cardboard boxes

A Free Cat House? You Bet!

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The house I am describing is just what I said. It’s a house for my cat. Quite a few years ago the folks who lived next door to us moved to another house about a mile or so away and as it happens one of their cats apparently wanted to stay in our neighborhood because he kept running away and living outside on his own. The cat’s owners asked the neighbors to capture him if we could and they would take him back to their new house. Neighbors would call out his name “Hunter” when they saw him and attracted him to a pet carrier cage to be returned to his owners. That happened a couple of times so they tried to keep him inside which proved to be a very bad Idea. He wanted out so badly that he practically destroyed their home. When they let him out he ran away again. The family moved farther away, but he still wanted to stay in our neighborhood. He was out on his own for maybe a year when one day he approached my wife and daughter as they got out of the car coming home from work. His “voice” was so deep that it sounded like he was in pain. He let my daughter and wife pet him and seemed healthy enough. Some days later he came up to my daughter again and she felt sorry for him and gave him some cat food and water. We already had three cat companions living in our house so we already had the food. In my column We Don’t Have Pets. They Have Us.published in December 2014 I discussed our “in-house only” cat family.

Place Where Hunter First Came Up To Us | Photo by Tim Chuey
Place Where Hunter First Came Up To Us | Photo by Tim Chuey

Well Hunter started hanging around our house so we set out food and water bowls for him at the top of our brick front steps. He seemed to like our company and we really liked him. I decided it would be if he had some sort of a house to live in to protect him from the elements. We have no idea where he had been staying, but a house was the next order of business. The brick stoop at our front door isn’t wide enough for any real pet house I could find for sale. So I put my thinking cap on and came up with another solution.

Scotch Brand Cellophane Tape | Image by Gizmodo.com through 3M
Scotch Brand Cellophane Tape | Image by Gizmodo.com through 3M

As a child I would have toys etc. break or crack and my solution to most of those problems was “Scotch Tape.” I used it so often that my mother started calling me the Scotch Tape kid. This was of course before I had duck or duct tape or any of our strong bonding glues of today. According to the Scotch® Brand website “In 1903 Richard Drew, a young 3M engineer, invents Scotch® Brand Cellulose Tape. Later to be renamed Cellophane Tape, it is an attractive moisture-proof way for grocers and bakers to seal packages. The tape helps people “make do” during the Great Depression, they made simple repairs to household items.”

Scotty McTape And History Of Scotch® Brand Tape | Image by www,historyandheadlines.com
Scotty McTape And History Of Scotch® Brand Tape | Image by www,historyandheadlines.com

The tape dispenser they called “the snail” was first marketed in 1939 and it was made out of metal. The company started using a cartoon character boy named Scotty McTape to advertise the brand in 1944 and his Wallace tartan kilt became his outfit in 1945.

Building Hunters New House In My Garage | Photo by Tim Chuey
Building Hunters New House In My Garage | Photo by Tim Chuey

Now back to my problem of how to make an outdoor house for Hunter that will keep him warm and dry and still fit on the stoop so we could still open our front door. Oh, and it also had to be cheap. Free would be even better. While shopping at Costco, actually Costco Wholesale Corporation, it struck me like a lightning bolt. If you go through the checkout and have a lot of small and medium sized items the will offer to put them in a box. They have stacks of boxes in all sizes and shapes from the products they have on the shelves. I got one that was a flat box about 3 or 4 inches deep and a second bigger box that when it was put on its side would fit inside the flat box. That could make a nice house for Hunter. Cardboard will not stand up to wet weather and it is not a good insulator. I happened to have, in my garage, a large garbage bag full of styrofoam that I hadn’t yet recycled.

Styrofoam Insulation Glued and Taped | Photo by Tim Chuey
Styrofoam Insulation Glued and Taped | Photo by Tim Chuey

(The pictures are of the new replacement house, since I didn’t take pictures while building the first one.) There were many pieces, some flat some thick and some quite large. I decided to take some of the smaller and relatively thin pieces about an inch-and-a-half thick and tape them onto the outside of the box. That would make good insulation. Next I needed something to protect the boxes from wet weather. I took an old blue vinyl tarp and folded it quite like you would wrap a Christmas present except that one end was left open. He had to have a way to get inside, didn’t he?  I then rummaged through our linen closet to find some old towels. The first thing I put in the box was an old mattress pad. That was to soften the bottom. Then I folded some old bath towels and laid them on top of the  mattress pad. There you have it. A shelter from the weather that would also be a comfortable home for Hunter. And it was absolutely free.

Scotch® Brand Packaging Tape | Photo by Tim Chuey
Scotch® Brand Packaging Tape | Photo by Tim Chuey

Oh, you might wonder how I stuck the styrofoam to the box. That’s simple. I used, you guessed it, Scotch® Brand Packaging tape to hold the styrofoam to the box and the tarp together around the box.

Insulated Boxes Wrapped In Tarp | Photo by Tim Chuey
Insulated Boxes Wrapped In Tarp | Photo by Tim Chuey

That was some years ago now and his house was getting pretty beaten up. Like Snoopy, Hunter likes to sit on the top of the box and survey his surroundings. The top of the box started to sag pretty badly and the bottom was falling apart on the inside due to the moisture sifting down through the layers of towels finally getting to the cardboard. Also, some of the tape had curled and come loose flapping in the breeze.

Hunter's Old House With Dented Roof | Photo by Tim Chuey
Hunter’s Old House With Dented Roof | Photo by Tim Chuey

So, off I went to Costco and got two more boxes to make a new house for Hunter. This time I used thicker styrofoam and glued it to the box with Elmer’s Glue-All. Then I used the Scotch® Brand clear strapping tape to better secure the foam sheets and then to secure the tarp as the final covering.

The day I built the new house I realized as I was working that the tarp I wanted to use to replace the old one was not going to work. I just turned the old tarp inside-out and it worked perfectly. I cleaned the brick steps and the top platform before placing his new house back where it belonged. When I fed Hunter his dinner he finally went in the box to go to sleep, but not until he spent some time out-and-about in our neighborhood.

Hunter In His New House | Photo by Tim Chuey
Hunter In His New House | Photo by Tim Chuey

Just as before, when his bedding gets wet I bring it in, wash and dry it and put it back in his house. You can tell he appreciates it, particularly when it’s cold in the winter, because I take them right out of the drier and put the warm towels down for his bed. He then immediately jumps into the box and cuddles up in the warm towels. With just a little thought and some creative use of items not made for the particular purpose many things can be made or fixed without spending one thin dime.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].