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How Long Do You Keep Cardboard Boxes for Your Cats?

Is there a socially acceptable time limit to keep boxes that came in the mail lying around the house?

Phillip Mlynar  |  Jan 13th 2015


During this last Christmas season, I signed up for a free month trial with Amazon Prime. Seduced by the gratis two-day shipping, this naturally resulted only in me ordering a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need and that I could easily have picked up within a 10-minute walk from the apartment. Replacement Swiffer Jet pads! Fancy loose-leaf teas! Truffle salt! Triple pack of water filter replacements! As a result, throughout the 30-day trial, a steady stream of cardboard boxes arrived at the apartment (including one glorious instance of a small, solitary bottle of 10-year-aged balsamic vinegar from Modena being packaged in a 12-inch-square box).

While this rampant flash of online consumerism did not do much to help the plight of the trees, I like to think that any environmental karma was redressed in a small way by the fact that my cat, Mimosa, had a bountiful amount of packaging to play with throughout the holiday season.

As Mims welcomed each day’s fresh cardboard box with gusto and glee, it got me thinking: How long is an acceptable time to leave a cardboard box or piece of packaging out for your cat to play with?

I’d estimate there is some form of box or paper bag or packaging paper strewn on the floor of my apartment on most days. On Christmas morning, we deliberately left all the ripped-open wrapping paper on the floor around the tree so that Mims could frolic and galavant through her personal paper wonderland. It was a good three days later before we finally cleared it all up.

A new box is usually greeted nervily, before it soon becomes an equal parts plaything and sleeping spot. Sometimes I’ll throw an extra piece of packaging paper into a cardboard box to cosy up Mimosa’s napping nook. This has lead to her being affectionately referred to as Hobo Cat (inspired by her originally being found living under a car in a parking lot before she was whisked away to a shelter).

At times, I’ll cut holes into a box so that it takes on the form of a fort. (I like to think that I invented the cardboard cat castle many years ago after renovating an oversized Container Store box for my old cat, Mei. This was long before some wags began running crowd-funding campaigns for cardboard “brownstones” and other such nonsense.)

Large paper bags are also greeted with much enthusiasm, not least when throwing treats into them for the cat to scuttle after. Although I’ll admit that having a half-destroyed Williams Sonoma bag on the apartment floor does look a little less sophisticated than the standard sturdy Amazon box.

While Mimosa has yet to meet a box she did not like — and has even proved adept at wrangling her petite-sized body into small boxes about to be filled with gifts — there also seems to be a feline shelf-life for new boxes. After the initial breaking-in period, Mimosa seems to get bored of a box or large piece of paper within a week. So at that point I pick it up, break it down and place it in the recycling — and even though she’s the one who’s shunned this beige addition to the apartment, there’s always a tinge of sadness that I’ve cruelly demolished a little part of her world.

So how do you indulge in your own cat’s love of a good cardboard box? And have you ever looked around your apartment and wondered whether you are in fact harboring a hobo cat? Let us know in the comments below!

Read more funny stuff by Phillip Mlynar.

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About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.