Project Guide

DIY Cat Tree

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Create a Cat Hammock
Two cats using cat hammock and scratching posts.

A cat hammock, whether hung near the ceiling or underneath a sturdy chair, is sure to attach curious felines. A quick way to make a cat hammock is to cut slits in each corner of a big piece square of soft, strong fabric and put it underneath a chair. Use the slit ends to tie one corner of the fabric to each chair leg. Tie the hammock securely and as far above the floor as you want. 

Another option to make your own DIY cat hammock is by using a big, sturdy cardboard box. Tape it securely shut on the top and bottom, and use a utility knife to carefully cut a large window on each side. If desired, paint the box and let it dry. Next, put the bottom of the box on top of an old blanket or other soft piece of fabric and trace around it, adding four inches to each side. Cut along the traced lines and make a 3-inch slit in each corner of the fabric. Cut slits in each corner of the box, too, several inches above the bottom of the box, so the hammock has room to hang. Pull one corner of the fabric through each slit in the box and tie the fabric securely. 

Make a Basic Cat Tree
Two cats using a basic DIY cat tree with a rope-covered post and one platform.

A basic cat tree isn’t hard to make and doesn’t have to be expensive. First, decide where the DIY cat tree will go, so you’ll know how big to make it. Search for cat tree plans or visit The Home Depot pet supplies department and look at cat tree towers, condos and other cat furniture for design ideas about how to make a cat tree. 

Use dimensional lumber, PVC pipes or heavy cardboard tubes for posts, or vertical supports, and choose plywood panels for platforms on the tree. Use a hand saw to cut the lumber and a table saw or handheld circular saw for the plywood. Smooth the cut edges with sandpaper. Cardboard and cardboard boxes make great cat houses and cubbies.

Build a sturdy base that won’t tip over by making it larger than the platform. Cut two sheets of plywood to your desired size and glue them together for a heavier base. A 24-inch square is a good size, but you can go bigger. 

Now cut a piece of carpet a few inches larger than the base, so you can wrap it over the edges and staple it with a staple gun. Notch the corners of the carpet, if needed, to make it fold. Cover the vertical supports with more carpet before you attach them to the base with wood glue, screws or nails. Don’t leave any staples, screws or other items that might harm your cat sticking out.

Attach the horizontal platforms with more wood screws or glue. To hide the screws, cover the platforms with carpet after attaching them. Staple the carpet underneath the platform to secure it. 

Adjust your plan as needed to make your DIY cat tree stable and strong.

Build a DIY Cat Tree with Artificial Branches
Cat using a DIY cat tree with two cat cubes and two platforms.

Cats love to curl up in leafy spots, so give your fur-friend a DIY cat tree with artificial tree branches. Note: Some artificial plants and real plants can be toxic to cats. If your cat likes to lick or chew, or you’re not sure which materials or plants are safe to use around him, talk to your veterinarian before using them.

Start with a premade cat tree or build your own cat tree following the directions in step 2. Then build a simple, wooden box around the base of an artificial tree or other support. The base must be heavy enough that it won’t tip over from the weight of the cat when she climbs it. Add one or more platforms between the artificial branches, as desired, or cut some artifical tree branches and add them to the cat tree. 

Build Your Own Cat Tree Tower
Cat on top of a DIY cat tree tower with multiple levels.

Once you know how to build a cat tree, you can modify it to make a cat tree tower. Simply add more platforms so your cat can climb higher when he’s ready, just as if he’s climbing a tall tree with multiple branches. Stagger the platforms so he can jump between them easily. 

If you cat likes to nap in cozy spaces, add a cube or cubby to some of the platforms on the tree. Build a cube by gluing together heavy pieces of cardboard or use a sturdy box. Cut a round or square opening in one end so your pet can go in and out. Add some padding to the inside bottom of the box or cube and cover it with a soft blanket or other material for a comfortable bed. You may want to use a piece of carpet if your cat likes to scratch his bedding. 

Glue fabric over the outside of the box, paint it with non-toxic paint or cover it with carpet using glue or staples. Bend over the ends of any staples that protrude into the box, so your cat won’t get injured, and make sure any glue or paint is completely dry before your cat uses the tree tower.

Set Up a Cat Condo
Cat inside an elevated DIY cat condo.

A DIY cat tree can be turned into a cat condo by adding enough plywood platforms to a basic cat tree to accommodate multiple felines. To make a simple cat condo with a scratching post, wind sisal rope from the top to the bottom of a vertical support and attach the support to studs in one wall. 

Another option for a cat condo: Use metal brackets to attach sturdy wicker baskets lined with soft padding up and down the length of a vertical support. Stagger them at different heights from one side of the support to the other. Again, make sure everything you use can support the weight of the basket, padding or other material, sisal rope and cats.  

Install Wall Mounted Cat Trees
Cats using a DIY wall mounted cat tree with a hammock, cat cube and multiple platforms.

Build a wall mounted cat tree in the same way you’d build a basic cat tree, using brackets to support it. Be sure the brackets can support the weight of the tree and cat, and attach the brackets to studs in the wall. Sheetrock alone is not strong enough to hold the weight of brackets, shelves and your cat. 

You can also install a series of shelves or cat boxes on one wall, staggering them to the left and right as they go up toward the ceiling. Eighteen and 24-inch shelves work nicely. Again, be sure the shelves come with hardware or brackets that can support the weight of your cat and the shelves and screw the brackets into studs in your wall. You may want to cover the shelves with carpet to give your cats firmer footing.

Make a Cardboard Cat House
A DIY cardboard cat house with a large entrance.

The easiest way to build a DIY cat house is simply to repurpose a sturdy cardboard box. Reinforce any openings, if needed, with duct tape or clear packing tape, and leave or cut an opening for a door. Paint the house and let it dry completely before letting your cat use it and furnish it inside with a soft blanket, towel or cushion.

Build Cat Steps
Cat using DIY cat steps to climb down from a sofa.

Before you begin, measure the piece of furniture your cat will be using with the cat steps. This will determine how wide and high to make them. Take into account your cat’s age and mobility. Use a circular saw to cut the sides of the steps, or stringers, from plywood project panels. Add a frame to the base and back of the stringers to support and attach them. 

Close the back of the steps, if desired, with another piece of plywood. Add the risers by gluing them down. After the glue dries, nail them securely with large finishing nails. Paint or stain the steps, if desired. Carpet the treads or leave them bare. 

If you’re not handy with woodworking, consider buying a simple ramp for your pet and covering it with carpet to provide a scratching spot and a good grip for walking.

Create a Cat Scratching Post
Cat sharpening its claws on a rope-covered DIY cat scratching post.

Staple or nail carpet to the vertical supports on a DIY cat tree to make a cat scratching post. You can also wind rope around the support from the bottom to the top, keeping the loops close together and stapling them in place as you go. You’ll probably need to hammer the staples to get them all the way through the rope and into the supports. Change the carpet or rope when it’s badly frayed.