How to Build a Cat Castle

One of our foster kittens crept into the castle’s gatehouse. Another peeked through one of many lancet windows. A third jumped onto the wall-walk between the two towers. The fourth kitten rested her front paws against one of the towers and surveyed our living room. Andy and I had just introduced our foster kittens to our homemade cardboard castle.

Cats love boxes. No one knows exactly why, but there are several theories. Security is probably the number one reason. A study done by the University of Utrecht discovered that the shelter cats who were given hiding boxes showed less stress and adapted more quickly to their new environment than those who weren’t given boxes. Similarly, boxes can serve as a “safe zone” that allow cats recover from a spat. Boxes also provide cats a concealed location from which to survey prey. Speaking of instincts, cats are notorious scratchers and boxes make for great scratching. Thanks to their paws having scent pads, cats leave their scent on whatever they scratch, and therefore boxes are easily claimed as part of a cat’s territory. Warmth is another reason that cats love boxes. Cats are most comfortable between 86 – 97 degrees, which is warmer than the average home, and boxes provide the necessary insulation for cats to achieve their preferred temperature. Finally, cats just find boxes fun!

A cardboard castle has all these benefits and more. A cardboard castle is essentially a large box with many rooms, levels, and windows, providing cats with many places to explore, hide, and play.

Are you interested in creating a cardboard castle for your feline friends? All the tools and materials needed are cheap and easy to come by. You probably have most of the items already in your house, and the rest can be found at a hardware or craft store.

Materials Needed

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Decorative paper

Tools Needed

  • Yardstick or tape measure
  • Pencil, pen, or marker
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors
  • Duct Tape
  • Optional: Nontoxic glue and hot glue gun

We had no trouble finding boxes, having recently moved. To hold everything together, we used duct tape. You might use nontoxic glue and a glue gun instead, if your cat(s) make a habit of chewing boxes, as swallowed tape can get stuck in a cat’s intestines, perhaps resulting in death. Covering the cardboard boxes in decorative paper can be skipped for the same reason. Andy and I used pencils to mark cuts. Andy traced around templates, so the doors and windows would be consistent. A ruler and measuring tape came in handy for obtaining accurate measurements. We used a combination of a utility knife and scissors to cut the doors and windows; a utility knife was easier to use but posed more risk due to its sharp blade.

Instructions

  • Decide on a basic layout for your cat castle. Andy and I designed a castle with a gatehouse with a tower on either side. We used a large packaging box for the gatehouse, medium moving boxes for the bases of the two towers, and small moving boxes for the top level of the towers.
  • Tape all the boxes closed. Because I wanted children to be able to follow our instructions, we used duct tape instead of a glue gun. The latter should not be used without adult supervision.
  • Make a template for your doors. Andy traced a bowl for the curved top of the door, then used a ruler to make the sides. Then trace the template to make the door of the gatehouse. Make sure the door is large enough for your cats, but also don’t make the doors too big. Cats are agile and can squeeze through tight spaces. Our doors should have been smaller. When cutting the gatehouse door, leave it attached at the bottom, so it can be lowered and raised.
  • Trace the door template to make a door at either end of the gatehouse, then cut out the doors completely.
  • Trace the door template on one side of each tower base, then cut out these doors completely. These doors will match up with the doors at either end of the gatehouse.
  • Trace the door template on one side of each box that will become the top level of a tower. These doors will exit onto the wall-walk (aka, the roof of the gatehouse).
  • Make a template for your windows. It can be any shape you wish. We made our windows tall and narrow, tapering to a point at the top. Trace the template wherever you want a window, then cut out the windows. Tip: Keep your windows small, just wide enough for a cat to reach its paw through. We made ours too big.
  • Cut an opening in the top of each box that will become the base of a tower. Then cut openings in the bottom of each box that will become the top level of a tower. This will give your cats a second way into and out of the tower bases. It’s good for cats to have an escape route.
  • To make battlements, cut cardboard scraps into even strips, and then cut out square notches. Adhere these around the top of each section of each box that will become the top level of a tower.
  • Arrange the boxes and adhere them with tape or glue. Make sure all connecting doors line up.


  • For a finishing touch embellish the castle with decorative paper. You’ll notice from our photos that Andy and I have yet to complete this step.

Andy and I used the book Cat Castles by Carin Oliver as our guide. The book tips for ensuring your cat castle is usable, safe, cozy, and beautiful. Regards to keeping your castle safe, ensure it is sturdy by using double-thick cardboard or otherwise reinforcing your structure. Also, don’t use decorative items that cats might swallow.

Regards to making your castle beautiful, Cuteness offers nifty ideas such as synthetic grass and flower pots in the courtyard and hammocks in the towers. Cats can’t see fine detail or rich color, and so they won’t care about how their castle is decorated. The decorating is for you; have fun with it!

If you and your cats enjoy this project, please post photos in the comments. Also, check out the other 19 cardboard habitats described in Cat Castles. All the projects are quick to assemble and require materials that are cheap and easy to find. You can also, just like Andy and I did, customize them to suit your home.

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