Make Your Own Cat Trees, Towers, and other Cat Structures
Why Homemade Cat Structures?
Cat trees, condos, and scratching posts can be some of the most expensive items you ever buy for your cat, yet they really enrich the lives of our feline friends. They give them places to play, areas to claw, and perches from which to view their territories. Cats without these things are really missing out, and you are too, since watching them enjoy their trees and condos is great fun, plus it saves your furniture from being used instead.
Though cat structures are pretty expensive, depending on quality and size they can run up to hundreds of dollars, it's not always necessary to spend that much on them. With even the barest of carpentry skills you can build your own, and make them designed with your house and cat in mind.
Picture from Paul-W
Making Cat Scratching Posts
Making Cat Scratching Posts
Cats Need to Scratch
Cats have to scratch
Cats are designed to use their claws quite often in the wild to catch food, defend themselves, and defend their territory. Being housepets does not make a cat's claws grow any less or need to be used any less. Cats, physically and psychologically need to use their claws and use them often.
If they don't have cat trees and scratching posts that they like, they will scratch up your furniture and anything else that satisfies their natural need to claw. It is something that you just have to deal with if you decide to have a cat, it's part of what makes them a cat and there's no way to prevent them from it, even "declawing" them by removing their fingertips (cutting of the section that grows their claws) does not remove the obsession to claw, it just makes it irritating to painful for them.
That's why it is so important to have at least a few scratching posts around, it gives them something else to redirect their scratching urge toward and may prevent them from scratching your furniture up in the first place.
Ideas for Cat Scratching Posts
- Scratching Post with a Shelf
This scratching post is almost like a cat tree, it has a little shelf for kitty to sit on top.
- Horizontally-Sloped Scratching Pad
This scratching pad is shaped like a ramp and uses just a piece of plywood, carpet, and screws.
- Sisal-Wrapped Post
A nice simple cat scratching post design that would be one of the easiest to make. If you used pre-cut wood or had the store cut it for you, this design would be perfect even for kids to help build. Older kids could even build this scratching post th
- Kitty Scratch Pad
I think this is an awesome design! It's basically a giant circle made out of cardboard for the kitties to scratch on. Best of all, just about anyone can make it since it is really simple.
- Door Knob Hanging Cat Scratcher
Hang this easy to make cat scratcher from a doorknob for the perfect stretch for your cat.
Simplest of Scratching Posts
A really easy scratching post, is just to take a small board, cover it with rope, then hang it on the wall.
Since cats like to stretch up as far as possible to mark their territory by scratching, place this and other scratch pads so that your cat's paws will just reach about the middle when he or she is fully stretched out.
Tall Kitty Scratching Post
Tall Kitty Scratching Post
The cat scratching post shown in the video below isn't homemade, it's actually just a hugely modified cat tree, but if you think your cats might like to climb as well as scratch, it wouldn't be that difficult to cover a tall 2x4 or 4x4 board with sisal rope. You would just attach the end of the rope at the bottom of the pole, then keep wrapping it until you reach the top and attach the rope to that end and cut off the excess. You might also want to drill a few screws into the wood at various places to secure the rope and make sure it won't come loose when kitty is climbing on it. Staples could also work, though you'd want to be very careful to ensure none of them would work loose over time since they don't always stay embedded well.
The hardest part of this entire thing would be to connect it to the floor and the ceiling. On the floor you'd want a nice steady base since if the post moves around the cat won't use it. You could attach the post to the floor using L-brackets such as those used to hold up shelves, if you used one on each side of the post it would make it pretty sturdy. Using L-brackets again to affix it to the ceiling would be a good idea as well. The post would have to be within inches of the ceiling though for the brackets to be able to connect to both the post and the ceiling. Another option, and I think the simplest and best, would be to attach the post to the wall. That would give it a lot of stability as well as making it much easier to attach, you could even attach it to the wall in several places to make it really sturdy.
Shelves hanging on the wall at a few points might make it more fun as well. Whatever you do though, make sure the post doesn't have a chance of tipping over, it could really hurt your furry one if it did.
I also saw where someone had a random post in the middle of their house, since it was there, they wrapped the post with rope and had a cat scratching post. If you're lucky enough to have a random post in your house, you might be able to do the same thing.
House Cat: How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Sane and Sound
A wonderful and interesting book about making sure your cat is healthy and happy indoors.
Make a Homemade Scratch Pad
Create a Quick and Simple Cat Scratcher
Create a Quick and Simple Cat Scratcher
This is one of the simplest ways to create a cat scratcher, simply find a nice log to use. Most cats actually prefer real wood logs over anything else. They don't care about fancy or pretty, all they care about is if it is scratchable. A nice log, about 8 inches wide or more and about a couple of feet long, that is still pretty fresh and not punky is the ultimate in their eyes. You can easily find some nice looking ones in the woods or even go to a place that sells firewood to get something. It is cheap and easy and popular, though the shredded pieces of tree can make a bit of a mess.
If you do find a nice looking log, make sure there will be no uninvited guests brought inside with it. Use a fresher log that doesn't have any occupants, then set it inside a plastic trash bag on the lawn, preferably a clear or black bag. The tree will get a bit cooked inside the bag when it gets hot out, and it will kill anything that might be inside it. Try to make sure there isn't anything in it to begin with of course, the bag trick is just to make sure.
Tepee Cat Scratching Post
This cat scratching post would be quite simple to make at home. All you would need to do is take two pieces of wood that are the same size, one piece of wood that is about four inches bigger on all sides, cover them with carpet, then attach the two smaller boards to the larger one. You could do this fairly simply by just using some brackets from the hardware store. Two V-shaped brackets would secure the two same-sized boards to each other at the top of the peak, another two would secure the left board to the base, and two more to secure the right board to the base. So, three sturdy boards, carpet, and six brackets would make this hand little, tepee-shaped scratching post. You could also make it with hinges at the peak and one of the bases, so that it would fold down, but that would be a bit more complicated since you'd need to make a way to prevent it folding down when you didn't want it to. Installing the hinges or brackets so that they go under the carpet would make it look a little bit nicer, but may not be worth the trouble since they would be on the inside of the tepee anyways and not readily visible. Picture via Creative Commons from apollonia666
Making Cat Condos
Making Cat Condos
This adorable kitty castle is said to be homemade, but did not have instructions on how they did it. It is super cute though, and as everyone knows, cats rule the house, so it would make a perfect kitty plaything.
It looks as though it was made from fabric-covered tubes from the hardware store with a platform on the top. Perhaps something like this:
Cardboard Cat CondoClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ideas for Cat Condos
- A Simple Cat Condo
Directions and pictures for a simple cat condo.
- Tall Cat Condo
This is a nice, tall cat condo from Mother Earth News.
- DIY Cardboard Cat Cocoon
There are no plans for making this stunning looking cat cocoon, but it's fairly self explanatory. Someone took an Xacto knife and carved through layers of cardboard, then glued the pieces together.
- The Catsle Condo
A fairly simple tall rectangular enclosure with opening cut out for cats to get in, and shelves for them to lounge. It could be designed to blend into any decor.
- The Catsle Condo - Greened Up
This person took the design from above, and altered it to fit her cats a bit better. She also painted it white and drew some grass on the outside. It's very clean and fresh looking. You'll need to put the page through a translator since it is written
- The Catsle Condo - In Modern Style
Another version of the Catsle Cat Condo, made in a modern style to match their house's style.
- Lowe's Kitty Tri-Rise Play House
Build the purr-fect cat house for less than $40. This plan from Lowe's Home Improvement uses cement tubes, glue, and carpet to make places for your kitties to curl up and relax.
- DIY CubiCat Habitat
Cubitec shelving is stacked in a corner for storage and cat climbing. It's super attractive and the height allows the cats to see out of the window and over the city.
- Build a Cat Playhouse
This cat condo uses PVC pipes in-between the layers. It's a radical idea and one I love.
- Cardboard Cat House
This cat house is made out of three cardboard boxes and is a super cute place for your feline friend to hang out.
Making Cat Trees
Making Cat Trees
Siamese Cat on Crossing Branches
Ideas for Cat Trees
- Cat Tree Made Out of Old Driftwood
Using scavenged materials, this cat tree could end up free.
- A Basic Center Post Cat Tree
Just your basic cat tree with a center post and a few shelves off the sides.
- Another Basic Center Post Cat Tree
Another cat tree of the center post, shelves up it, platform on top type.
- A Four-Perch Cat Tree
This is my favorite plan for a cat tree and one of my favorite designs. It is well-explained, has a materials list and instructions, and a picture of the final result, a very nice looking cat tree with curved seats instead of the normal flat shelves.
- Martha Stewart Cat Tree
This is another cat tree made out of an actually piece of tree. It has a beautiful look to it, and I'm sure if you looked around you could find an awesome piece of wood to use to make one.
- Head Start Cat Tree
This person uses a small kitty condo he already had for a head start on making this cat tree.
- Carpenter's Cat Tree
This person has some good tips for those who are comfortable with building things.
- Ladder Cat Tree
This is a cat tree made out of a ladder. It requires very little building, and is a great tree for those who aren't builders.
- DIY Inspiration: Designer Drawers for Kitty
This cat tree using dresser drawers to create levels for cat relaxation.
Simple Three Platform Tree
It wouldn't be very hard at all to make a cat tree like this one. Just need a solid base, posts, and a few platforms.
I would most likely use a 4x4 post for the shorter, left pole, another 4x4 post for the tallest right post, then a shorter length of 4x4 or a 2x4 for the shorter right post. That would adequately support everything, and if you attached the two right posts together, which it looks like they did in the picture, it would make it fairly sturdy.
Though the shortest post is on the left-hand-side, it would be more comfortable for the cats to get to and from the levels if they went in stair-step fashion. Putting both the shortest and tallest levels on the right and the medium-height one on the left would make it easy for the cats to go from shortest to tallest without having to go to the one directly on top of their level.
I would also cover the posts with rope instead of carpeting. Carpet wears out pretty fast and is hard to replace, while rope is pretty easy. Also, it seems that most cats prefer the rope on the posts.
To make this cat tree you would need the items listed below, though you may want to alter the design to fit your cat and area. Perhaps you want it shorter, wider, bigger platforms, smaller ones, whatever, just adjust the sizes to fit.
- 3- 4"x4" posts, 2' long, 3' long, and 4' long
- 3-Round or square shelves around 1 1/2' square
- Large, heavy piece of wood for the base. Needs to be fairly thick, 3/4" is good. 3' square
- Bolts with matching nuts to connect the platforms to the posts with the brackets and the posts to the base with the brackets. Make sure they are fairly short, but long enough to go through the wood and still have room to put a bolt on the other side.
- Really short wood screws about 1/2" if you can find them
- 1" Wood screws
- Staples and staple gun
Have all the wood cut before you start. Often your neighborhood home improvement store can do this for you for free or cheap. You may want to alter the post size a little so that one 8' 4x4 post will be enough or try looking in the cut bin at the store, sometimes there are some great usable pieces there. You can also use scrap wood if you want, it's an easy way to reuse wood.
Mark out where you will want the posts, try to get them fairly close to center on the base so it will be steadier. Mark their outlines on the base, so you'll have a little 4x4 square and a 4x8 square visible on the board (just a tip, make sure you actually use one of the posts as a stencil, since 4x4s are not actually exactly 4"x4"). Arrange one of the L-brackets along one of the sides of the post outline and mark where you need to drill the holes. Move the bracket out of the way and drill holes for the bolts all the way through the base. Do this for each of the four L-brackets that are going around that post to support it. Then do it for the other posts. You may also want to countersink the area around each hole on the bottom of the base to prevent the bolts from being in contact with the floor and scratching it up.
Homemade Cat Tree Diagram
Feed a bolt up from the bottom of the base to the top and then through the hole in the bracket, and put a nut on it. This should leave the end of the bolt with the nut on top of the base. Do this for each of the bolts until all of the brackets are in place. Test the post to make sure it fits in there and make adjustments if necessary so that they will fit.
Now that all the brackets are in place, you will want to carpet the base. Get a piece of carpet big enough to cover the entire top of the base with several inches left over on all sides. You'll need to set the carpet on top of the base, then mark it where you will need to cut holes out for the posts. Cut just an X where the post will go at first, then make sure the carpet is in the exact right place so that the brackets can come through the hole and push the carpet all the way down to where it will sit, this will leave the brackets uncovered and the carpet in place. Trim off the edges of the carpet, so there is one bare 4x4 square and one bare 4x8 square in the carpet with the brackets all sticking up through them.
Attach the edges of the carpet around under the base using the short wood screws. When you drill them in make sure they don't come out the top of the board by pushing on the carpet where they would come through. If your wood screws aren't short enough to not come out the other side you will need to use the staple gun instead.
After the carpet is secured to the base, set a post in its spot and attach to the brackets using the 1" wood screws. Set the other two posts in their spot and attach them to the brackets as well. You may also want to toenail the two posts together on both sides near the top where they touch, to make it steadier. The posts are now attached to the base.
Attach the rest of the L-brackets to the tops of the posts, four on the freestanding post, three on the shorter paired post, and four on the top of the taller paired post.
Attach the end of the rope to the near the bottom of a post using a wood screw. By not having it at the exact bottom you can overlap the rope over it and cover the end plus make the rope more secure. Wrap the rope around and around the post, covering up the end and then working your way all the way to the top. Secure at the top with a few more wood screws so it won't come undone. Do the other post. Make sure you treat the double post as one, wrapping the rope all the way around both posts, securing them together.
After the posts are both wrapped, secure the platforms to the brackets at the top of the posts. Do this by setting the platforms on top of their posts, marking where the holes need to be, then drilling holes for the bolts to go through. Putting the bolts through the holes in the shelves first, then through the brackets will make the bigger, bulkier ends be underneath the shelves and not visible.
In the photograph, all of the shelves are round, including the one part way up the post. You can do that if you choose, but making the side that is up against the post flat will make it sturdier and better attached. You can also simply choose to make all the platforms square or rectangles, and this may be your only choice if you don't have a saw to cut them into circles since most places will not cut circles for you, though they often have some pre-cut circles, they can be fairly expensive. Also, the picture shows the shelves having sides on them. I'm not putting them in the instructions because they can be fairly difficult to make, the sides can be fairly complex and out of the range of the ability of many people and really your cat will like it just fine without them, though if you want an easy replacement simply add some strong Velcro to the top of the platform as well as to the bottom of a kitty bed with sides and place the kitty bed on top of the shelf. It will add some more padding and give your kitty a nice place to lay, plus make it easier to keep the tree clean, you can just toss many cat beds into the washer.
After the platforms are attached to the posts, simply cover each one with carpet, wrapping the edges down underneath the platform and attaching with either wood screws or staples just as you did with the base.
That's it! A fairly simple, nice little cat tree.
Sphynx on a Simple Tree Branch Cat Tree
Animal House Style - Designing a Home to Share With Your Pets
This book is full of beautiful shots of people and their pets living in beautiful homes often with furniture designed for the animals, whether they are cat trees or dog beds, they are all beautiful designer pieces it is a joy to look at.
Cat Tree Attached to the WallClick thumbnail to view full-size
Tall and Basic Cat Tower
This is a nice looking cat tower that looks fairly simple to recreate.
A Building Shortcut
A Building Shortcut
There is a way to build cat trees without having to build as much. Simply use furniture as a starting point. Whether you use something you've been thinking of getting rid of, been storing in the garage, or even pick up something from a thrift store, a solid bookcase, entertainment center, or other piece of furniture can be a great starting point for your new cat tree. It's simple to cover it in carpet or rope and can make a wonderful area for your cats to claw on and play with. Running by a few thrift stores can find you the perfect piece that your cats will love, and will probably be cheaper than even getting the wood at the home improvement store. You simply need to look at them with eyes that are open to the possibilities.
Large Cat Tree
This cat tree looks nicely balanced and very solid. It looks like it would be quite difficult to tip over. Sturdiness is the most important consideration when making cat trees.
Assembling a Purchased Cat Tree
Though this is instructions on how to assemble a purchased cat tree, it should give you some ideas on putting together your own. Picture the pieces as nicely carpeted boards and roped tubes that you have put together, it's easy to see how you can make it all fit together. Also, you'll be able to cover the boards with nice carpet that matches your house, and not the slippery, unpopular fakey-fabric that they used. You will also want to design your cat tree to be less likely to tip over, that one either needs to be attached to the wall or have a wider, heavier base to prevent injuries to the cats. I'm not sure how to make the legs so easy to attach, so if you have any tips, please leave a comment in the comment box at the end of the lens.
Cat Trees on eBay
Making Cat Houses
Making Cat Houses
Make a Cat Castle
Kitty Hideout Made Out of Boxes
You don't have to have any carpentry skills to put something like this together. All you need is some sturdy boxes and tape. Kitties love to play peekaboo in places like this, they don't care how it looks. You could make something like this for a temporary plaything, or even put it in the closet so you could close the door and hide it if you have company. You could even cover it with pretty sticky paper or fabric to match your walls and make it look better. Imagine this one covered in a lovely cream colored fabric, it wouldn't look bad at all. Just realize, something like this won't last very long, a well-made one for a gentle cat could last for years, but for hyper kitties it would be lucky to last 6 months.
Making a Cat HouseClick thumbnail to view full-size
Pads for Pets
This book is full of fun dog houses, cat scratchers, and even stuff for mice, all cute and stuff you can build
Heated Cat House
Many people who live in cold areas worry about their stray or feral cats when it gets cold out. This is a great way to deal with that problem. It's a nice heated cat house. It does cost quite a bit, about $100 due to the heating mechanism and thermostat, but even the basic box without the heating mechanism would be a nice treat for stray kitties and I'm sure if you look around you might be able to find a thermostat -controlled heating pad or heating blanket that would work well and cost less, maybe even at a thrift store, though as always, be cautious of fire, old wiring, and the weather. Rain will follow any cords, so make sure you hang the cord so water won't follow it into the box. Or even better, place the entire thing in a sheltered location such as the garage or under your porch.
Multi Cat House
Making Outdoor Cat Play Areas
Making Outdoor Cat Play Areas
Outdoor Cabinet for Kitty
This setup uses a kitty door as a way in and out of the house for the cat. Many people use a window in order to avoid cutting a hole in their wall, but it depends on your situation. Just beware, a big door like that into the enclosure might make it very easy for kitty to get loose if you open it.
Ideas for Cat Play Areas
- Making a Cat Retreat
This is a great DIY video showing how to make a small outdoor area for your kitties out of angled aluminum and wire mesh. It has some great tips on cats as well.
- Example of Cat Enclosures
Many examples of cat enclosures people have built with some good tips on designing them
- Non-Wood Cat Enclosure
This cat enclosure is built using the wire shelves designed for closet organizers and available at home improvement stores. If you have the shelves cut at the store it involves no sawing, no hammering, and none of the other things that are hard for n
- Making a Cat Resistant Fence
Though it is much better to have a fully enclosed area for your cats, if you have ferals or for some reason can't have a cat enclosure this fence might work for you. It is designed to make cats less likely to climb over it.
- DIY Outdoor Cat Enclosure
No plans for this outdoor enclosure, but good enough pictures to create a similar enclosure.
A Cat Enclosure
If planning to make an enclosed outdoor area for your cats, use what you have. These people obviously needed to be able to have their cats safely go along a hallway from their house to an old, unused building to the rear, which they had turned into a cat play area. They did it in a simple, yet perfect way, attaching netting from a stone wall to the building. Now it's a nice, secure kitty hideout, as is the extra building they enclosed and put cat trees in. They used what they had to make their kitties the perfect setup.
If you're really good at building, you just might be able to make something like this for your kitties, but don't attempt it if you don't have building experience.
Making Other Cat Items
Making Other Cat Items
Ideas for Other Cat Items
- Make a Cat Hammock
I love this idea for a cat hammock! It's basically a pillow case that is suspended from whatever you have available, the person who designed them did so for the cats in the shelter that have to live in small cages until they get adopted, so they hang
- Cat Hammock/Tree
This is a design for a cat hammock that is built into a tree
- Wine Box Cat Shelf
There are no instructions for this cat perch, but it's fairly self-explanatory. They used an attractive wine crate for the perch and attached it to the wall using brackets, probably L brackets. Remember to always attach items like this to wall studs.
- How to Hack together a Modular Cat Ladder from Ikea Bits
This person installed shelves from Ikea covered with fabric so his cats could climb the wall and sit on top of his entertainment center. Later he makes shelves in cat beds, so they can climb up the wall and sleep up high like cats like.
- Wall-Mounted Cat Perch
Create wall shelves for your feline friend with toy storage and space to bask in the sun or watch birds. Build a small shelf or one long enough to span a window.
- Build Pet Steps
If your cat has a bit of difficulty getting around, build her a set of steps so she can walk up onto the bed and her favorite places.
- Build a Kitty Play Station
This is a great idea and it has well-designed plans for building a place for your cat to play. Your cat will love yanking on lengths of rope and will be entertained for quite a while.
Cat Windowseats and Windowsill Perches
- Cat Seat
A custom window seat is the perfect perch for your cat to sit and watch the world outdoors.
- Build a Pet Window Seat
This is a nice little perch that you place at the window so your little one can peer outside.
- Another Cat Window Seat Design
This is another design for cat window seats
- Cat Windowsill Perch
This is an attractive window seat for kitty that includes a hidey-hole below the perch. It's great for a cat or two to lounge and enjoy life.
A pretty easy scratching and playing item for your cats is a tunnel made out of a cardboard tube covered in carpet. It is extremely easy, just take a cardboard tube such as a Quik-tube for concrete pilings and some scrap carpet, cut the tube to the length you want, place the carpet against the tube and measure to fit. Trim the carpet so that it will fit securely around the tube, with a little hanging over on each end, then cover the tube with a strong glue that will work on both the carpet and the cardboard. You may want to do a little at a time, add some glue, push the carpet onto that area, then coat another bit of area. Once the carpet is completely covering the outside of the tube, put some glue around the inside edge and press the carpet onto it so that all the carpet is attached. If you want you can also line the inside of the tube with carpet.
You can also use sturdy fabric in place of the carpet, and just attach it the same way.
Let the tube dry thoroughly, then lay this down on the ground and kitty will love to run around inside.
Though this is an assembly video for a purchased cat window perch, it wouldn't be hard to come up with a version of it that you could make since it is just basically a wire shelf attached to the window sill using strong Velcro and a brace underneath.
Simple and Easy Cat Clawer
Simple and Easy Cat Clawer
Cats have far more fun with this idea than you would think just to look at it. Simply take a board, whatever you have lying around, a 2' by 4' piece of plywood works great. Cover the piece of plywood front and back with a piece of carpet, just take a piece that is twice the size of the board and wrap it all around the board, then use staples or small screws to affix it. You can lean this board against a wall and the cats love to climb up on it and some will even play underneath it. There's nothing like the sight of a cat climbing upside down along the bottom of the board! Try changing the angle of the board regularly to keep it interesting to the cats, some cats prefer the board almost vertical, some prefer it more horizontal.
Black & Decker 24 Weekend Projects for Pets - Dog Houses, Cat Trees, Rabbit Hutches & More
Make cat trees, rabbit hutches and more with the directions in this book
Ideas for Cat Structures
These are just some ideas to make your cat structures better. Putting shelves on the walls for them, ladders to areas they like to go, and just generally adding stuff you know they will like, will all make your cats happier and more content. Use these pictures to spark your own ideas about what might work in your house.
Kitty Cat Playroom
Cat Room Ideas
Fun Kitty Cat Room
Room for Cats
Room Decorated for Cats
Fenced Cat Play Area
Keep It Safe
Keep It Safe
When making anything for the kitties, it's always important to keep the stuff as safe as possible. Whether homemade or store-bought, cat items can be dangerous, but if you're making them yourself, you can make it safer than anything you'd find in the store. Simply follow these tips:
Design the cat tree or other items to be structurally sound.
Don't make something that isn't going to handle the weight of your kitty jumping on it. Since cats can weigh quite a bit and seem to somehow get heavier than what they actually weight, add as much support as possible. You can never have too much support, but you can have too little.
Ensure that everything is going to be balanced.
I've seen cats leap five feet through the air to land on top of a cat tower sending it rocking. If it didn't have a wide enough base the tower and the cat would have tipped right over. Think of the cat tree you want and imagine a crazed beast launching itself straight at the tree, is it going to hold up to the onslaught? The wider the base the better, and if possible, it's always nice to attach the cat structure to the wall. Water-heater earthquake straps work well for this. Also, put heavier sections down lower, and smaller platforms up higher. The added weight at the base will keep the cat tree steadier.
Attach everything well.
Nails are better than tacks, and screws are better than nails. Whatever you attach, whether it is carpet or rope or whatever, you don't want it easily coming loose. Anything used to attach anything, you REALLY don't want coming loose. Nails and tacks and staples tend to work their way out over time as the cats claw and pull on the carpet and rope, and a loose nail is a dangerous nail. Make sure anything is pounded into the wood really well, and if possible use screws where you can. They don't work out and can later be easily removed to replace the carpet or rope as it gets used up. If you use staples anywhere give them an extra tap with a hammer to make sure they're seated deeply in the wood since most staple guns do not sink them fully.
Some common building terms that you might not know as well as their definitions are listed below.
Countersink: To countersink means to drill a hole for a bolt or screw, then drill a slightly larger one part way through over top of the first hole. This enables you to put a bolt through something such as the base of a cat tree, and then have the head of the bolt flush with the wood, instead of having it stick out above the surface. There are drill bits that are designed to do this automatically, or you can just use two bits, one right after the other.
Pilot Hole: Pilot holes are holes you drill into wood using a drill bit, that you will later drive a nail into or screw a screw into. Some wood splits apart very easily, but by first using a slightly smaller drill bit and then screwing the screw into the hole makes it less likely to split or crack.
Toenail: Toenailing is used to join two pieces of wood together, when your nails or screws are too short to go through the first piece and into the second. Basically you go to the edge of one board and drive the nail or screw in at an angle so that it will go through the edge of one board and into the other. Since the top of the nail or screw isn't completely flush with the wood's surface since it's angled, it is best to only do this in an area that won't really show.
Items You Might Need
Items You Might Need
Though what tools and other items you might need to build your cat structure will vary by project, some of the more common items are listed below. Do not feel intimidated if you are not used to them or don't know what they are. Everyone has to start somewhere, and making some of the simpler cat trees, towers, condos, etc are a great place to begin. And there are several plans that only need bare essentials such as screwdrivers and hammers. If you use scrap wood or can have the store cut the wood when you buy it, you will need a lot fewer tools and can easily get by without doing any major carpentry.
Types of Fasteners
Nails are small pegs of metal that are used to join pieces of wood together. They are indispensable when it comes to building, and a variety of sizes are often necessary. Nails come in different lengths, different widths, and different head types, for different applications.
Screws are similar to nails, in that they are small pieces of metal that are used to join things together, but screws are often better than nails because they are designed to not pull out of the material as easily, making them great for when you don't want things to come apart after you put them together, though screws are also better to use where you might want to remove them and put them back in later since they can be removed with a screwdriver fairly easily. Wood screws are screws that are specially designed for wood. They have a sharp, pointed tip to go right into wood without having to drill a pilot hole first, though many people do that anyways.
Nuts and Bolts
Bolts are another type of fastener used in building and are similar to screws, and in some cases the two terms may be used interchangeably. Bolts typically are designed to go through an already drilled hole in wood or metal and be capped by a nut, or a ring that is made to screw onto the bolt, on the other side so they have a non-pointed tip and do not change in diameter down their shafts. There are different types of bolts, and it is important to make sure to get nuts that match the bolts you are going to use since they can have different thread patterns that prevent the nut from screwing onto the bolt or make it too easy for it to slip off. Always make sure the bolts and nuts you buy at the store match before starting your project, the bins at the stores often get mixed up and confused.
Staples are another common type of fastener, and are basically horseshoe-shaped small pieces of metal. Though some larger ones may be hammered into place, most are applied to the surface with a staple gun, that shoots them into the material with great force. The type of staples used need to match the application as well as needing to match the gun, since not all staples are the same. Staples are typically used to attach thin items together, and you will most likely use them to attach carpet or very thin pieces of wood to your cat condos and other cat structures.
Angle brackets are pieces of metal that are used to join pieces of wood where just regular fasteners won't work. Often this is when you are trying to put shelves on a wall or put two pieces of wood at an angle to each other, such as putting a cat condo on a base. There are different names for the different types of angle brackets, most commonly used is the L-bracket since it is shaped like a capital L, and it is used to affix things at right angles to each other. These have different ways of being affixed, so have different size holes and it is important to get one with holes for bolts if you are using bolts, or one with holes sized right for nails or screws if you are using it with that. Some brackets have a variety of holes to enable you to use more than one of type of fastener with them.
There are many types of glues or adhesives available and it is extremely important to get the right variety so that it sticks well. Glues are all dangerous to pets if ingested, even "safe" glues, but some wood glues are even more dangerous, read up on it here so you know how to handle it. Some people use glue to attach the carpet to their cat condos, etc, but just make sure no animals get near it until it is completely dry.
Tools You Might Need
Having a normal hammer around is often important in building anything, many times you'll need to use it to pry at stuff or pound it in more. When building cat structures you'll use it often to drive nails in to hold the pieces of wood together and to put carpet on and to make sure the staples are embedded well.
Many people attach the carpet to the cat trees, etc using a staple gun. Staple guns are super simple to use, they're similar to a desk stapler, but don't close on anything, instead they are pressed straight against the surface of whatever you are using it on and then kept pressed tightly to that surface as you squeeze the trigger sending a staple straight into it. Most people can easily use a staple gun, though those with extreme hand weakness might need to use both hands to squeeze and those with small hands can have some trouble wrapping their hands all the way around them. They are wonderfully handy to have though. Each staple gun will use only certain varieties of staples so it's important to read the label, and some staple guns also shoot nails as well.
Hot Glue Gun
Hot glue guns are one of the most useful items to have around the house. They are basically little plastic guns that heat sticks of glue which you can then apply to surfaces to stick them together. There are low-temp ones, which don't get as hot, and high-temp ones, which get really hot and are usually better for bigger projects like attaching carpet. You have to work quickly to get the materials together before the glue cools off, but hot glue sticks really well as long as you get the items together in time. While using them it is important to work carefully because them and the glue get hot enough to burn and it's easy to get sticky, molten threads of glue dragging from the tip of the gun and getting stuck on stuff. Be extra careful with the glue gun if using near cats or kids. Try to use it in another room if possible.
Screwdrivers come in two major kinds, flathead and phillips. Flathead screwdrivers just have a simple flat tip, while phillips head screwdrivers have a cross-like tip. Most of the time you will want to use a phillips head screwdriver and the matching screws since the flathead ones frequently ruin the tops of the screw by ripping at the metal while you are twisting it on top of the screw. This is called stripping the screw and often makes the screws nearly impossible to remove. You will occasionally need a screwdriver to screw in a screw, though most often it is better to use a drill since it can be hard to make the screws go into the wood.
Drills are basically powered screwdrivers. They use either a plug-in or a battery pack to rotate the different tips (called bits) that are available to screw in screws, unscrew screws, as well as bore holes in wood. You will likely need a drill to add holes to your cat items so that you can put bolts through to hold them together, and also to screw in screws so that you can make stuff stick together.
Carpet knives are actually sort of like razor blades with handles. They are designed to be easy to hold and to cut through the backside of carpet (cutting the front side usually does a bad job and makes a mess). It's often handy to have a carpet knife when making cat structures because often areas on the cat structures are covered in carpet and it is easiest and best to cut the carpet with a carpet knife though if you need to you can carefully cut the carpet with a regular knife or even a sturdy pair of scissors.
Hand saws are usually small, human-powered saws that you move in a back and forth motion to cut through wood. They have different kinds of teeth on them to be able to cut different things, and there are different designs as well so some saws will cut through metal easier and others will cut through wood easier. They can be tiring to use if cutting through lots of stuff.
A jigsaw is a small, hand-held power saw that has a blade that very quickly moves up and down to cut through wood. It is small enough and easy enough to use that it makes it the best power saw to have in the household if you only have one. Because the blade is so small and fine, it is not very good at cutting long lengths through wood or through thick pieces, though some people carefully use them for that and just try not to damage the blades (the blades are replaceable) but jigsaws are most useful cutting out small details and curved lines. If you want to have a door in a cat house or cut circles for platforms for a cat tree, a jigsaw is likely to be necessary.
Circular saws are large, heavy, hand-held power saws (usually) that have a circular, rotating blade that is rimmed by teeth. It is pressed to the edge of the wood and gently guided forward as it cuts a line into the wood. Though circular saws are not that difficult to use, their heaviness and power make them awkward and dangerous for those without enough strength. They also tend to kick if they reach a rough spot in the wood, making a steady and firm grip necessary. They excel at cutting large lengths of plywood and other straight lines, but are poor when it comes to being used to make curves.
Tools to Build With
A simple handy tool kit with hammer, screwdrivers, and other normal tools that are handy to have around the house.
A nice heavy-duty staple gun that's easy to hold and easy to use.
A cordless drill kit with battery and charger and carrying case. This is a very nice drill, has plenty of power which is nice for a cordless drill, and is also well-balanced and the right size for even those like me with small hands to be able to use it.
A nice, simple jig saw. Just about anyone can use a jig saw, they're very easy to use and are light enough to easily hold.
Circular saws should be left to those who can handle the power and weight. This is a very nice one and is easier to use than some of the others though.
Odds and Ends You Might Need
People with soft hands will want to wear gloves when wrapping rope around the cat scratching posts and cat trees since the rope most commonly used, sisal rope, is coarse and can hurt your hands.
It is extremely important to measure everything thoroughly when building, as one of the most common reasons things don't turn out is because there was a misjudgment in size. There's a reason everyone repeats "measure twice, cut once" and that's because it's true and should be what you do as well.
Rulers are handy for marking where to cut on boards since it is very difficult to get a straight cut on a board without marking out the line you are going to cut.
Pencil or Marker
You'll need a pencil or marker to mark where you are going to cut or drill holes.
It's handy to have a notepad with you since you may need to write down measurements or notes, and it's a good idea to do several drawings of what the cat structure should look like as well as make sure you understand the design since that is the most important part of building anything.
Items Useful for Cat Structures
Sonotubes or Quik-Tubes
Sonotubes or Quik-tubes are brand-name sturdy cardboard tubes used as molds for filling with wet cement, then the cardboard is ripped away after the concrete has hardened. They are essential for building cat condos and other cat structures. Covered with carpet or rope, cats love to lay in them and play inside them. They come in several different sizes, including 8" in diameter, 10" in diameter, and 12" in diameter and different lengths as well. They are usually available in the concrete or masonry section of your local home improvement store.
Cardboard barrels are barrels used to hold food and other bulk items, as well as the sweeping compound in many big stores. They are as they sound, barrels made out of really sturdy cardboard, with lids made out of cardboard as well and held on by metal rims. If you can find them, these make great cat condos and tree bases since sometimes the cardboard cement tubes are not big enough. Cardboard barrels come in several sizes, from small 2' high ones to barrel sized, and are most likely to be found at places that stock bulk food or at some army surplus stores.
It's important to use natural ropes such as sisal or hemp to wrap the cat tower since ones like nylon aren't good. Sisal is the most common. It is cheap and readily available, though hemp is another popular variety. Hemp is a bit more expensive though it is sturdier. Since you will need quite a lot of it and it is supposed to be torn up by your cats, most people get the cheaper sisal. 3/8" is the best size to use for cat items.
Since most cat items are carpeted, it's an important part of building cat items. If you have scrap carpet you can use that's just fine, especially if you had your house carpeted and have some leftover since the cat tree will then match your house. If you have to purchase carpet, try to get a good kind that is stain-resistant as well as sturdy since it will be under some heavy wear and tear and you want it to last, and not need to be replaced right away. Most cats prefer shorter, Berber carpet, though if you are going to buy the carpet you may want to bring a patch home to see if your kitty likes it since cats have very definite opinions on what kinds they like and don't like.
When you purchase wood for your cat trees you will most likely be getting things like plywood and 2x4 posts. It's often best to have the store cut the wood for you to the size you need since then you don't have to have a saw or deal with large sheets of lumber. Do not get treated wood, the poisons used in those are harmful to breathe, and don't worry too much about the looks of the wood since it will be covered with carpet and rope.
Stuff to Help You Build
3/8" x 50' sisal rope 87 lb. load limit
Buy a Cat Tree
If you still aren't sure that you want to make your own cat tree, pick one up from Amazon, they have some very nice ones that sell for about what you could build them for.
Build Cat Houses for Ferals
If you know of or care for a feral cat colony, consider giving them housing. Keeping them warm and safe during the winter is the most important thing you can do.
- Different Types of Easy Feral Cat Housing
This is a PDF giving several ideas for making warm places for feral cats to sleep.
- Build Feral Cat Winter Shelters
More ideas for building and making feral cat protection houses.
- Feral Cat Insulated Homes
This is a PDF describing various feral cat colony housing. One in particular I really like, it's one storage bin inside of another with insulation in between.
What do you think of this lens? Have any hints on making cat trees or other cat structures? Or just leave a comment and let me know you came by :-)
Last updated on February 7, 2014
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