Monday, March 9, 2009

What the Heck is a Happy Sock?

A Happy Sock is a catnip toy made from a sock. You can see several examples of Happy Socks in this photo.

Happy Socks are super simple to make: just take a sock and stuff it with a fistful of polyfill and a big pinch of catnip. Tie a knot in the ankle and you've made a Happy Sock!

Happy Socks can be made from almost any kind of sock. And cats love Happy Sock catnip toys because they're big, fluffy and durable.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How Does Operation Happy Sock Work?

Operation Happy Sock creates and delivers catnip toys to homeless cats in animal shelters. Volunteers of all ages make simple toys, called "Happy Socks," by stuffing catnip and polyester fiberfill in the toe of a sock and tying a knot at the ankle.

Simple, but a GREAT catnip toy!

Ideally, the folks who make Happy Socks deliver them to the cats themselves. This is a great way to get kids to visit their local animal shelter and learn that THIS is the place to find a feline family member – not a breeder or pet store. It’s also a terrific opportunity to deliver the spay/neuter message to kids.

Happy Sock catnip toys are more than mere playthings for stressed-out cats in strange surroundings. A whiff of catnip can be very therapeutic, and a soft, fluffy Happy Sock is the feline equivalent of a cuddly teddy bear. Since many shelters have no budget for toys, these big, generous Happy Socks are a very special and welcome donation.

Ready to start Operation Happy Sock in your area?

You’ll find complete details on this blog, so please read on!

And be sure to tell your friends, neighbors, and any kids you know about this project.

THANK YOU, and may all your socks be Happy Socks!


”The Happy Sock Lady”

Operation Happy Sock – as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Thank you for seeking information about Operation Happy Sock. This project is big fun for anyone, plus it’s a nice way to show a few homeless cats a good time.

Most folks do Operation Happy Sock in these THREE PHASES:

1. Collect socks for at least a week or two ahead of time.

2. Have a Happy Sock Production Party where the toys actually made.

3. Visit your local animal shelter to give Happy Socks to the cats --
because cats can say “THANK YOU” better than anyone else!

You’ll find all the information you need on this blog, so please read on.

And have a wonderful Operation Happy Sock!

All the best,

Martha Powers
“The Happy Sock Lady”

What Do You Need to Make a Happy Sock?

You need 3 things to make a Happy Sock:

1. A sock

2. A fistfull of polyfill

3. A pinch of catnip.

Just grab that handfull of polyfill,
use it to pick up the catnip,
and stuff everything into the toe of the sock.

Now take out your hand and tie a knot in the ankle of the sock.

Voila! You made a Happy Sock!

A Happy Cat with a Happy Sock

This is Dipper Powers with the first-ever Happy Sock (still in use after several years!) A Happy Sock is an unwanted sock that's been stuffed with catnip and polyfill. It makes a great, big, fluffy toy that can be hugged, kicked, and (as you can see) even licked.

Catnip produces a harmless, non-addictive euphoric state that lasts for around 20 minutes. Most cats are very playful and goofy when they experience catnip; then later, they may just doze off.

Dipper likes his Happy Sock because it's durable and large -- much more fun than those silly little catnip toys sold in stores. Best of all, Happy Socks are very fun and affordable to make, which means that you can make them for cats in homeless shelters and help them feel better, too.

Q & A

Thank you very much for your interest in Operation Happy Sock. Here are some basic questions and answers about our program to help you get involved.

Q: What is Operation Happy Sock?

A: Operation Happy Sock is an all-volunteer, nonprofit project that takes unwanted socks and turns them into catnip toys for homeless cats in animal shelters. We started in November 2004 and have been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.

Q. What is a “Happy Sock”?

A. A Happy Sock is a big, fluffy catnip toy that we make by taking a sock, stuffing it with a combination of polyester fiberfill and catnip, and then tying a knot in the ankle. The result is a durable, hugable toy that cats can lick, kick, and enjoy for countless hours.

Q. Who runs Operation Happy Sock?

A. You do! Seriously, OHS is a project that is well suited to almost any group – children or adults alike – who love animals and want to do something special to help them. Home-schooling groups, Girl and Boy Scouts, Roots ‘n’ Shoots, 4Hers, retirement community residents, book clubs, and local animal shelter volunteers have made thousands of Happy Socks. It’s easy, fun, and a great community service.

Q. What does it cost to make Happy Socks?

A. For every 100 socks you collect, you’ll need about $30 for other materials (catnip and polyfill). A group of 6-10 people can make at least 100 Happy Socks in an hour or two.

Q. What materials go into a Happy Sock?

A. It takes three things to make each Happy Sock: one sock, about a teaspoon of catnip, and a handful of polyester fiberfill – white, fluffy filler that makes the toys big and soft. For every 100 Happy Socks, here’s what you’ll need:

100 socks FREE (donated)
1 lb. catnip ($23.25 postpaid at the link at the top of this blog, right column)
36-44 oz. of polyester fiberfill (around $8.00) -- from Wal*Mart or craft stores

Q. Where do the socks come from?

A. Your group can collect unwanted socks from friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, or anyone else you can think of. You’ll be amazed at how happy people are to finally have a good use for their unwanted socks, and how glad they are to clean out their “missing sock drawer.” It’s a real win/win situation because those socks might otherwise end up in a landfill, but now they’ll have a wonderful “second life” as Happy Socks.

You'll find information for making a Happy Sock collection sign in this blog. Then you can put sock collection boxes in strategic places at school, church, or the local animal shelter. (Please be sure to ask for permission before placing a collection box.)

Q. Where does the catnip come from?

A. Catnip sources vary from place to place, so you may need to shop around. Many major chains (Wal*Mart, Kmart, Petco, PetsMart) carry catnip, usually in smaller packages than you may need – so buy several. Please see the “All About Catnip” posting in this blog.

Q. Where does the polyester fiberfill come from?

A. You’ll find plastic bags of fiberfill at WalMart and craft stores, for around $4.00 per bag. For every 100 socks, you’ll want to buy 36-44 ounces of fiberfill.

Q. How much time does it take to make Happy Socks?

A. People vary greatly in their ability to make Happy Socks. Some people like to take their time, enjoy themselves, and do creative things like tying two knots in the socks, which takes extra time. They may make about 20 Happy Socks per hour. Other people are very fast and can make as many as 60 per hour (one per minute). As a rule of thumb, YOUNGER people are BETTER at it!

Q. Can we decorate our Happy Socks with ribbons, bells, and colored pens?

A. We love creativity, but we encourage you to contact your local shelter for advice. If a ribbon or bell can be swallowed, a kitty could be hurt. And of course, any pens or paints should be completely safe for kids and pets – even if eaten!

Q. Is there an Operation Happy Sock patch my Girl Scout troup can buy?

A. You bet! We have a really adorable patch available at Just go to “Search” in the left menu bar, enter “Operation Happy Sock,” and be sure to check the box for “Match All Keywords”.

Q. Is Operation Happy Sock an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation?

A. No one makes a penny from Operation Happy Sock, but we are not a 501(c)(3) corporation so donations are not tax deductible. However, the donations we receive are always used to help groups who can’t afford supplies, or to ship Happy Socks to locations with special needs (like Hurricane Katrina shelters, Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, or the PAWS shelter in Kuwait).

Q. What is the largest Operation Happy Sock ever completed?

A. While Operation Happy Sock isn't a competitive sport, some folks get pretty fired up about it. In 2008, the largest known Operation Happy Sock was accomplished by Girl Scout Troop 3086 in Alexandria, VA. These amazing girls made an unbelievable 1,600 Happy Socks. That's a LOT of happy cats!

Q. Can I use that snazzy Operation Happy Sock logo?
The Operation Happy Sock logo, featuring our tabby mascot "Hugger," is available for use by anyone promoting the Operation Happy Sock mission of helping homeless cats. Please send an email to if you would like a downloadable file of the logo.

Q. Is there a way I can get all this Operation Happy Sock info in one handy-dandy file?

A. Sure! Just drop an email to and ask for your FREE Info Kit. The contents of this blog will be sent to you as one big Word file attachment.

5 Easy Steps

(1) Collect socks. You’ll be amazed how happy people are to clean out their “missing sock drawer,” especially when their unwanted socks will be helping others. Be sure to ask friends, relatives, and coworkers for their socks, and think about putting sock collection boxes in handy locations at school, church, or other likely spots. (You can make a “Happy Socks Collection Sign” using info provided in this blog.)

(2) Gather your Happy Sock materials. For every 100 socks you collect, you’ll need:

· Three 12-ounce bags or two 22-ounce bags of polyester fiberfill
(available for around $2-3/bag at WalMart or craft stores), and

· About 1 pound of catnip (available at stores or online for $25-$50/lb). Please see “All About Catnip” on page 5 for more sourcing information.

(3) Call a local animal shelter to see when you can visit. You’re likely to find several shelters if you go to and enter your town, state, and “animal shelter.” Some shelters have tours for groups of children who visit, while others are more casual. It’s best to call ahead and be sure they’ll let you give Happy Socks to the cats yourself.

(4) Have your Happy Sock Production Party! In addition to the socks and filler materials, you’ll need:
a. A work area consisting of a big table and chairs for everyone;
b. Tablecloths (disposable paper or plastic is ideal);
c. Bowls to pour catnip into (one bowl for every 3 or so people);
d. Plastic bags to put the finished Happy Socks into. (A standard, white kitchen garbage bag easily contains 100 finished toys.)
e. A DustBuster or other mini-vacuum for easy clean-up;
f. Goodies to create the party atmosphere your group will enjoy.

Special notes: Catnip is very lightweight, so be sure to hold your Production Party in an area away from drafts, fans, or sneezing people! Catnip dust floats everywhere, so we recommend that the work table area not be used as an eating or drinking area.

Cats enjoy helping out but should be discouraged from eating more than a little (about 1 teaspoon) of the catnip since significant amounts can upset their stomachs. (For more advice, please see the section on “How to Make a Happy Sock”.)

(5) Deliver your Happy Socks to the animal shelter! We recommend that you call ahead to see if you can give the Happy Socks to the cats in person. Be sure to clearly label your bags “Happy Socks (Catnip Toys).” And don’t forget the camera!

"Thanks. I really needed a Happy Sock."

All About Catnip (and where to find it)

What IS catnip, anyway?

Technically, catnip is an herb in the mint family, a close relative of basil and oregano that looks very much like other kinds of mint when growing. But to most cats, it is something much more special – a terrific recreational stimulant (and legal, too!) One whiff, and even a complacent codger cat can become a frisky furball, first sniffing the catnip toy, then licking and chewing it, and ultimately rubbing it and flopping over happily.

This reaction usually lasts less than 20 minutes, at which time the cat returns to normal. But an hour or two later, the same results can be seen all over again -- and apparently catnip never induces a hangover!

The chemical in catnip that brings the cat’s ecstatic reaction is called nepetalactone, and its power is released when catnip (fresh or dried) is rubbed or crushed. Very young or old cats are unlikely to enjoy its effects, and an estimated 20% of the adult cat population is immune to it, a genetic trait that has nothing to do with the animal’s sex or breed.

Catnip isn’t addictive or habit forming, and it has no known ill effects on cats. Some cats even eat catnip, although it’s probably not wise to let them ingest too much of it (more than a teaspoon or so) since an excess can bring on digestive discomforts.

Where can you find catnip for your Operation Happy Sock project?

ONLINE: If you have at least 10 days before your Operation Happy Sock Production Party is planned, then you may do best to order catnip online. Operation Happy Sock enthusiastically endorses Bubba's Love organic catnip, available at (one pound of organic catnip postpaid for $23.25).

RETAIL STORES: If you’re in a hurry, then your best bet is to try Wal*Mart, Kmart, PetsMart, Petco, or other local chains. You’ll need at least 1 lb. of catnip per 100 socks, so you may need to buy several packages. Avoid catnip that appears old (brownish); it should have a greenish tint.

HOMEGROWN: Homegrown catnip is great, too! Just allow time for it to dry thoroughly, and then crush the leaves and chop the stems for use in your Happy Socks.

Make a Sign for Collecting Socks

You can copy the information below and use it for making signs announcing your sock collection effort. Attach signs to big cardboard boxes and position them in clever places like animal shelters, schools, or churches. (Be sure to ask for permission first.)
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

We want your SOCKS!

Operation Happy Sock creates and delivers catnip toys to homeless cats in animal shelters. Our volunteers make simple toys, called "Happy Socks," by putting catnip in the toe of an old sock and tying a knot at the ankle.

We welcome donated socks that meet these guidelines:

Clean – please run them through the washer first.
Sweat socks and fuzzy socks are terrific!
Any size (baby and kids’ sizes too) are welcome.
Thin synthetics or nylons may not be durable enough.
Even socks with holes are fine – we are experts at making a toy from almost any sock!

It’s time to clean out that sock drawer and admit that all those lone socks will probably never meet their mates again. Give 'em a second life as a Happy Sock!

Thank you on behalf of homeless cats everywhere!

How to Make a Happy Sock

Before starting, it’s best to assemble everything you’ll need: a bowl containing a few ounces of catnip, an opened bag of polyfill, and a pile of donated socks.

1) Take a sock and be sure there are no holes in it. If there are, it may still be a perfectly workable Happy Sock, but you’ll need to keep those holes in mind.

2) Gather the sock all the way onto your thumbs as if you were about to put it on your own foot, with the toe facing away from you.

3) Keep one of your hands inside the gathered sock, but take the other hand away and grasp a healthy handful of polyfill.

4) Use the handful of polyfill like a mitten to grab a pinch of catnip from the bowl.

5) Stuff the polyfill and catnip way into the toe of the sock, as far down as possible.

6) Pull your hand out of the sock, leaving the polyfill and catnip inside the toe.

7) Tie a knot in the sock around the ankle, ensuring that the polyfill and catnip stay way down inside the toe where you stuffed them.

You’ve made a Happy Sock!

Advanced Happy Sock Techniques

· Got a really long sock? Try making TWO polyfill/catnip deposits with TWO knots in them. We call this the “double whammy” Happy Sock.

· Got a sock with a hole in the toe? Try tying a knot down around the toe first, to seal off the hole, and then see if you can still make a Happy Sock with the remaining material as usual.

· Got a hole in the heel? EASY! Just stuff the toe of the sock as usual, but be sure to tie the knot right where the hole is. No one will ever suspect!

· Baby socks? No-ankle socks? You’d be amazed how easy it is to stretch them out and still make a Happy Sock out of them. Kids with little hands are really good at making Happy Socks from tiny socks – let them show you how!

· Hopelessly hole-y sock? No such thing! If it’s really full of holes, it’s ready to serve as filler, just like the polyfil. No sock goes unused!

"Job Titles" for Happy Sock Kids

Got a group of Happy Sock kids?
Give them their own special “job titles”!
· Big Sock Specialist
· Baby Sock Specialist
· No-ankle Sock Specialist
· Purple (and other colors) Sock Specialist
· Catnip Bowl Patrol (keeps the catnip bowls full)
· Fluffy Stuff Patrol (keeps fiberfill available)
As you can see, making Happy Socks is big fun!

What's So Great About a Happy Sock?

When a cat or kitten is in an animal shelter, it can be lonely and scary. The catnip in Happy Socks helps cats to relax. A big, warm, fuzzy Happy Sock makes life a little less difficult for homeless felines.

This little guy looks so content with his Happy Sock, it's no wonder he was adopted right away!