Ladies And Gentlemen, Boys And Girls, Children Of All Ages!

May I present to you a fantastically ferocious feline who can be persuaded to miaow on cue and can even wag her superior striped tail. Recently returned from an amazing tour with Kim’s Kabarett, she is eminently suitable for the smallest of lion tamers. I give you Magnificent Moggie the Circus Cat!

(Youtube link to the video is

What was the brief?

Thumb push puppets are classic toys which come in hundreds of variations, but they all seem to share the idea of something collapsing when you push the base in. Horses like this one are quite popular, when you push the base, it first lowers its head and when you push harder it flops completely down. Wooden toys like this usually use turned parts to keep the price down.

I thought why not make a thumb puppet which does something else besides flopping and decided on a cat. To give a reason for the round base I thought she could be a circus cat, waiting for her tamer’s command. Push the front of the base and it opens its mouth, push the back and its tail moves (flops). So what makes a cat a cat? Those distinctive cat’s eyes with the vertical, ellipse-shaped slits? Whiskers? Big ears, a bushy tail and stripes? Well that was my recipe for cattiness.

Rough design

Pencil sketch of the Magnificent Moggie

Here’s a rough sketch. The single spiral spring in the cylindrical base tries to expand, applying downward force

– keeping the tail proudly erect, via a piece of fishing line, which shouldn’t break with such a small fish

– keeping the cat’s mouth closed, via a slim brass rod

Press the base up and the tail will slacken and/or the cat’s mouth will open. The operator is responsible for the miaow.

I went for a spherical head and huge hemispherical eyes and a small nose made from beechwood. The body, tail and ears are made from carved lime wood as I won’t be charging anyone for my time to do that little bit of carving.

I reused an existing wooden base which had originally been turned.

Once the rough design was ready, this fairly simple toy only took a few hours over a weekend to make, with a bit of fiddling about for the final assembly.

Making the bits

Scroll cut the body


Cut the hinge slot


Slot the head onto the plywood for the hinge and mark neck and mouth


Sand the head flat where it is to be glued to the body


Cut the head into 2 pieces so that the cat can miaow


Make a hinge to be glued to top part of head with 2 holes for push rod and hinge pin which is pushed through a hole in one side of the body


Cut a slot in body to loosely hold the hinge with enough space for it to move easily


Glue hinge into the head. Carve & glue on ears. Glue on eyes and nose. Drill holes to glue whiskers. For the whiskers, simply use pliers to pull two tufts out of a brush, then glue one tuft into each of the holes next to the nose.


Cut slot in the movable base to take the loop on the end of the push rod. Insert brass hinge pin to hold the loop.

Putting it all together was tricky and required quite a bit of patience as I could only bend the top loop on the push rod once it had been fed through the body. With hindsight, I should have cut slots which were long enough to let the loop through. That would not have detracted from the general impression. That’s life innit? When you only make one of anything, you never get it quite right.

Fix fishing line to movable base. While squeezing the spring in the base fix it to the tail. While squeezing hard, push the pin in to catch the loop on the push rod in the hinge. Now wiggle the hinge about until the holes line up and push another pin into the carved body and through the wooden hinge.


Ready for painting