How to Make Your Own Cat Tower or Cat Tree
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 TowerClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 UseClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 SketchesClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.