A number of years ago, we made our own cat tree, and our wonderful cats have been in love with it ever since.
Do you want to buy a really huge cat tree, or are they a little expensive right now? If you adore your cat and want to give them a fun tower to play in and lounge around, why not make your own cat tree or scratching post? Even with our very limited carpentry skills, we did.
Cat trees are so expensive and not necessarily long lasting. So if you build your own cat tower, you could be doing yourself a favor in the long run, and the cats will enjoy the fruits of your labour for years to come. This article will show you how to do it.
Our Cat Towers and Scratching Posts
My cats have two cat towers and two scratching posts. One scratching post is wall mounted, and they never show interest in it. One is a heart-shaped, pink fluffy thing that keeps Miss Amber content. (The pink fluffy thing has recently been retired and replaced with a 7-foot cat tower, due to simple wear and tear!) The other two are more robust.
Why We Made Our Own Huge Cat Tower
About 20 years ago, when we were poor as church mice, we saw cat towers on sale that were out of our range. Instead, we decided to build our own cat tree. We designed and constructed a cat tree that for a time also doubled as a telephone table (while the moggies were content with the lower decks). Then the Persians arrived and evicted the phone!
It seemed a kind thing to do to buy them the best that we could afford, and so we did. We took it home and assembled it—a 5-foot palace complete with cave. Four years later and it was in shreds, whilst our homemade Cat Palace was still as good as ever! Both were and still are equally popular. But Cat Palace No. 2 needs replacing pretty soon, whilst our 20-year-old monster needs only "rewinding" with sisal rope.
Whilst we decide whether we would rather replace expensively at four-year intervals or build another DIY palace at the cost of a few days labour and some cheap builders yard items, I decided to write an article about how to make your own homemade cat tree. If you want to make your own cat condo, this article may be a good place to start looking for ideas about materials and design.
Photos of Our Cat Tower
What Do I Need to Make My Own Homemade Cat Tree?
Well, it would be best of all to make it from natural tree wood and maybe recycled flat pack wood furniture with old carpet. That would be the cheapest and most cat-friendly option, but there are not many saplings being hewn down around the city of Lincoln. So we may have to resort to buying materials. Keep your options open of course.
We hope you will modify our simple design according to what is available. In any case, making your own cat tower is fun and a lot cheaper than buying a cat tree from a store.
Basically, we have a few suggestions we think will work:
- 2 centimeter-thick MDF or blockboard: Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is probably the easiest route for the stages. A reasonably sized piece will do the base and stages 1 and 2.
- Thick plywood board: We used this for the top platform. A recycled cupboard door or an untreated decking tile would serve as well.
- Untreated landscape posts: You can also use thicker lengths of untreated kiln-dried pine. This will serve for the legs.
- Natural carpet: For that added luxury, we cut up an old Axminster to upholster the base and stages. Any natural carpet would do. Just cut it larger than the bases. That way, you can trim and fold it in neatly underneath and tack it on with clout nails, carpet or upholstery tacks.
- Posts and sisal rope: For the scratching posts, use one or several posts with very tight rings of sisal rope—6-millimeter thick is ideal.
- Safe cuphooks: This will be for suspending the toys.
- Multi-purpose, thick, long screws
Note: I keep stressing using untreated and natural materials. Remember that your cat is going to spend many happy hours shredding your creation. Artificial fibres could hurt his feet and potentially cause respiratory problems. Fungicides, timber treatments and creosote are toxic to felines and might kill him. So it's best to keep everything natural.
Materials You Could Use
Building Your DIY Cat Tree
Unlike the more flimsy plastic and cardboard tube commercial cat towers, this one's heavy timbers and thick MDF make it very stable indeed.
Ask for the MDF to be cut in store if possible. Most stores are used to making three free cuts for customers. You will have to trim stage 1 to fit in special notches between the poles. When you cut MDF, please do wear a mask, as the dust is toxic. Keep cats well away!
- Before construction, you will need to upholster the stages with carpet. Just cut it 3 inches proud of the base dimensions, mitre the corners by cutting small sections out with a Stanley knife, then fit and fix with upholstery nails, clout nails or carpet tacks on the underside of each stage.
- Use a smaller offcut of MDF, or thick plywood, blockboard or an old cupboard door for the top stage. This will be fitted last, so attach its support pole before you upholster it. Then the carpet will cover the screwheads.
- Posts will need winding tightly with sisal rope before construction! First cut notches deep enough and wide enough to safely seat the upholstered stage 1. Put temporary wedges into these shelf notches.
- We chose to cover all posts for our cats, and the result was a longer-lasting scratching post, as wear was more widely distributed! Sisal rope is cheap on eBay. I checked out 30 meters of 6-millimeter-thick rope at under £5, plus £4 for post and packing.
- Tie it, tuck it and wind over and over the tucked part, a little like you might wind a guitar string. Wind all the way along as tightly and close together as you can. This is the most important bit to get right for your cat!
- Once you have all the parts, you can begin to assemble your cat tower by drilling holes and screwing the base and stage 2 to the legs.
- Slide stage 1 into place. If you have heavy cats, you could add an extra support leg between the base and stage 1. Otherwise, stage 1 may rock a little when they jump up. Stage 2 gets great stability from the rigidity the notched legs and stage 1 contribute.
- Complete the top platform, drill and screw in place from beneath.
- You can add a cave, a hammock or hooks for toys as you wish.
Note: The cost is approximately £30 if you buy new materials, plus your labour of course. A new cat tower could cost anything between 2–10 times the amount. It is hard work, but you may not have to replace it as quickly! The choice is yours!
Our Initial Cat Tower Sketches
Ultimately, the Decision Is Yours
Time is money, so they say, and it does take time (as well as a little effort) and money to make your own Cat Palace. I am thinking very seriously about restringing the old one, maybe adding an extension module or two. The question is always time.
The decision ultimately comes down to time rather than money, as it was all those years ago. However, at least we know it can be done!
I find it is obviously easier to buy the new Cat Palaces than make my own (having done both), but I am disappointed by the flimsy construction and poor balance of the last expensive commercial tower I bought. Perhaps you agree or disagree. What do you think?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Ever Made a Homemade Cat Tower?
Judy on February 18, 2018:
I need to build a cat tree
sierradawn lm on December 21, 2013:
Cat towers are essential to the indoor cat. Just ask any indoor cat! My 20 pound Ragdolls terrorize and destroy their towers faster than I can replace them.
sierradawn lm on December 21, 2013:
My Ragdoll cats are really big and destroy their cat towers so fast that I can barely keep up with them. When I finally have to drag their dilapidated towers out to the trash they cling to them for dear life, refusing to let them go. So I have to have a new one ready for them. It is high time for me to build a longer lasting home made one. Your lens is a god-send!
omarasl on October 25, 2013:
thanks a lot for these interesting and useful information , I will try it !!!
minpinmojo76 on October 22, 2013:
Great lens. I used to have a homemade cat tower made by my neighbor, but got rid of it to make more room. I have since moved to a larger location and now need a new one haha.
ddbdanielle on October 20, 2013:
Thanks very interesting, I bought my cat a small plastic tower and it breaks apart very easy. These look very nice.
mhamer89 on October 19, 2013:
My wife is a huge cat lover and no doubt once she see's this i'll have to make one of these thanks a lot haha nah just joking grat page
If anyone would like to check out my first ever lens about Britax Pinnacle 90 Booster seat check it out here.
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MeAndMyGuitar LM on October 18, 2013:
Wow great post, I had a Bengal before. A male. Was a beauty ! I don't have him anymore because was very stubborn and always asking to go outside. I gave him to my sister. Great lens for the cat tower.
KathyZ1 on October 17, 2013:
Great lens. Thanks for your sharing!
tech-hunter on October 09, 2013:
Interesting tips to build the cat tower, thanks.
joyfuldesigns lm on October 06, 2013:
No I haven't made a cat tower, but you make it look tempting to try. Great lens! I love that kitty mansion.
shabi9764 on September 28, 2013:
grate lens for cat tree lovers,well written.
Valerie Smith from New Zealand on September 23, 2013:
I've never made a Cat Tower even though I have two cats. I'm sure they would have loved one each (they're not keen on sharing) when they were young. They are 13 years old now and not so active. Their main pleasure is keeping me company by snoozing in my office while I work!
Fay Favored from USA on September 20, 2013:
Not, but not for lack of wanting to ...
janey126 on September 16, 2013:
Wow what a great info and lens! Just awesome!
Quaileo on September 04, 2013:
I used to have cats that would destroy their towers, so this would have been really handy before, however I have a friend who's a first time cat owner and they also really like making things so this will be perfect. I must say some of those towers are really inventive, very clever.
Lisa Marie Gabriel (author) from United Kingdom on August 30, 2013:
@motorpurrr: Cats don't seem to mind that so much :)
FionaWalters on August 19, 2013:
I know somebody who will absolutely love and cherish this information. Thanks.
Socialpro54 LM on August 05, 2013:
i don't have a cat, but great info!
lmoser on July 24, 2013:
My cats used to sharpen their claws on my couch until I purchased a cat tower. If I ever need one again, I will definitely make one. Thanks.
davery77 on July 18, 2013:
Cat towers are great but I don't like how they can get really expensive. I'll definitely consider making one myself next time.
Kay on July 07, 2013:
We found a great deal on a tall 'kitty tree' on Amazon. Our cat loves it!
kiwikitkat on July 03, 2013:
I love cats and have one at the moment. She doesn't have a cat tower, but this is such a great idea.
GuitarNY on July 01, 2013:
Great lens!. I never made a cat tower.
anonymous on June 27, 2013:
I think cat towers are very handy - especially if you and your cat live in an apartment.
Painxxto on June 20, 2013:
I love cats. I've had 2 of them and would loved to have something like this.
electrolion on June 20, 2013:
My cat has a tall tower and he runs to the top of it every time someone rings the doorbell. Go figure. Great lens. I absolutely LOVE cats!
triley76 on June 19, 2013:
Cool, really awesome ... I've wanted to get something like this for my cats, but can't spend loads of money. This gives me some good ideas.
epcws79 on June 06, 2013:
Great job with this lens, i'm passing this info to some friends that love cats.
DougB101 on June 06, 2013:
Great ideas. It is much more fun to build your own stuff rather than buy, My son built a structure for his cats and they used to have a lot of fun with it.
jastreb on May 31, 2013:
Great lens. I will send this link to my friends who have cats, really awesome idea and the instructions are fantastic;)
gadifi lm on May 29, 2013:
Great lens and it was done quite well as the large print helps out very good ---thanks again
dakadare on May 24, 2013:
Excellent work! Thanks
Deannamay LM on May 23, 2013:
Good ideas. But I don't think I could make one. Not very handy.
martie01 lm on May 21, 2013:
Great information here. I just bought my daughters cat a tree from the store, but will try you instructions. thanks for opening my eyes here.
Enda McLarnon from Belfast, Ireland on May 17, 2013:
Nice work. I have sent this url to my daughter as she was asking me about making one of these for her a few weeks back. Maybe this will inspire her to get me the stuff that I need.
Birthday Wishes from Here on May 15, 2013:
I agree! Very nice lens with lots of good hints and tips to make your own cat tower or cat tree!
anonymous on May 14, 2013:
Good lens, wish I had read something like this when I did my first attempt on a cat house a few years ago. Looked nothing like this and while appreciated by Mason it was crap lol I admit it!!
Alan Katz from Florida on May 10, 2013:
What an interesting lens. I don't have a cat but enjoy watching my neighbor cat play in the home cat tree.
imagelist lm on April 21, 2013:
Great lens with valuable info...
Takkhis on April 13, 2013:
I don't have cat but my granny has it, I want show this lens to my granny :)
aksem on March 14, 2013:
My cat prefers to use my chair for sharpening her claws. It seems that she too appreciates her two-storeyed cat's house to scratch it. Since our cat is a privileged member of the family, then I have to endure.
Lisa Marie Gabriel (author) from United Kingdom on February 22, 2013:
@anonymous: Thanks Suzie. I must say the Leopet tower is a firm favorite, but we keep coming back to that sturdy homemade job! :)
anonymous on February 22, 2013:
I was here a couple years ago and glad to see your homemade cat tower doing so well...that means there are many happy cats out there with huge towers....purr-fect! :)
WriterJanis2 on February 21, 2013:
I think it's great if you can make your own.
lionmom100 on February 19, 2013:
We have a really nice pyramid cat tower with a top tray for our cats. It is now ready to reupholster...again. We reward our scratching posts with sisal rope.
dellgirl on February 15, 2013:
Congratulations on getting the Purple Star for this really beautiful lens!
And, Congratulations on making the latest 'MonsterBoard: SquidAngel 1,000!! Last updated Friday February 15, 2013 02:35:17 AM EST. Awesome-arriffic!!! ~Blessed~
anitabreeze on February 14, 2013:
I have a really large one for my 3 cats, its about 4 years old and needs lots of repairs. I might get my 15 yr old son to make one now, he is quite handy!
Aibrean82 on February 08, 2013:
Would be good to be able to make our own, since we don't have room for a big one. If we could make a custom tree we could make it to fit the room. Great idea!
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on February 07, 2013:
My Dad made my cat's a tower. The cat's love them whether they are home made or store bought.
PapaKork on January 31, 2013:
I definitely need to make one of these for my cat asap! Thank for all the great tips!
norma-holt on January 24, 2013:
You are right. One of my cat trees collapsed and it was mainly supported by cardboard walls on the bottom. I paid over $110 for it. I did get my money back but that is not the point. Great lens featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2013 and also on Care for Kittens. Hugs
JJGJJG on January 01, 2013:
That's great advice, to keep the materials natural. It's no fun when your pet/family member is sick.
Stephanie from Canada on December 31, 2012:
I love cat trees :) Fantastic lens!!
Hal Gall from Bloomington, IN on November 12, 2012:
Don't know what we would do without our car tower. Probably have to buy new furniture every year or so due to scratching!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 26, 2012:
I don't have a cat but this is good for family members who have.
JBradshaw on October 13, 2012:
My wife's cats are always scratching up the furniture and they never actually use the towers we buy.. Maybe i should build one and make it look like my couch. I'm sure they would use it then. Great Lens.
irenemaria from Sweden on September 20, 2012:
For years I had a Cat Hotel! Every cat had its own tree to climb!
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 10, 2012:
I haven't made a cat tower but have had one in the past. Scarlett now has a log mounted on a stand that she loves to scratch. These are all great!
Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on September 06, 2012:
It seems to me that a home made cat tower is best, but better still is a few hundred fence posts and trees. Our cat climbs and scratches to his hearts content on each of them in turn. No problems with furniture, but then he is Robin the Barn Cat and buying a horse farm is not an affordable option for most people!
I loved your lens and ideas and Robin sez hummade treez iz bst!
JHstudios on September 03, 2012:
My wife and I have three cats we love very much. A friend of mine built us a cat condo that's about 7 ft tall. I asked him how he could make it for me so cheap and he told me that he dumpster dove for scrap wood at a construction site and scrap carpet from a carpet store. I thought he was kidding-- I guess he wasn't! LOL The cats love it!
prairierprincess on May 29, 2012:
This is lovely! I am going to keep this mind for our three cats. We have cat tree we bought from Zellers and it works well but eventually I would like to get something new, and building one would be great!
GramaBarb from Vancouver on May 24, 2012:
Great lens! Love cats too!
savateuse on May 09, 2012:
Did you use my missing socks to make a cat tower? I just told the squidquest that you did ;o)
Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on November 17, 2011:
This is a unique lens on cat towers. I think making your own cat tower is a great idea. Not only is it customized the way you want it, but you put in your heart and soul into it for the cat(s) that you love so much. Well done...blessings! :)
Churchmouse LM on October 28, 2011:
Excellent - I agree that the commercial trees are so expensive - and my feeble attempts to build one have never stood the test of paws and tie. You have given me hope!
Joyce T. Mann from Bucks County, Pennsylvania USA on October 11, 2011:
My kitty loves sitting in the window sills on the second floor. That seems to work fine!
mockingbird999 on September 01, 2011:
I could use one of these for my cat. She seems to think the couch is hers to scratch right now.
jackieb99 on August 28, 2011:
I love the idea, and if I hadn't just bought my own deluxe cat tower, I'd be all over this!
LongShot-X on August 27, 2011:
I have a 17 y/o cat - he's blind but still gets around. probably wouldn't bother with a cat post at his age :)
SilmarwenLinwelin on August 15, 2011:
I'm planning to build one for my cats and this lens of yours is definitely helpful!
ColorPetGifts on June 08, 2011:
Awesome lens on building your own cat stand - squid angel blessed -:)
anonymous on May 31, 2011:
I like how you emphasize the use of natural, untreated wood...if children can't used treated wood play sets, it standst o reason that our cats could be harmed to. NIcely done.
NYThroughTheLens on May 01, 2011:
The last time I purchased a designated cat tree for my two little menaces (I say this lovingly :) ), they largely ignored it. They seem to love random boxes more than anything. I would love to make a cat tree but I fear that the time and energy spent will be mostly disregarded by them.
Vladimir from Australia on November 10, 2010:
I'd be happy with a pink fluffy thing
anonymous on October 20, 2010:
My cats have 3 trees to play in ... Peace Through New Energy
FlynntheCat1 on February 08, 2010:
arrgh, we SO need one of these! God lens, lensrolled to my Unadulterated Cat one!
Rachel Field on September 28, 2009:
This is an awesome idea and something I'll be doing if I'm ever lucky enough to have a cat stay with me :)
motorpurrr on September 27, 2009:
It's so beautiful and helpful. I once made a tall tree, it was a bit tilty but the cats were fine with it. Thank you!