Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kitten Nugget Playhouse

It all started with a Tyson Chicken Nugget box from Costco. Not realizing what we had in our hands we packed our Cotstco items in the box and brought them home. It was love at first sight for Selina. We had barely taken the items out of the box before she jumped in. And then I noticed that it looked like a little kitty house. We had brought home two of the boxes, but Selina loved them so much we let her keep one before hauling the other out to the recycling with the rest of the boxes. Over time it became the "kitten nugget" box. Her favorite place. She would sleep there, play there, and when no one was looking drag her little toy mice inside. She could paw at it without punishment.
(The original "kitten nugget" box)

Fast forward a few weeks. I realized that the kitten nugget box was nice and modular, and well built. It would withstand being stacked and even having holes cut into it. They would be perfect for making a low-cost kitty playhouse. So we started looking for more Tyson boxes at Costco. For six months we saw none. Then, on a Monday, I saw a mountain of Tyson Chicken boxes freshly stacked in the box bin of Costco. I grabbed 6 (5 to add to Selina's for her new playhouse and 1 as a present to my in-law's new kittens). I had only bought one or two items, so I looked rather strange leaving Costco with a cart full of boxes, but no one said a word.

On the way home I stopped and bought some duct tape. When I got home I pulled out a utility knife and got to work. In no time I had a kitten nugget playhouse. It was kind of hideous, but the kitty loved it. I decided that I would paint it or cover it in fabric or contact paper to make it look nicer, but it was another 6 months before I found a contact paper that I liked well enough. It sat in our living room in all of its duct tape glory for quite a while. It was a great conversation starter and did I mention the kitty was happy?

So, here is how I made the kitten nugget playhouse. I had six boxes and decided to construct mine two wide and three high, but this can be adapted to any configuration you choose. The key is to know what you want your final configuration to be and start from the bottom and work your way up. You also want to consider the path for the kitties to climb through the playhouse, as you will need to cut before assembling. I made mine so that there was a climb-through box and a solid-floor box on each level. From the bottom level the cats can go up to the second level through the left side box and then sit on the right side. From the second level they can go up through the right side box and then sit on the left side. From there they can go up onto the top of the playhouse, sitting on top of the right side. You also need to make sure that you cut on the connecting sides so that the cats can walk through to the next box like so:

Since I did two wide, the left box gets a cut in its right side and the right box gets a cut in its left side. If you did more than two wide the far left and far right boxes would be treated the same, but any middle boxes would have cuts on both sides. Here are step-by-step instructions for my configuration.

I took the first box and cut a square (about 8"x8") in the top and on the right side. I took
another box and cut a square on the left side. I duct taped these two boxes together so that the squares lined up (I just eyed all of these cuts, the kitties like things to rub against them so I didn't worry about it being perfect). *Note* all of these steps are working left to right.

I grabbed another box and cut a square in the bottom and on the right side. This was duct taped to a box with a square on the left and top sides. I stacked this set on top of the other set so that the bottom hole from this set lined up with the top hole from the bottom set, then taped them together. I didn't get a picture of this step, but here is a picture of the completed playhouse where you can kind of see how the holes are lined up. As you can see, the cats really love it!

(Yes that is a nerf dart in there. Our cats love to chase nerf darts and they take all of their treasures into their house.)

I used the original kitten nugget box for the top left corner. I cut a hole in its top and its right side. The last box got a hole in its bottom and left sides. These were taped together, placed on top of the others and taped on. Amazingly it has held up very well. Stability-wise, I would recommend if you have small children who might grab or climb on this then you should anchor it to the wall (just screw through the back into studs), especially if you go higher than the 2x3 configuration. Mine is just up against a wall and I've had no problems with it.

Obviously, it is kind of ugly just as is. You will probably want to cover it. Covering it is just like wrapping a present. Contact paper is quick and easy, but it won't be completely smooth. You could probably use batting and fabric to upholster it for a smoother look. Another option would be paint. The possibilities are endless. I used contact paper, in a color similar to our walls with a subtle tone-on-tone pattern. After taking pictures, I finished mine off by writing "Kitten Nuggets" under the top-left opening. Everyone said it just wasn't right without those words...And here is the finished project (without the words):

The kitties love their house and I love that it didn't cost $200. It has been pretty durable and I think it will last for many years to come. The best part is you can make it blend into your home decor instead of having obvious cat furniture that is ugly and obtrusive. Not bad for less than $10.

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