DIYdiy projects

diy project: recycled cardboard kitty pad

by Grace Bonney

in honor of a brand new year, the common ‘material’ for this month’s projects will be a theme: new year’s resolutions! we all make them, we all break them, but you have to try right? this week’s resolution is “waste not, want not”. every few months i purchase my cat a scratch pad from trader joe’s and he loves it…but if you look closely, it’s just a box full of corrugated cardboard! why spend the money when i can use all my old shipping boxes (from december’s online gifting spree) to make him a stylish scratch pad for free? it’s still completely recyclable, but a bit more personalized and made with love. happy crafting! –kate

p.s. i apologize to any non-cat owner’s for the cat-centric nature of this post!

click here for the full project or just click “read more” below.

Recycled Cardboard Kitty Pad

What You’ll Need:

1. cardboard boxes (all sizes, all kinds, at least 5 medium size boxes)
2. masking tape
3. exacto blade and ruler
4. scrap paper, felt, or fabric
5. decorative paper or fabric


1. Choose a height for the pad (mine is 4″)
2. Measure and cut your cardboard in identical width strips. Cut so that the ridges in the cardboard are going horizontally across the strips.
3. Start rolling the cardboard in your hands and bending at each corrugation, the cardboard will start to curl naturally.
4. Tightly wind one strip into a circle and tape closed. This will be the core of your round.
5. Add a new piece and secure with two pieces of masking tape. Choose which side will be the top and make sure that side is always even. It is less important if the other side is slightly uneven, it will still sit properly and the top will look perfect.
6. Keep adding! Tape each piece right next to the end of the last piece and keep the coiling tight.

7. Cut your pretty paper and wrap it around the outside. Tape to close.
8. Trace onto the scrap fabric or paper and cut out the circle. Tape or glue to the bottom so that if you choose to put catnip in it it won’t spill through.
9. Put on the ground, sprinkle on catnip, and watch as hilarious cat antics ensue.

Suggested For You


  • Fantastic!! My tigers love love love those cardboard scratchers and what a great way to recycle and repurpose all those leftover shipping boxes from the holidays!

  • how cute. and that first picture of your kitty is so precious. i find it so hard to take interesting pics of my cats. that’s a great one!

  • I have a feeling my Yorkie (the canine paper shredder) would get a kick out this, too!

  • Wonderful! Each time I buy my cat a new scratching pad, I think to myself that I should be more industrious and make my own. Thanks for the easy instructions.

  • I’ve just moved, so I throwing away tons of cardboard away right now. I guess I’ll make tons of scratchers instead !

    It really is a wonderful idea !!

  • We just moved and have plenty of boxes for this project. Now I feel silly for buying all those expensive cardboard scratchers. Thanks for your creativity!

  • i don’t have cats but my dogs (lab-husky and st. bernard mix) love chewing cardboard! the only problem is that i don’t like picking up the slobbery pieces! ick!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I always want to make my own cardboard cat scratchers/furniture but have never figured out how.

  • OMG. My cats love tearing up cardboard and I always buy those pricey refills for the round scratchy toys. BUT! not anymore, I sell Avon too so I always have a supply of boxes this will be a great reuse before recycling project. Thanks so much!!

  • Oh my gosh, I buy those Trader Joe’s scratch pads all the time and the cats tear through them. I bet it would be easy to create a basic shape (a squirrel?) and continue layer cardboard around that.

  • Thank you so much! My cat will love it. I couldn’t figure out a simple way to make one.

  • oh that is such a good idea! why didn’t i think of that? i hate paying petco $9 for these cardboard scratching pads. now i’ll make them on my own! thanks!!

  • i love this! keep the cat posts and diy projects coming! some cat toys and furniture are SOO expensive so this is a great alternative. I notice that cool, design-oriented hip people often have cats- it’s because they’re the coolest.

  • Wow, I have been trying to figure out a way to make my own cat scratch pad after having the same thought about how stupid it was to buy one! Genius.

  • Yay! This is great. I’m tired of the cat discrimination that goes on in most pet places–why are dog collars, toys, etc. almost always WAY cuter (and more to choose from) than the cat choices!?! Thanks for this great post!

  • FANTASTIC!!! We just installed our air conditioner here and we still have the Boxes. Now I know what to do with it. Brilliant.

  • sb

    the form between these two projects is pretty different.

    if you’re going to draw comparisons between any modern cat scratcher made with corrugated cardboard you may want want to start getting upset about the similarities between these pieces as well.



    modern cat scratchers made from corrugated cardboard have been popular for a while. corrugated cardboard is an easy, cheap and effective material to work with.


  • This is a great idea! Usually kitties love things that are around the house anyway, rather than the expensive stuff you find at the store.

  • I, too, have always thought I should be making my own, and thank you for the easy instructions. I think I won’t put a bottom on mine, though, so I can turn it over when it’s torn through and get a second life out of the thing! (That or make an easily removable bottom circle.)

  • This is fabulous! Thanks so much for a inspiring post. I’m definitely making this, this weekend!

  • What a fabulous idea! I like that I can paint the side and make it pretty enough to work in my house. The cats are taking over around here, 4 cats and a puppy, way too many! But I love ’em all.

  • You rock. Thanks for posting instructions on how to do this, because I too purchase the TJ’s one and often had the same thoughts, but never really carried them through to a proper conclusion. Now I feel prepared to tackle this DIY dilemma!

  • My cat was adopted and declawed by his previous owner. He doesn’t need to scratch, but he LOVES sitting on things (pedestals). I think he is going to fall in love with me all over again when I make this for him!

  • Oh my! I can’t wait to go home and make this. I just can’t make myself but the expensive ones but this will be just perfect. Thanks for the instructions.

  • As a girl on a never-ending quest for practical (and affordable!) DIY projects, I SO appreciate this contribution. My cat needs as many play spaces as possible, or the excess energy gets taken out directly on the furniture. This is attractive, super-easy, and virtually free. Many thanks!

  • I am SOOO excited about this! We buy those premade pads and our cats just love them. I can’t wait to try making my own!!! Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ll be linking in The Daily DIY.

  • Dangit! I just recycled a bunch of boxes a few days ago, and I have 3 cats who LOVE cardboard scratchers. And I love putting catnip on the scratchers and watching them go wild. Good times. I will definitely hang onto some boxes to make this.

    Love it!!!

  • You posted this the same day I brought home my first cat. I was at the store looking at scratching blocks thinking “Um? Isn’t this cardboard? Why must I pay for cardboard when I go out of my way to recycle the stuff?” So I’m glad you showed me how to do it on my own! Thank you!

  • Haa, I’ve been thinking of making one ever since I realised the pet store wanted me to pay $35 for cardboard! Thanks for this!

  • my cat used to get so excited when I received a package…he would cry and paw at the contents until I removed it so he could get in! He was like”oh boy, somebody sent us a box”… wish I had had this idea too…

  • Absolutely brilliant! I’ve refused to buy these for my cat because it was just cardboard. I can’t wait to make this! She’s going to be thrilled. Thank you!

  • Very, very original your work ..
    Greetings from Argentina

    Pd: Sorry if this poorly written, is that I do not know the language and I used to write the translation of Google

  • Perfect! I love projects that involve re-using stuff and we just adopted a cat yesterday! Thanks.

  • Made one today. took awhile and I would suggest using a rolling pin or a bat or something to help crease/roll the cardboard. pix on flickr! mine was only about 2-3″ high and I used abou 3 boxes to make it 10″ diameter

  • This is great. I always thought I should just figure out how to make one of these rather than spend the money on them. And since I’m moving in two weeks, I’ll have plenty of extra cardboard on hand.

  • You know, I did this a few years ago for my cat with a slightly different design, but I could never get the cardboard pieces to stay in – my cat would always pull them out and make a huge mess. Maybe I’ll try this design and see if it works better. If your cats are really determined to pull out the cardboard the commercially made ones are at least really well stuck!

  • I had noticed that those store scratchers were just corregated cardboard and was going to make one myself. But I like the round idea much better. I don’t have to build a box that way! Great idea…

  • My sister-in-law sent me your blog and I was poking around when I should be working and came across this… we just got two kittens not too long ago and I hate how ugly a lot of the scratching pads are… I LOVE THIS!! And, we buy everything from Amazon so we have SOOO many boxes! This is awesome. Thanks!

  • I just love this, thank you so much, I’m digging through the garage right now for boxes. Izzy, BamBam, mommy is making you something fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Just finished making this great scratch pad for my sisters cat Shake. Hope he likes it and if not, I really enjoyed making it! I used left over wall paper for decorating the outside.

  • My cat always likes odd hiding places where something I like ends up getting dirty, this will keep his satisfied! Thanks a ton!

  • i do these an easier way. i just cut strips the same rectangular shape, and stack them with a bit of glue between. then i wrap/glue a pretty piece of paper around the outside. it’s not round, but it’s just as effective, and it takes WAY less time than making round ones. (which i USED to do, before my friend Jen bought a rectangular scratch-boardthing at petco.)

    easy peasy! and no rolling required.


  • omg! duh! Why on earth didn’t i think of that? We have scratching posts like this one except shorter and they fit into a plastic mold that has a ball they can bat around in a “canal” that goes around it. They can destroy the cardboard in them within a matter of weeks (or just a few days if we add fresh catnip). Oftentimes they go without for long periods of time because they quickly destroy them, literally yanking out the center and tearing the rest apart.. then we don’t have the time/money to go by replacements.

    I’m staring at your picture slapping my forehead.. “Duh! Duh!! How did I not see this??” :)

    Thank you!

  • What I am going to do is make a rectangular one and place in front the litterbox. My cat has a tiny litter alcove, but manages to get the stuff everywhere. Hopefully this will force him to wipe his feet after use.

  • I love this! I have 13 cats and go through those store scratch pads like crazy. I was just thinking about making them myself. This is way easier than what I was thinking of. Thanks!

  • I’m in the process of making one right now. It seems like it’s taking forever. Thinking about chucking it and just buying the $4 at Trader Joe’s. Great idea in theory though.

  • My cats tore up the one I made. My girlfriend’s solution: she cinched an old belt around the outside. Works great!

  • My cats go nuts for the cheapo cardboard scratchers, so I had to try this project out. We have two Maine Coon cats, and one of them is pretty sizable. So I ended up going big and making one big enough for them both to fit on. As soon as I set it down they went right to it and now it’s their favorite place to hang.

    Here’s the pics:

    Thanks for the great idea!!!

  • This is great. So simple.
    I have a question about putting it together. Is it made with concentric rings (like the trunk of a tree) or do you just keep adding strips with tape and wind it like a spiral?

  • Hey! Thanks for the instructions. I made one of these for my cats last night. So far they are only staring at it funny, but I am going to put some catnip on it later and watch them attack it :)

  • I’m in the process of making one, the kittens absolutely love it.

    How large is yours in diameter? I didn’t realize just how big my cat had grown until this project. =P

  • Fantastic!!!! And so simple! I love the clean beauty of a simple design! My girls aer going to LOVE this!

  • Thanks for the tip! I have 13, yes a bakers dozen, cats and they LOVE the cardboard rounds and climbers. I will try to make this, just never thought of it…duh! My cats will thank you too!

  • Thanks for thinking outside the “box” on this one – round is great. I knew somebody had a way to make these and I am definitely making one this weekend.

  • Amazing!! I made one and my cats fight over who gets to sleep on it every day. I think they love it more because mom made it just for them!

  • I just finished mine – haven’t added the decorative edge yet, but so far so good – the kitty is definitely interested – thanks!

  • Hey

    Really glad to get into this forum
    It’s what I am looking for.
    Hope to know more member here.

  • Thanks for the instructions to this great cat scratcher! No cat owner should have to buy one for over $5.

  • Omg, thank you! It’s so cute too! I’m never buying another one of those from the store again! One that size would probably run me up to $20. I have a big kitty with a round belly. If you figure out how to make one of those cat trees, please post that too! They run up to $200 at PETCO.

  • A great result from such a simple idea. I’m off to make use of the pile of cardboard in my garage, hopefully my two kitties will appreciate it.

  • I just completed a cat scratching post for my two kitties based on these instructions. What a great idea! It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it–this is an excellent way to be sustainable in a meaningful way! Thanks for the information!

  • I´ve done it and one of my cats loves it. She usually spends some time scratching it.

    Really great idea!! Thanks a lot!!

  • Although I agree that this took a lot of work, it’s obvious that the end-result would be beneficial to one’s cats as well as the owner’s furniture. I’m sure many more would appreciate it because it’s pleasing to the eye.

  • What a great idea, your own personalized scratching pad for your cat. I’m going to have to try this out, hopefully my two cats will like it.

  • What a great way to recycle! I think I’ll give it a try, but won’t it be difficult to train my cat to scratch it instead of his scratching post?

    • Cat

      Not at all- most cats love to scratch new things ;)

      But you can always sprinkle a little catnip on top to entice them to visit and scratch.


  • Thanks for the idea. I’m too cheap to pay for cardboard scratchers. And, I was just trying to figure out how to transport a giant shipping box to the recycling place. All I’ve got to do is find my exacto knife. I’m going to try using a hot glue gun. I have lots of catnip in the garden to put to use.

  • Thank you!!! We have been spending a small fortune on Turbo Scratcher refills, now we can make these instead!!!!! Bless your heart! With 6 kitties we were really needing a cheaper way to keep them occupied… =^..^=

  • My cat tears them up starting in the middle. I found if I put a piece of wide tape over the middle, it lasts a lot longer.

  • THANK YOU! You have saved my sofa, curtains, shades, ect.! My cat was tearing up everything! She absolutely LOVES her new scratch pad! I throw a pinch of cat nip in and she goes crazy! YEAH!

  • This is amazing! I made one for my new kitty when i brought him home from the rescue shelter & he LOVES it. he sits on it all night and uses it as a look out point and goes to it every time for a good old scratch. Great idea! Thanks.

  • This is great! my cat likes to tear apart cardboard! it will probably be a complete mess but o well! whatever makes kitty happy :P

  • FYI you can go to any McDonald’s and they have a container that they put all their boxes in so the recyclers will pick it up. Well they are free for the taking. You can get as many as they have. We have done this several times when we have moved and it would be perfect for this project.

  • Thanks sooo much for this idea as we are bringing home our kitten tomorrow and I just couldn’t believe that I was going to be charged nearly $30 for a rectangular cardboard version of the same thing. I am going to love doing this project with our three year old. Greeting from Australia. This might also interest you. It is a cat bed made from a sweater and it is just brilliant. I don’t know that I would felt the sweater the next time as it shrunk down to a mini sweater, but still could be used…kind regards, Regina

  • This project is awesome. I’ve been wanting to get my Ernie one of these cardboard scratchers from one of the pet stores but couldn’t stomach the price and the looks of them. Now I can make my own, design it myself and spend next to nothing. :)

  • I’m one of those cat owners that spends a fortune on them but I have learned that the more simple the toy, the more they love it. I made a tunnel out of cardboard off-cuts and they still play with it a year later..or rather what’s left of it.

    The kitty pad will be my next project!

  • THANKS! I always wanted to make these – instead of buying since my work gets rid of truck loads of cardboard every week.

  • I tried this a while back and , while my cat loves it, it looks too homemade. I just couldn’t cut the pieces well enough so that they were all exaaaactly the same height when all coiled up. Next time I do one I’ll buy a new x-acto knife blade and use smaller boxes. Yours looks great!

  • Thank you thank you thank you for the wonderful and innovative idea on how to make a cat scratcher instead of having to buy the overpriced versions at a store! I followed your instructions but made some modifications so I could just finish the project with tape instead of having to find paper/fabric for it, oh and I made it shorter so I could have more strips out of one cardboard box. The first one I made by hand cutting the strips with a utility knife, which took me 2.5 hrs for a 16″ diameter scratcher; after that my boyfriend ran a couple of boxes through a table saw in under 10 minutes, so all I have to do is tape the strips together – yay! This will be an excellent project for my younger sister as she is too young to volunteer at animal shelters but wants to help kitties. Cat scratchers galore, coming to a shelter near us! Thank you again!
    You can view my scratcher at http://pinterest.com/pin/204913851765077855/

  • I am in the process of doing it right now-my bed is a mess lol! It is VERY time consuming but an awesome craft! My year old kitten is patiently waiting!!!

  • This is so creative and you dont have to spend at all!! I will make it today for my two cats Naysa and Bruna :)))

  • Thank you! I knew there was something I could do with all of my moving boxes. My cats will enjoy helping make it too!

  • What about making a shape template from a craft letter or some shape at a craft store….or use a picture frame to build around then fill in to make a square/rectangle.

  • i made one…did not come out as pretty as yours but it is what it is. i found my circle was too loose when i taped the cardboard to the end of the last cardboard and used probably more tape than you did!! Ah well waiting to see if the cat likes it and helped save the environment!! :) thanks for the idea

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I just got a new cat and I am unhappy with prices for toys and scratch pads. This is wonderful and a great way to recycle my old boxes before recycling them .

  • LOVE the idea…..I did try this & it came out ok I guess….My question is, how do you get the bottom to be completely secure so they kitties won’t tear it off? I used tape as the directions suggested but to me it looks too easy to come off. Next time I think I will try it a bit smaller like maybe 2″ tall. AWESOME for the babies

  • What a great idea! We just got a rescue cat yesterday and she is busy scratching the rug – me and the kids were going to rush out and buy a scratch post this morning but now we’ll stay in and make one for our furry friend. Thank you

  • I always looked at pet stuff and said “I make that with stuff at home ” So when I gave my daughter her kitten two weeks ago; She wanted to go out and buy out the stores for her new friend. I had her add up everything she wanted to buy it came too $249.87! She went into sticker stock. 8^o I told her I could make most of the toys and scratching pads for free. With a little brain storming we cut that price down to $35.00! That was for kitty litter, food, liners and pan!

  • I have been looking for these since I moved to Germany and can’t find one (not under 25 EUR!) but I’ve got plenty of boxes stored away so I will definitely make this for my furry felines! Thanks for the tips :-)

  • Oh boy is my boyfriend going to scratch himself!!!!!@@#$$%&&% All this time he has been spending ridiculous amounts of time and money searching for these cardboard scratching refills for his cats. Just think all these years he could have had me slaving away like Rumplestitskin with all the boxes that he has hidden behind the front door from ebay purchases. I think I will just give him the website and tell him to make his own!!

  • We found a custodial supply store that ordered a 6 foot roll of this and they also cut it in any width we want. We chose the 4 ” , so got a bunch of pads. I rolled it a little tighter and secured with packing tape. We then glued burlap patterned trim to it. They last forever. The older cats that cant stretch up and kittens love it. Sprinkled cat nip on.

  • I’m in the middle of making one right now, and intend to make more, my big question is..What was the diameter of your finished project? I’m not quite sure how I’ll tell when it’s done as far as coiling goes.


  • I made an XL one since my boy is quite large. Diameter 20″ × height 5″. The patterned paper was done using leftover scrap paper. Nothing wasted. All I spent on was a roll of double-sided tape and masking tape. All that for less than SGD10. Price of such scratching blocks will easily cost SGD30 to 50 and those are usually too small for my cat. Thanks so much for the idea! My cat loves it and I had a therapeutic time making this. Picture is on my instagram.

  • We used to have a few corrugated scratchers but I couldn’t justify the cost to keep replacing them. I’ll definitely be making one of these for my kitties.

  • Hi! This is a great idea, I just made a scratching pole and was trying to figure out how to secure it, your scratchpad would make a perfect base! So for those who want to add a bit more, make a scratch pole, put it in the middle and then wire the cardboard around. Why not put a toy on the top to make it even more fun? :D

  • We have some purchased cardboard scratch mats and the cats love them. Now I can make my own! Thanks for sharing.

    • You can do the same thing with strips to fill another cardboard box. If your cat likes a bit of a slant, cut the strips in wedges and do the same for the holding box. So many different ways to do this. My way too many beloved cats thank you!!!

  • This is a great idea! I’m worki on ne now. I get food and medicine from chewy. I thought this would be great for the boxes that comes in the mail. I also have the rest of the box for a cat bed. :)

  • Love this!! I’m halfway done with mine now. Cannot wait to give it to them!
    For those that have made it: does it need to be weighed down? I’m wondering if the cardboard alone won’t be heavy enough to provide enough resistance to the cat’s scratching and pulling.
    Maybe a plywood disc on the bottom? Any other ideas?