The Bag


How do you bring engaging, marketable behaviors out in stressed shelter cats? The hustlin’ bag! This inexpensive DIY tool kit is a game changer.

My hustlin' bag: $7 vintage carry-on luggage from Goodwill.

My hustlin’ bag: $7 vintage carry-on luggage from Goodwill.

What’s so great about a bag?

Toothless ol' Gummy just *has* to know what else is in there.

Toothless ol’ Gummy just *has* to know what else is in there.

The bag is a concept that’s tailored to the way you work. Your perception is what makes your hustle special; a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach undermines creativity, and sucks the joy out of what we do. With the bag, you maintain freedom to engage  in  innovative ways, swapping out contents at will and enjoying the flexibility of doing your own thing.

So…. what is it, exactly?

It’s a bag of toys that are carefully selected to provide a variety of play experiences. The objective is to give a range of personalities an opportunity to exhibit the behaviors and quirks that will help you hustle them into the perfect home.

Toys are a means of exercising the prey drive,  and cats have individual preferences for what they hope to eventually deliver as murder-presents to their human. This is why some toys are better-received by some cats than others.  With this in mind, stock your bag with toys that mimic different types of prey.

The bag at work

In this video, Cantina demonstrates what it means to live for the hunt. She was adopted 5 business days after this video was posted by her shelter, where she had lived for 3 years. The adopter said that it was Cantina’s robofish skills sealed the deal.

Recommended toys



One of the best cheap thrills available! Just drop the fish into a tub of water and stand back.

The price of these comes down to how fast you want them. If you want it in a few days, an American seller can make it happen for ~$2.75-$3 (low end) each oneBay.

If time isn’t an issue, they can be found on AliExpress for ~$2. The price online is different than the app, so be sure to mouse-over the app price link to get the lower rate. These make great gifts, so I usually buy in bulk from the overseas sellers.

You’ll see a few different colors, styles, and types of packaging in the listings. I’ve bought most of them and can testify that they’re all from the same factory. There’s no difference between the fish in the off-brand Finding Nemo knockoff package  and the ones in the flashy plastic bubble.

robofish FSPCA

Nunu and Cantina show off their fishing skills at the Fredericksburg SPCA.


Hot Pursuit

smirch and matilda

Matilda and Smirch try to intimidate the whizzing stick into submission with their minds.


I’ve only met one cat that doesn’t care about this thing, and it’s the difficult fool I adopted.

There are two types on the market: yellow and purple. For the love of all that is good, spend the extra few bucks on the purple one. The yellow model is called Cat’s Meow, and is notorious for motor burnout.

It comes with two attachments, a cluster of feathers and a plastic noodle. Both can be modified with a little craftiness. I end up replacing the feathers at least once a month for my murderous office cat.



Cats don’t quite know what to do with this, but they sure love watching it. Some will try to swat it out of the air, some will wait for it to land before going in for the kill.

Check out a variety of reactions on Youtube.

I use the Cheerson CX-10. They’re tiny, affordable, and good for beginners. Since hard landings happen, the quatrefoil-shaped blade cover/protector is a must. I didn’t have one on my first unit, and the body constantly cracked and shattered upon impact with shelter floors. The wiring was eventually knocked loose, rendering it unable to charge.


Drones and other RC toys are a great way to involve visitors, especially kids. This guy expertly drove every cat on the adoption floor nuts for all 5 minutes of the roflcopter’s battery life.




A cheap one is good enough to run the cat apps and live wallpaper.  Here are the 12208817_10153768487948023_4808907447058847070_nbetter apps I’ve found.

  • Cat Alone  (and Cat Alone 2)           Easily my favorite. Cats have unlimited playtime, 6 prey types to choose from, and a screen lock to prevent them from getting out of the app. Personal preferences have a big impact here; you’ll see a cat completely ignore one type of prey and lose their minds over another.
  • Cat Fishing  This one uses a 30-second timer between 3 “levels”, in which a fish is added as levels increase. The sound effects make it appealing, but the finite chance the cat has to make a move can be frustrating when you have to keep restarting the round and hoping to hold the subject’s attention. It’s a good one for cats in foster care or ones you can spend more time with.
  • Paint for Cats  We know cats can be muses, but they can be artists too! Sadly, this one is only available for iOS.


Other stuff

  • Back scratcher – Sometimes, play isn’t an option. The cat could be scared or unwilling to engage for a variety of reasons,  and pushing them for photo ops shouldn’t be on your radar. With all the empathy you can muster, take it slow and let them know you can be trusted. Gently approach with the back scratcher, letting them sniff to their satisfaction if they want to. Stroke only the head and upper back, as attention to the back end isn’t always appreciated and can be detrimental to building trust. In these cases, the cat’s overcoming an emotional hurdle can easily be the media fodder that gets the job done.

    The back scratcher at work. Photo & technique courtesy of David Ravetti.

  • Laser pointer – If it doesn’t come with a clip, add a carabiner. These things disappear like office pens if they aren’t attached to your bag or body.  I’ve been using Dollar Store laser pointers and have no complaints aside from not being able to justify buying in bulk.
  •   Selfie stick  – For those awkward positions that need perspective to properly capture.
    tess collage

    A selfie stick could have spared little Tess the struggle of (voluntarily) wedging herself between a boob and a knee to show off her indiscriminate love of laps.








  • Wand toyDa Bird won’t fit in your hustlin’ bag? No problem. Wands are an easy DIY project that can be made to fit almost anything. A broken selfie stick, back scratcher, antennae, or any other extendable rod is great for making travel toys. If you’re not big on DIY, SmartyKat’s Frisky Flyer is a 2-piece wand that solves space problems.




None of these opinions or product reviews were solicited, and I have not been compensated in any way for them.