I think all cats love boxes! Turn their favorite hideaway into an amazing cardboard gingerbread cat house with a craft knife & some paint!
With it being Christmastime it means I’ve got lots and lots of packages in the mail. Some have held gifts and a few have been jeans because I might have gained a pants size testing out some new holiday recipes :) I’ve also been getting lots and lots and lots of work stuff in the mail. Oh, and I sort of went a little bit nuts when my favorite online pet food store had a Black Friday sale. I straight up got 180 pounds of canned food delivered to the house. Pretty sure the FedEx dude straight up HATED ME because all of these heavy boxes were dumped so that they were all leaning on the front door and when I opened it up as he was driving away, CRASH!
I’ve also had to buy a new stove and a new vacuum cleaner (why do all of these things break right before Christmas?!?) and I can’t even remember what but it’s been frustrating. Expensive, frustrating and equalling a gigantic pile of cardboard in my house that, at some point, get moved to the garage.
While in the house, though, they are prime kitty cat real estate. Everybody straight up wants the newest cardboard box on the block and sometimes we get little cat fights over them. There are some boxes that are evergreen and stick around all year, like the box my laptop came in that Maybe and Marla trade off sleeping in on my desk. It keeps my legs from going to sleep because they prefer the box to my lap most of the time :)
Since I kind of have always loved making my kitties things out of cardboard like cat houses and cat scratchers and I’m super into gingerbread right now, I decided to make a fake gingerbread cat house with cardboard. Kaboom, right?
While planning I decided I wanted my cat house to be 2 stories so that 2 cats could be in it at the same time but in their own space so we don’t get hisses and disagreements. And since my girl cats have a tendency to sit and wait and harass the other I also have a front entry and a back entry so that they can’t lie in wait and scare each other. Because I don’t know about you, but speaking from every haunted house experience I’ve ever been through, I never go back into a house that I’ve gotten scared in.
I wanted 2 stories and I wanted them to be the same size. So I wound up purchasing new boxes for this project instead of using this DIY to help conquer my humongous Christmas shopping cardboard stash in the garage simply because I could find no 2 boxes out there the same size. So if you can’t find matching boxes in your cardboard stash, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker because these 3 boxes in the 2 sizes I used cost me around $4. Plus, if we all start with the same size boxes you can use my cut list so you don’t have to work out sizes and schematics and whatnot. Cool, right?
Let’s turn those boxes into an amazingly sweet cardboard cat house.
For this project you will need:
- 2 large cardboard moving boxes (ours are 18″ x 18″ x 24″)
- 1 small cardboard moving box (ours is 12″ x 12″ x 12″)
- craft knife + extra blades
- cut resistant gloves (trust me, cutting your fingertip off sucks)
- self-healing cutting mat
- large, clear ruler (I have this Cricut ruler now and I LOVE IT)
- Free printable PDF cut plans
- White chalky paint – We used FolkArt in Adirondack
- Colorful craft acrylic paints – We used Martha Stewart: Lily Pad (green), Pink Dahlia, Purple Yam, Love Bird (red), Pollen (yellow), Marmalade (orange).
- Various paintbrushes
- Glue (we used hot glue, Aleene’s Rapid Dry and Gorilla glue)
First, let’s talk safety…
As somebody who has gotten really, really bad cuts from craft knives (we’re talking medical bills, here) I’m pretty darn into my cut resistant gloves I got from Amazon earlier this year. Do you ever have that thing where you think of something that scares you and your stomach sort of drops? That is me every time I use a craft knife without these gloves now. I’ve never actually tested these (because that seems nuts to me) but I also haven’t cut myself and I have dragged my craft knife along the finger on a few occasions with no apparent damage to the gloves (or, thankfully my fingers just below the glove’s surface). Around $10 is cheaper than my current co-pay and I’d really, really recommend a pair for you, too. Quick safety tip? Check. Let’s move on.
And now let’s build a cardboard cat mansion in earnest:
In case you skipped my ramblings at the top of this post, for my project I bought new moving boxes at Walmart, specifically, 2 of their sized large (18″ x 18″ x 24″) and 1 box with little to no markings that measured 12″ x 12″ x 12″. Because there are markings on the outside with a perfectly unblemished inside for the bigger boxes, it’s a good idea to turn those inside out so we don’t have to paint them a base color. Cardboard is awfully close to cooked gingerbread cookies, right?
Each box has a little flap that is glued onto the other side of the box to make it a continuous shape. You need to keep that flap intact as much as possible to put your box back together with the wrong side facing out. See in the pic above? My flap is on the far right, almost out of the picture, entirely. That’s my flap mostly intact. Use your really sharp craft knife (replace the blade if you need to) in between the flap and where it connects to the box, trying to cut through the glue rather than the cardboard itself and lay your cardboard out into one flat piece.
If you are using our cardboard cat gingerbread house plans and haven’t printed them out, yet, do that now. It’s a 2-page PDF and it looks like that business up above. Now I’m not an architect or an illustrator, so hopefully, these make as much sense to you as they do to me :) I’ve tried to include every detail I could think of on here so that you can measure out and cut these shapes and get to building quicksmart.
I tried to take pictures of my process, I really did, but cats just love cardboard. Joujou was the first interested.
And then dogs want to get involved in whatever the cats are interested in. Ollie saw everything all laid out and it’s like he thought “Ooh, is that a new thing to lay on top of?” and then he did.
And the especially jealous beasties like Carly decided to just flat out get in the way. Why would I want to cut cardboard when I could cuddle that scruffy mug?
But eventually using the diagram you’ll have something kind of like this. Except not this. This is from the gingerbread house I made for my parents’ cats a few weeks ago. Say hi to Ruby, who’s tethered to my mom’s recliner so that I have a nice, big, free space to work :) Hopefully, I’ll be able to take some pics and measurements from that one and have plans for a single story version with a chimney, too!
I came close to getting photos, but then Maybe came along and everybody’s a little bit scared of Maybe. (even me :) Sorry for all of the animal pics, but let’s be honest, here… if you’re making a cardboard cat house you probably like animals just as much as I do :)
Ah, well. Just cut your shapes like in the printable, pretty please?
Once your boxes are cut to size lay them out flat and decorate using your choice of paints. I like to do the bulk of my painting with a chalky finish white paint because it primes the board for bright colors when layered with craft acrylic paints. Using your favorite gingerbread house decorations as inspiration, paint your white icing and colored candies onto the cardboard however you please and give plenty of time to dry.
Once dry glue your boxes back into box shapes with something super strong. We used Gorilla glue and those boxes are NOT coming apart any time soon.
When putting your boxes together, there will be some areas that say to “reinforce corners” and we’re going to talk about that really quickly…
Using the scrap cardboard you create make small rectangles that are approximately 2″ wide and 1″ tall for smaller spaces, or 2″ x 2″ for larger spaces, with the corrugation inside of the cardboard running vertically. About in the center of this piece slice a thin line running your craft knife only through the topmost part of the cardboard.
Bend the piece and it should pop or snap and make a corner brace shape.
Using hot glue on the two halves of the cut side, place the cardboard brace in the corners to support your pieces that might need a little help with sturdiness. Sorry for the bad photo, but up above you can see the corner reinforcements I made for the dormer from inside of the cat house.
Apply a heavy spiral of Gorilla glue onto the top of the bottom story box. Stack the second story box onto the bottom with the dormer opening facing the front. Allow time for the glue to fully dry, overnight is best.
Pop your dormer into the cut hole for it (you’ll want your roof on top of it already). Apply hot glue around the edges and opening, holding the dormer in place as you do, like a caulk in between where the two boxes meet. There will need to be some overlap where the dormer actually sits about an inch inside of the 2nd story box. Using corner brace pieces made out of scrap, attach the dormer inside of the 2nd story wherever possible using the cat entry on the back to get inside and secure things.
Next cut a bunch of cardboard pieces into 3″ x 6″ rectangles. I used about 60 of these. Before cutting it’s a good idea to move the cat first, if necessary :)
Paint or otherwise decorate, if needed, to match the house. Now you might notice I have some wider and some skinnier tiles, but in all honesty, it makes more sense to make a bunch of 3″ x 6″ pieces, then cut them down to size as needed as yo utile the roof. I wound up tossing a lot of my smaller pieces and making another round of the bigger. Save yourself some time and just make a whole mess of the larger pieces.
Apply the dried tiles to the roof of the house gluing one row at a time and overlapping any glued seams (like for the dormer) to both cover them up and make their hold a little sturdier.
When it came to placing the awning on the front of the cat house (mostly to cover up the unsightly seam between the stories right on the front) I found that hot glue was drying too quickly to actually work. Instead, I wound up digging my Aleene’s Rapid Dry out of my glue stash and holding the thing in place while I had my first few sips of coffee this morning as the glue set up.
You’ll need to reinforce this from the inside of the awning to the front of the cardboard house using the corner brace method just in case your cat thinks she can stand on it. If your cat is fat, like my Maybe, it might not hold, but if it is a smaller to more average sized cat, like Marla at 10 pounds, it should do fine. In fact, Marla had me screeching and running across the house this morning when I spied her standing on the awning and checking out the roof. Luckily, it held :)
So here’s the cat house from the back. See how neat that little entrance is for the cats to get in the “attic”? Also, you can sort of tell the general size of this guy. It’s not as big as a cat condo, or anything, but it is bigger than our 60-pound dog, Ollie, for reference. And please ignore the mess over to the side… it’s a bunch of boxes and Christmas wrapping paper needing to be carried out to the trash. Ah, Christmastime :)
And there’s Marla hanging out in the attic! JouJou has pretty much staked out the first floor of this gingerbread cardboard cat house and he’s in it far more than the other cats.
So far, Marla is the only one who has even figured out that the top level is open so she’s the only one that ever goes up there. It’s kind of cute… she gets up there and looks out her little window at the other cats walking by looking down on them, her little tail flicking like mad and making thumping sounds against the cardboard :)
In the end, I spent a few hours 2 days in a row to make this for my cats and I’m absolutely in love with this cat hideaway because the cats are absolutely in love with it. Even with a fairly decent time investment for this project, the low cost of materials make this kitty-centric DIY a total win in my book. Yay for crafts that actually get used, amIright? :)