Introduction: Cat-shaped Gift Wrapping
The final item I had gotten a co-worker for our "Secret Santa" gift exchange was a fairly boring gift card. I wanted to make it a little bit more exciting and google found a picture of a gift, wrapped up like a cat. I decided this would be a quick and easy project to finish out the gift exchange. I estimated 1.5-2 hours and the project would be done and look spectacular. In reality, it took me 7.5 hours and the abomination above is what I created. Ultimately it was a hit at the office, so it could have been worse.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Scrap cardboard
- Scrab box (optional):
- Note: If I had to do it all over again I would probably use a scrap box 4x4x12 or so as the torso. This would make the final structure more rigid and would be easier to work with.
- Duct - for the head
- Masking - for the structure/body
- Scotch - to wrap the gift
Optional Materials (only needed if you have problems with legs splaying out):
- Wooden dowels/Bamboo Skewers
- Zip Ties
Materials if you want to add eyes:
- Scrap wire
- CR 2032 Battery + holder
- Bullet connectors or similar
- Note: I had planned on repurposing the battery holder for another project, so I used connectors. My co-worker liked the cat and kept it, so it would have been better to wire in a toggle switch and skip the connectors.
This was a last-minute project and I only had the time and materials to add some shoddy eyes. If you are planning this in advance the sky is the limit! I would at least add cat sounds when the box is moved if I ever made this again.
- Cutting mat
- Box knife
- Straight edge
- Scrap of 1" pvc or dowel
- Diagonal Cutter (dikes)
I would recommend some form of clips, especially if you make the torso the way I did. It helps to be able to make adjustments to the structure before you mount it permanently. The stapler was a great help for loosely tacking the legs on so you have both hands free to tape it up. The box knife will suffice for all the cutting, but the scissors were handy for trimming down the legs after they had been mounted to the structure.
Sorry, there are no pictures for the parts list. I was overly optimistic and took a picture of some cardboard, a box knife, tape, pvc roller, straight edge and clips. This was when I still thought I had an easy 2 hour project.
Step 2: Get Your Measurements
For this step you will need to corner and capture the most docile cat that you have access to. I chose Kira (pictured above), my favorite of the 3 cats that I am bound in servitude to. This cat likes to hang out in the garage with me, which meant I had her isolated to 1 room and it's cold out here in December, so she was already in my lap. She also is the least prone to lacerating me- this is a plus.
Initially, I thought that I would make a more or less anatomically correct cat box. So I was going to measure as I went. 2 things quickly became apparent. The first was that I lack even a marginal amount of talent to make this thing look like a cat, so having accurate measurements was a moot point. The second issue was that as docile as she may be, Kira did not like being measured. I couldn't find my cloth tape, so I settled on a ruler since a metal tape would probably terrify her. It turned out that the ruler made her pretty irate, so I have incomplete measurements. I have included a chart of what she did allow me to measure.
- Torso - 12"
- Hamstring - 5" wide
- Hamstring to knee - 5" long
- Knee - 1.5" wide
- Knee to foot - 4" long
- Front leg to shoulder - 5.5" long
I wear a medium to large glove and know from past experience that her head fits easily in my hand and that I am supposed to scratch her ears in chin if this happens. I would guess her head to be roughly the size of a tennis ball or baseball.
Step 3: Make the Torso
I used a scrap of cardboard 12" wide by about 18" long**. My torso was going to be about 12" overall length, and I figured I could trim down any excess length if necessary.
** This is where I would use a box if you have one available. 4"x4"x12" or thereabouts would probably be a good size. I think this will make your cat more rigid and will help with troubleshooting down the line, should you run into problems with the legs not being rigid enough. If you go the box route at the end of the project you will need to use more plastic bags around the body to break up the angular lines and shape your structure more like a cat.
I used corrugated cardboard for this step, so I cut my section so that the corrugations ran parallel to the 12" length of the body. The idea is that we will be forming this piece of cardboard into a tube, so we want to avoid fighting the corrugation when we are bending our material.
I took my scrap of 1" pvc pipe and wrapped the cardboard around it, to soften it up a bit and make it easier to form. Again, we want to be working with the structure of the cardboard, so the corrugations should easily wrap around the tube. If you are fighting the cardboard in this step you may have the corrugation offset 90 degrees, which will make everything much more difficult to accomplish.
Once you have the cardboard wrapped around the pipe or dowel you can let it unwind. It should now hold a bit of a curve on its own.
The seam where the 2 halves come together was going to be the cat's back and the belly would be a solid unbroken piece of cardboard. I thought this would lend some rigidity to the leg region and make it more stable. At this point I also drew in a centerline down the middle of what would become the cat's belly so I would have a reference point to space out the legs evenly.
Step 4: Hind Legs
I made the rear legs in 2 sections, the upper leg/hamstring area, and the lower leg. I started with the hamstring area first and then built and trimmed the lower leg as needed to make the legs roughly the same height so the cat would stand up.
I made the lower leg section by wrapping a piece of cardboard tightly around my pvc pipe and then taping it into a tube. The lower leg at this stage is mostly used as you test fit the upper leg to make sure everything looks about right. DO NOT attach the upper/lower leg sections together now, or it will cause you problems.
To make the hamstring I rolled a sheet of cardboard into a cone that about 5.5" wide when compressed to the appropriate thickness. I had measured the actual cat's leg at about 5" wide, so I wanted to make sure there was extra material that I could use to connect the leg to the body. I also made sure that there was enough room in the bottom of the upper leg section that my lower leg/tube would fit inside it.
I eyeballed the distance from the centerline that looked good to me and traced around the wider portion of the upper leg. This mark is your reference when you are removing material to allow the leg to pass through. You will want to start out cutting less material out and then gradually expand the hole until your leg fits the way you want it to. I inserted and removed the leg numerous times until I got it to sit properly at the angle I wanted.
In the pictures of my test fitting, there is an arrow drawn on the hamstring area. This is optional, but I wanted the leg to be angled forward a bit as if the cat were taking a step. The arrow let me make sure I oriented the leg the same way each time I went to test fit it. The horizontal line on the lower leg is roughly where the legs should connect to have an overall length that was in line with my measurements.
Once I had the upper leg oriented in the position I wanted it attached I drew a reference line around the entire thing on the inside of the torso. Then I took the leg back out of the torso and made 2 cuts, one at the front and one at the back of the leg. These cuts should only be on the excess oversized leg material that did not protrude past the belly region of the torso.
Once you have made the 2 cuts, fold the newly created flaps down to a 90-degree angle. This material will serve to stop the leg from falling out of the body and is also your attachment point. If you have a stapler a few quick staples will hold everything in place so that you can tape it up. If you don't have a stapler affix the rear leg with some tape, but be sure NOT to tape over the center seam in the leg.
Once the upper leg has been attached you can position the lower leg and tape it in place.
Repeat all of the above for the second rear leg, being sure to space it roughly the same distance from the centerline of the belly.
Step 5: Front Legs
This process is basically the same as for the rear legs, but the front legs of a cat are much more slender than the rear legs. Kira was past holding still for me when I went to measure her for this, so I had to eyeball it. I made a very shallow "funnel" shape for the front shoulder about 2" wide at the widest point. It was probably about 1.5" wide where it passed through the torso and was visible as a leg.
While you are making the front legs be sure to try and get them to be as close in distance to the table as the rear legs are. You will trim them as necessary later, but it makes it easier to work on if the cat is free standing.
Once the legs are all in you can staple/tape the torso closed into a tube shape.
Step 6: Make the Neck
To make the neck I took a piece of scrap cardboard and bent it/held it in position in the torso to get an idea of the rough shape it needed to be. Once I had an idea of the size I marked a radius on the cardboard and trimmed it down to fit. You will want the radius to be at the bottom of the connection, and match the curve of the torso (with a bit of overlap so it can be attached).
Once I was happy with the fit I stapled where I could and taped the rest into place.
If you made your cat out of a box, then you will want to make a similar shape to break up the outline of the box and give yourself a place to hold up the cat's head.
Step 7: Troubleshooting Leg Issues
I had some issues at this point with the legs splaying out and the cat attempting to do the splits. The best thing I could figure out was to use dowels (which I did not have) and zip ties to tension the legs where I wanted them. Since I didn't have dowels I used bamboo skewers, but even when I taped 2 together they were still so flexible that the legs weren't entirely rigid and they still splayed out a bit, although it was much improved.
3 of the legs I attached to the sides of the torso, but the fourth needed to have a spacer to keep it in alignment.
I made 2 shims, about 1.5" long and 3/4" wide (measurement isn't critical, this was all eyeballed) for each of the 3 legs that were being attached directly to the torso. I poked a hole about 1/2" in from the long ends of the cardboard in the center of the shim (see picture). The zip tie will feed through the holes of the shim and will prevent the zip tie from ripping through the cardboard torso and destroying our work of art when we tighten it down.
Once the shims were made I inserted my dowel (2 skewers that were taped together) into the leg opening (good thing we didn't tape over that when we made the legs!) inside the body cavity. Then I moved the dowel around to find the best position to hold the leg steady. Then with my hand still in place on the inside of the cat and used my other hand on the outside to find approximately where the centerline of the dowel was and made a mark on the cat.
Once the cat was marked I took one of my shims put it roughly centered on the mark and then used the holes in it to mark and punch 2 more holes into the body of the cat. I fed the zip tie through another shim and then ran it through the first hole in the torso, through the shim on the outside and back into the torso in the second hole. Then I tightened everything down, being sure to trap the dowel in between the interior shim and the torso. If none of this makes sense (and I am sure it doesn't) check out the pictures, or let me know and I will try and clarify.
I repeated this step for the 3 legs that were being pinned to the torso itself. For the 4th leg, I made a giant stack of the cardboard shims and essentially followed the same process. Instead of pulling the dowel tight to the torso I had the stack of shims in between the dowel and the torso, which locked it down at the angle I needed.
Step 8: Make the Head
The head was made out of grocery store bags and duct tape. I made a tight ball of the bags about the size of my cat's skull and wrapped it all up in duct tape.I wanted to keep the head as light as possible, but still sturdy enough to attach my LED eyes too, and not implode on contact.
Once I had the head to the desired size I made a pair of ears out of some scrap and rounded them on my pvc pipe to give them a bit of the shape of a cat's ear. Then they were taped into position and the head was complete.
At this point I also added the optional LED eyes. It was about 2 a.m. now (and I had planned to be asleep 4 hours prior) so I didn't bother taking pictures of the eyes, but there are probably much better instructables on wiring up a few LEDs to a battery anyway. It was a simple circuit of a CR2032 holder wired to some male bullet connectors and then the eyes were wired up to some female bullet connectors. I ran the wires under the head into the neck area and then just fished them through the hollow torso to a hole in the cat's back. When it was time to turn it on I plugged the connectors together, dropped them in the body cavity and taped down a flap of wrapping paper I had left for that purpose to hide it all.
Step 9: Finally... the Tail
The tail was made the same way as the legs were, just a piece of cardboard rolled into a tube. The only difference is that I rolled the tube at a slight angle so it tapered down to a bit of a point. Then I stapled and taped it on and construction of my "cat" was finished and it was just time to wrap it up.
Even with the leg dowels and the lightweight head, it didn't want to stand up. It kept falling forward and to the right. So I filled the left rear leg full of nuts and bolts out of my junk drawer. This mostly held it up but the cat was still unstable, so I filled a ziplock bag full of heavy debris and taped it into the left-rear hindquarter. Now the cat was a lot heavier, but it stood up. I expected to retrieve all of this later on, but that was not to be. Sorry junk drawer :(
Once all of the ballast had been added I lined the interior with some tissue paper to form a pouch to put the gift card in. This made it look MUCH nicer and hid all of the atrocities I had committed on the inside.
Step 10: Wrap It Up
The original picture I saw had a comment that grocery bags were used to sculpt the cat and make it look natural, but I had accepted reality and was done trying to make this thing look good. So I just went to work with the wrapping paper.
At the best of times, I am terrible at gift wrapping and this was 2:00 in the morning with the most horrifically shaped item to wrap. Initially, I tried my best to have it look good, but as 3:00 approached I just started taping scraps of paper anywhere I saw cardboard. I just wanted it to be finished so I could get in bed, my morning alarm is at 6:00.
After 7.5 hours of misery and being judged by my real cat (no Kira, I don't think the damn thing looks like a cat) it was complete. Obviously there are massive amounts of improvements to be made, but hopefully, this instructable can work as a reference point to help expedite the process.
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