Having a cat comes with certain responsibilities, including providing appropriate places for them to scratch and sharpen their claws. Buying commercial cat scratchers can get expensive, and many of them are made from materials like carpet or sisal rope that aren’t very eco-friendly. As a cat owner looking for budget and planet-friendly options, I’ve found that repurposing cardboard boxes into DIY cat scratchers is an excellent solution.
Gathering Cardboard Boxes for Repurposing
The first step in creating homemade cat scratchers is gathering a selection of cardboard boxes to repurpose. Here are some tips on sourcing and choosing appropriate boxes:
Check around your home – Save any clean cardboard boxes you get from online shopping orders, food packages, shipping materials, etc.
Ask friends and family to save boxes – Tell people you know to set aside cardboard boxes for you instead of tossing them out.
Visit retailers – Many retail stores will give you empty cardboard boxes if you ask nicely. Grocery stores, home goods shops, and appliance retailers tend to have a good supply.
Carefully select boxes – Choose cardboard boxes that are free of plastic windows, staples, and adhesive residue. Opt for large, sturdy boxes over thinner or smaller ones.
Look for These Box Attributes
When selecting cardboard boxes to repurpose as cat scratchers, ideal boxes will have the following attributes:
Large – Big boxes provide more surface area for scratching and climbing.
Sturdy – Thick, corrugated cardboard stands up better to cat claws than thin cardboard.
Plain – Boxes free of hazards like staples, plastic, and tape are safest for cats.
Clean – Avoid boxes with food residue, dirt, or grease that could transfer to your cat’s paws.
Prepping and Cutting Cardboard Boxes
Once I’ve gathered a good stack of sturdy, blank cardboard boxes, the next step is prepping them for transformation into cat scratchers. Here’s how I get boxes scratcher-ready:
- Break down any intact boxes so they lay flat. This makes them easier to cut and shape.
Removing Hazardous Elements
- Carefully remove any staples, plastic windows, adhesive residue, labels, etc. from the cardboard.
Cutting Boxes to Size
Using a utility knife or box cutter, cut boxes down to smaller scratcher-sized pieces.
For stability, keep pieces large enough for the cat to stand on (at least 12 x 12 inches).
Sanding Rough Edges
- Lightly sand any rough or jagged edges left from cutting to smooth them.
Cleaning Cardboard Surfaces
- Wipe down cardboard with a damp cloth to remove dirt, dust, or grease.
Shaping Cardboard into Cat Scratcher Forms
Once the cardboard pieces are prepped, it’s time to shape them into cat-approved scratcher designs. Get creative with different styles like these:
- Cut a large piece of cardboard into a ramp shape. Prop one end against a wall so it leans upward at an angle. Cats love scratching these as they walk up the ramp.
Flat Scratching Pads
- Glue or tape pieces of cardboard together into a flat pad shape. Place these on the floor for cats to scratch.
Corrugated Scratching Posts
- Stack alternating pieces of cardboard with the corrugated layers running opposite directions. This creates grooves and contours for cats to dig their claws into.
- Cut and tape cardboard into open-ended box and tunnel shapes. Cats enjoy scratching the insides as they hide and play.
Customizing Your Cardboard Cat Scratchers
Beyond just shaping plain cardboard, there are a number of easy ways to customize DIY cardboard cat scratchers to make them even more enticing. Here are some customization ideas:
Add catnip – Sprinkle or spray catnip onto cardboard scratchers to attract cats. The herb inspires scratching and rubbing.
Make toys – Cut cardboard into shapes like balls, mice, or feathers and attach to scratchers with string. Cats will play and scratch.
Use textures – Glue mesh, sisal fabric, or corrugated metal to part of the cardboard for varied textures.
Decorate – Let kids draw cute pictures on scratchers with non-toxic paint or markers.
Placing Your Cardboard Cat Scratchers
Proper placement of homemade cardboard cat scratchers is important to encourage your cat to use them. Here are some tips:
Put scratchers in areas your cat already tries scratching like walls, furniture, and carpets. This redirects those instincts onto the appropriate scratchers.
Place scratchers in high-traffic areas so they are easy for your cat to access.
Angle ramp-style scratchers so they lead up to resting perches like cat beds, windowsills, or furniture your cat likes to sit on.
Offer a variety of scratcher placements around your home. Cats like options for scratching differently depending on their mood and activity level.
Maintaining Safety of Cardboard Scratchers
While repurposed cardboard makes economical and eco-friendly cat scratchers, we do need to take some precautions for cat safety:
Supervise use – When first introducing a cardboard scratcher, watch your cat using it to ensure safety.
Remove loose pieces – If cardboard shreds or pieces come loose, promptly throw them away so your cat doesn’t ingest them.
Replace often – Cardboard wears out quickly, so replace scratchers frequently to prevent splintered edges.
No harmful materials – Avoid using cardboard that could contain chemicals from packaging or shipping hazardous materials. Stick to plain, clean boxes.
With a little effort and creativity, you can easily transform free cardboard boxes into amazing scratchers. This saves money while reducing waste – a double win! With the right placement and safety precautions, homemade cardboard scratchers will provide hours of healthy entertainment, exercise, and stress relief for scratch-happy cats.