This upcycled cardboard cat scratcher is a great way to use up all your corrugated cardboard boxes. Cats love it, and it’s a useful donation to your local animal shelter.
There comes a time in every person’s life when they find themselves simply awash with cardboard. Maybe you just finished unpacking from your latest move. Maybe you went a little too ham on the most recent gift-giving holiday. Maybe your Girl Scout troop sold 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies and now you have 250 empty cookie cases to show for it.
Whatever the situation that has left you with too much corrugated cardboard, I have the perfect solution: an upcycled cardboard cat scratcher!
Cats LOVE this style of cat scratcher, and it’s a great one to make for them because it’s eco-friendly on both ends: use upcycled cardboard to make it, and recycle it when you’re done with it. Make a few of these cat scratchers and tuck them around your space so your cat never has an excuse to sharpen their claws on your furniture. If you don’t have cats, make these cat scratchers anyway and donate them to your local animal shelter. My local animal shelter specifically requests this style, and my Girl Scout troop enjoys making and donating them.
This cat scratcher is an improved version of the two types that I made back in 2020. In the years since, I’ve refined my style to what my own cats and the animal shelter prefer, and redesigned the scratcher to be sturdier and more easily recyclable. My own cats do still really like that round one from the 2020 tutorial, and that’s a great style if you’ve got a lot of room to devote to a nice, big cat scratcher. This version here, though, has a more inconspicuous profile, transports better, and my local animal shelter says it works better in their cat enclosures.
To make this upcycled cardboard cat scratcher, you will need:
- lots of corrugated cardboard. If you’re using Girl Scout cookie cases, you’ll need about five per cat scratcher. Otherwise, prepare to cut up more cardboard than you thought you’d need–this cat scratcher uses a LOT!
- measuring and cutting tools. At the minimum, you need a ruler and a pair of sturdy scissors. The work will go quicker with a quilting ruler, self-healing cutting mat, and craft knife.
- hot glue gun and hot glue. You’re not going to use much, but this is still an essential component.
Step 1: Cut the bottom off of a box.
Choose a cardboard box whose area at the bottom has the dimensions that you’re looking for in a cat scratcher.
Measure 2″ up from the bottom of the box all the way around, then cut. Reserve the rest of the box for Step 2.
The bottom of this box will be the base for your cat scratcher.
If necessary, reinforce the bottom box flaps with hot glue.
Step 2: Cut corrugated cardboard into strips.
Flatten and/or disassemble a corrugated cardboard box, then examine it to see which way to cut. You want to cut across the corrugations, not parallel to them. When you cut, the cut edge of the box should show a cross-section of the corrugations–that’s what the kitties love to dig their claws into!
Use a ruler and craft knife to cut a 2″ wide strip down the cardboard, then repeat until you’ve cut up the entire box. Recycle or repurpose any leftover cardboard.
Measure the length of your box bottom, and cut the cardboard strips to this length. Recycle/repurpose any end pieces that don’t reach the correct length.
Continue cutting cardboard into strips until you have enough strips to completely fill the box bottom. If you’re making these from Girl Scout cookie cases, it takes about five cases, including the one you cut the box bottom from, to make this cat scratcher.
Step 3: Insert strips into the box bottom, gluing as you go.
After you’ve got enough strips, dump them all out of the box bottom and set up the hot glue gun. Lightly glue the strips together as you reinsert them.
This is my biggest improvement over the 2020 version of this cat scratcher; when the strips weren’t glued together, I found that occasionally my cats would snag their claws into one and pull it out of the box! THIS cat scratcher keeps all its strips nice and snug inside for ultimate cat scratching perfection.
Step 4 (optional): Glue the cat scratcher to the base.
If you want to make the cat scratcher REALLY sturdy, then after all the strips are glued together, carefully pry the whole thing out of the box bottom, then use hot glue to lightly glue it back in. This will keep even the most enthusiastic cat from pulling the entire cat scratcher out of its base.
Either way, the added beauty of this corrugated cardboard cat scratcher is that it’s DOUBLE-SIDED! When a cat has worn one side of the scratcher down, carefully pry it out of the base (the hot glue should peel away fairly easily, if you weren’t too enthusiastic when you glued it), flip it over, and reinsert it, re-gluing it as necessary.
This is one of my all-time favorite upcycling projects. It’s a nearly-waste-free way to turn trash into treasure, it fills an incredibly useful niche in cat gear that you’d otherwise have to buy new, and it’s a simple, cheap donation project that directly benefits the most innocent creatures in your local community.
I challenge you (and me!) to make every unwanted corrugated cardboard box that comes into our lives into a cat scratcher for use or donation.