Introduction: Cardboard "Sardine Can" Cat Hideout

I didn't know exactly what to title this Instructable. It's not quite a cat house, nor is it really merely a cat bed. It is, however, a space just big enough in which my lady friend, Rudy, can hide out and lay low when she gets spooked -- and she often does, especially by the dogs. It's a little too small for my bigger cat, Arthur. When he tries to get inside, he's -- ahem --packed like a can of sardines.


For this cat hideaway, you'll need:

  • A rectangular cardboard box (big enough for your cat when it's sitting on one of its long sides)
  • A brown paper grocery bag (or some brown packaging paper will also do)
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Scissors + a craft/X-Acto knife
  • A pencil
  • Hot glue gun + hot glue sticks
  • Two pipe cleaners

Step 1: Find the Perfect Box

You'll want to make sure your box is 1) rectangular, 2) big enough for your cat, 3) shorter than it is long, and 4) liked by your cat(s).

My box dimensions were: 18" wide by 13.5" deep by 8.5" tall. I think it's considered a medium-large by Amazon box standards.

Step 2: Cut Off the Flaps

Using a pair of scissors or carefully using a sharp craft knife, cut off the top flaps, leaving 1.5" on each flap.

Step 3: Annie, Get Your Hot-Glue Gun

Plug in your hot-glue gun and glue the little 1.5" flaps down to each other, longer flaps over short flaps.

Step 4: Use Leftover Cardboard

Use the two shorter leftover flaps that you cut off earlier and hot glue them down so about 2/3 of the top of the box is covered.

Step 5: Start Paintin'

Find some brown paper grocery bags or some brown packaging material. This stuff is thicker than normal paper, so it'll be sturdier, and you can most likely make a pretty big sheet out of it.

You'll need to cut out a piece that fits exactly over the top of the box. So in my case, I needed a rectangular piece that was exactly 18" x 13.5". I was lucky enough that 1/2 a bag (minus the bottom) from my grocery store was exactly the size I needed.

Paint this entire sheet with some white acrylic paint.

Step 6: Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Outlines

After the white paint has dried, use a pencil and a light hand to start drawing your sardine in the middle of the page. Realize that the tail fin will mostly not actually be seen by the end of this project, but go ahead and draw it anyway. Draw the scales, the fins, and the eye. And also lightly sketch out where your words are going to be. I decided to go with "Sardines of the Sea," but I'm sure there's a more clever, punnier phrase you can think of.

Step 7: Start With the Fish

Start painting your fish with a fine-tipped paintbrush and some black acrylic paint. For mine, I knew I really wanted to see the words that I had placed on top of the fish, so I decided to leave those scales un-painted. I did, though, do some simple cross hatching near the bottom of the fish to give it a little more detail.

Step 8: Paint the Words

Use a different color for your words. I used red for my "Sardines of the Sea," because I thought it would be a nice contrast.

You can also add some more details, like a rounded border, the "net weight," and some simple but flashy lines in the lower-left and upper-right-hand corners.

I also decided to round the corners of the paper using my scissors.

If you want, you can go over the whole thing with Mod Podge or some kind of finishing spray or what-have-you when your design is dry.

Step 9: Open Up the Can

Using another piece of leftover cardboard, make a model of the open gap of the cardboard box. Then use that to trace a square-ish C-shape and cut using a craft knife (after placing the paper on a piece of cardboard, of course).

Step 10: Glue It On

Using your hot-glue gun again, glue on the paper to the box, starting from one side to the other. You can see here where I started rolling the paper, too. Later on, I used a pencil to make the roll a little tighter.

Step 11: Make a Sardine Key

All I did to make a sardine key was fold two yellow pipe cleaners on to themselves (therefore it's twice as thick as one pipe cleaner, so it's seen better from a distance), and bend one end into an upside-down triangle shape. Then I just dabbed a little hot glue on the back (where my index finger is in the photo) and stuck it in the rolled paper.

Step 12: All Done

To introduce your cat to their new box, you can put a few pieces of dry food inside. This easily did the trick for my sweet gal Rudy. She loves small, tight spaces, so this box is perfect for her. She loves it!

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