Our animal shelter doesn't have money in the budget for "comfort" items like toys, beds, or grooming supplies, so I'm trying to find ways to get some of these supplies for little or no cost. This requires a bit of creativity and luck.
I recently ordered plastic practice golf balls. They're like golf-ball sized whiffle balls. The cats love them, they hold up well, and can be washed many times. With a bit of web surfing, I found a golf supply store that sells 12-packs at a good price. Soon, the shelter will have over 350 balls for the cats to play with. That should last a while! Someone else ordered 200 ping pong balls - another favorite of the cats.
In the free toy category, I have an inquiry in to a local sewing group to see if they might save their empty thread spools for me. And on my desk at work I have a box labeled "Corks for Cats". Coworkers think it's fun to bring a wine cork from home and drop it in the box. Something they would usually throw away can be put to good use!
Brushing the cats makes them feel good and helps them look better for potential adopters. But in a shelter, a brush can be used on only one cat, then it has to be sanitized with bleach before being used on the next cat. In a big shelter, this means lots of brushes are needed before a "load" of dirty brushes is washed and clean brushes are ready for use on another cat. Right now we're mostly using old dog brushes on the cats. But these are too big and firm. Again, with a bit of web surfing and a stroke of good luck, I found an online store that had a great deal on brushes, so I ordered 50 of them! I think they were unprepared for such a large order, because the brushes are coming in two shipments. I'm sure the cats will enjoy being brushed with a nice soft, small bristle brush instead of a dog brush.