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Etsy Fave! Recycled T-shirts Become Tug-tastic Toys for Pets

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Duffel bag of old T-shirts, it’s time to meet your destiny! Worn out tees get new life as colorful toys for dogs and cats thanks to Kaylin Mares, 23, who relives her days as a Girl Scout by knotting and twisting recycled cotton into durable TeeTugs for pets.

“I’d been purchasing all these random ‘made in china’ toys and they’d just fall apart right away,” Mares, an animal lover, tells “I had a duffel bag of T-shirts sitting in my bedroom from another project … and it kinda spiraled from there.”

Mares quickly went through her own bag of T-shirts and now relies on thrift stores for more supplies and welcomes donations to help keep her creations coming.

She tests her toys on friends, family, and her two cats – Fluffy, 5, and Kramer, 4, – who are FIV positive (Feline Immodeficiency Virus is similar to HIV in humans and affects a cat’s ability to defend itself against infection). Because her cats and FIV are a big apart of her life, Mares donates 10 percent of her profits to the Saving Paws no kill animal rescue based in her hometown of Appleton, Wis., where she adopted Kramer.

Her bestseller is the colorfully woven TeeTug ($12) for dogs but her favorite is the new Tug n’ Toss (only $20!) where the knotted rope is attached to the tennis ball. Mares makes a variety of toys for kitties, too, including the Kitty Tug Toy, a woven string that features a mini tee stuffed with catnip.

Check out Mares’s Etsy shop and snatch one up for your four-legged friend.

See something on Etsy that you’d like us to profile in this weekly column? Send us an email to or leave a comment below. Read last week’s Etsy Fave, here.