it to the surface of the tunnel, inside and out, using non-toxic glue. If you don't' have any old carpet laying around, pick up some cheap or even free carpet or rug samples. While it's more fiddly to work with, you can use rope instead to cover the tunnel.

Once you've got your homemade cat play tunnel ready, put some cat toys and a few treats inside to entice them in. If you want to make an outdoor cat tunnel, you'll need to think about where you'll be keeping it and what material to make it from. A cardboard cat tunnel won't last long in the pouring rain!

How big does a cat tunnel need to be? 

Cat tunnels are usually around 13 to 14 inches in diameter. But the size you need will largely depend on the size of your cat. If your feline friend is on the large size, you'll need to buy or make them a large cat play tunnel so they fit comfortably. Otherwise, if it's too tight for them, they may not want to use it or could even get stuck.

How do you make a tunnel cat box? 

Cats love getting inside of boxes, even if they can't really fit in them. So, with that in mind, why not make them a tunnel cat box? You'll need a cat-sized cardboard box and an old jumper or sweater. All you then need to do is open the box's flaps and slide the old jumper over the box, ensuring the open end lines up with the jumper's neck. Position the jumper opening in the centre, turn the box over and knot the sleeves together twice. Then tuck the loose ends in under the sleeves of the jumper. Your homemade tunnel cat box is ready for action. You could even add an old T-shirt of yours into the box, so your cat has a nice comfortable cushion.

Are cat tunnels worth it? 

Cat tunnels are a safe, entertaining and cosy toy for felines of any age or size. They can use it to sleep in, play in, hide or just run through like a crazy kitty. While it may take your cat a few hours or even days to get used to the new cat tunnel in their home, there's a good chance that it won't take them long before it becomes one of their favourite cat toys.

If you are looking to buy a cat play tunnel rather than making one yourself, you'll find that there's a wide selection to choose from. You need to make sure that it fits comfortably in your home and, of course, that it fits your cat. Some cat tunnels also come with extra features such as toys attached to the openings or windows in the middle.

Whether you buy it or make your own, cat play tunnels are a great multifunctional cat toy. They provide your cat with somewhere cosy to nap, hide in or play in whenever they are in a playful mood. A cat tunnel is certainly a toy your cat will appreciate.

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