Why Do Cats Love Cardboard?

The top cardboard cat toys for indoor enrichment

Cats and cardboard are a bit like peanut butter and jelly – if you’ve ever had both in the same house, you’ve probably had them on the same surface. 

In my home, no box comes through our house uninspected by our four-legged family members. My cats have tried out every possible size, shape, and color of cardboard over the years, and I’m sure yours have too. And because of its appeal to cats, sustainability, and low cost, cardboard has become a staple in the cat toy aisle. 

Whether it’s paper thin and smooth, corrugated and durable, or simply shreddable, your cats will love these cardboard cat toys.

Cute kitten in a box with an orange toy in its mouth looking up at camera

Why do cats love cardboard?

So we all know our cats love to scratch, shred, and sleep on cardboard. And if it’s a box or bag, they’re going to get in it, but why? What makes cardboard so irresistible to their feline sensibilities? Well, the answer is, like most things with cats, instinct.

Cats have a variety of hunting, foraging, and survival instincts that make cardboard — and the paper it’s made from — an ideal surface for just about anything they love to do.  


Cardboard and paper have an organic texture that feels a lot like the kinds of surfaces cats use in nature to scratch, chew, or climb. Corrugated cardboard can mimic tree bark, giving your cat plenty of temptation for scratching or climbing. 

And when they sink their teeth into it, they are most likely experiencing something similar to eating live prey. Let’s face it, kibble and paté don’t really measure up to the real thing — at least not when it comes to texture. 


When it comes to boxes or bags, kitties can use cardboard for hiding. From inside their little cave, they can stalk prey, get in a nap, or just watch the world go by.  

But in the wild, cats need safe places to do all of those things. They might use long grass, a shrub, or climb a tree. In your home, your cat is constantly looking for perches and hiding places, so boxes and bags are readily available (and inexpensive!) option. 


A lot of what makes cardboard appealing to your cat is that it can be destroyed. Sinking their teeth into cardboard and paper to rip and shred? Batting at a toy or snack hidden in a box? Well, that’s right up their alley.

Why? Because cats aren’t just hunters; they’re also foragers. Cats are smart, which makes them efficient. So they don’t waste time hunting critters that are too hard to get. So they’ll go for the smallest prey like lizards and mice. But they’ll also forage for bugs, worms, and even some plants. Cardboard gives them ample opportunity to flex their foraging muscles — and then destroy their prize.

4 cardboard toys your cat can’t resist

Indoor cats should definitely experience all the joys that cardboard has to offer. So here are my top picks for cardboard cat toys that have the feline seal of approval.

tabby cat about to jump into a Hide and Sneak paper cat tunnel

Hide and Sneak Play Tunnel

Let’s just cut to the chase: I invented a paper-thin play tunnel that taps into everything cats love about cardboard. So you better believe it’s at the top of my list.  

The Hide and Sneak is our best seller for good reason. Cats love to hide, rip, shred, pounce, chase, forage, and nap in play tunnels. But unlike other tunnels, the Hide and Sneak is made of cardboard and paper, so when your cats destroy it —  and they will — you won’t feel guilty about dumping more plastic into a landfill. It folds flat too, so it’s easy to keep a replacement on hand


Cat Amazing Puzzle Feeder

I love Cat Amazing’s products because they solve a problem we’ve all experienced: a cat who is bored with their toys.

So it’s not surprising that owner Andrey’s Grigoryev’s inspiration came from the purrfect place: his cat Mooky. One day, as Andrey watched Mooky try to retrieve a ball from a piece of furniture, inspiration struck. Mooky needed a challenge. And Cat Amazing’s core product was born. 

Their puzzle feeders combine playtime with a cat’s natural foraging and hunting instincts and come in multiple sizes with varying degrees of complexity that will keep your cat entertained for hours.

Andrey was recently featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, and secured a deal with Lori Greiner who agreed to invest $200,000 for 22% of the company (with 5% of her share going to cat shelters). The Classic puzzle feeder is currently sold out thanks to the buzz, but you can still get your paws on one of their other great cardboard toys.

three kittens lying on a cardboard scratcher


Whether horizontal, vertical, or incline, your cat will LOVE a cardboard scratcher. Scratching gives your cat a way to stretch, sharpen his claws, and avoid your favorite armchair. But they don’t just use cardboard scratchers for their intended purpose. My cats love to sleep and perch on their scratchers too. My suggestion is to try out a few different types and see what your cat likes best. 

Traditional scratchers are your basic inexpensive corrugated panels that either come in a decorative cardboard frame or as a simple refill. They’re the most popular because they’re the most affordable and easiest to find and come in a variety of sizes. You can usually find refills on sale at your local pet store for around $10.

Fancy scratchers tend to come in unique shapes and are made out of more durable cardboard. I’ve seen everything from simple bowl-shaped scratchers to complex cat towers with multiple layers and attachments. The perk with a fancy scratcher is that they usually last longer, but that does come with a much higher price tag. I’ve seen towers with price tags in the hundreds of dollars.

Novelty and seasonal scratchers are super popular these days with structures that look like everything from taco trucks to haunted houses and sushi bars to Christmas trees. I’ve even seen pizza-shaped incline scratchers and scratcher balls made out of cardboard. The more complex the structure, the higher the price, but I’ve seen novelty scratchers for as low as $10 to $15.

cute kitten sitting in a paper bag looking at the camera

Any old box or bag

Of course you can buy a complex toy, but we all know your cat will love a discarded box or bag just as much as an expensive gadget – maybe even more so. And I bet you have an empty Amazon box sitting around right now.

In fact, you can build an entire kitty playground out of a few boxes and other items around your home. 

Keep learning about your cat’s needs 

I’m a big fan of all kinds of cat enrichment toys. After all, our indoor cats need all the stimulation they can get. So take a few moments this week to come up with something fun for your cat to do with cardboard. I guarantee they’ll love it.

If you’d like some help, check out Cat Amazing’s free enrichment guide for tons of tips to keep your cat engaged, amazing toy recommendations, and even a guide to set up your home for optimum feline fun. 

And of course you can always head back here to the Dezi & Roo blog for more amazing Tips and Tricks.

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