The DIY Cat Tower
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A few months back, the family was in the pet store and we came upon those things.
Things for cats to climb on, sleep, scratch…cough up hairballs.
My Daughter: “Dad can we get one of these things for the cats?”
My Oldest Son: “What do you call them?”
Me: “I call them expensive.”
Like $150 and up expensive.
And there’s no way I’m spending that much on a cat, just so it can look down on me with its conceited little smirk.
Make no bones about it. I don’t like cats. I’m allergic to them.
Yet I have two.
But I found it in my heart to build them this DIY cat tower / cat tree / scratching post / kitty tower / cat furniture / cat gym / whatever-you-call-it-thing.
Because they deserve the best. As long as the best is under $25.
My trip to the pet store revealed these cat towers are “masterfully” constructed with cardboard concrete forms, two-by-fours, PVC pipe, sisal rope and carpet remnants.
I knew I had most of that stuff laying around, taking up precious shop space at the house.
And if I built my own DIY cat tower, I’d win on many fronts:
- Save $125
- Brownie points with the wife and kids
- A post for Dadand.com
- Use extra stuff lying around/clean up shop
- Cats stop scratching on other stuff
- Cats sleep farther away from me
So you can build a DIY Cat Tower / Cat Tree / Kitty Tower / Cat Furniture / Cat Gym / Cat Condo too.
I started by referencing a photo I took of the $$$ Cat Tree at the pet store. Then made a quick sketch of what I could do with the materials I had.
These things are nothing but particle board, cardboard, some PVC pipe and cheap, ugly carpet. I didn’t want to spend money on a concrete form (the curved platforms), so I just made them flat.
Here’s a checklist of stuff you’ll need for your DIY cat tower. Source locally first (like in your garage), then go to the home center for the rest:
- 2’x4’x1/2” Plywood, Particle Board or MDF
- (1) 2”x4”x8’
- 50 ft. of ¼” or 3/8” Sisal Rope ($5-$8)
- 1 Yd by 12 ft Progressive – Natural Carpet ($5.22 per sq. yard = $20.88)
- 2” Screws – wood or drywall, and if you’re anal, then some kreg pocket hole screws
Here are the tools I used:
Let’s build the Kitty Condo.
I started by laying out some lines on the piece of 1/2” MDF I had. You can use plywood or particle board. I just had this already and wasn’t going to use it for anything else, anytime soon.
Refer to the downloadable cat tower plans for a cut guide.
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Although I don’t actually cut on the lines, I just lay it out to help visualize and make sure I can get all the pieces I need from the sheet. And marking where the 2’x4’ uprights will go helps to get everything assembled. Plus it makes for a nice photo for you folks.
This is the carpet I bought from Home Depot. It was roughly $5 per square yard and 12 ft. long. So 1 yard by 12 ft. was plenty to cover the entire cat tree, and I had enough left over for a little doormat to my shop.
I won’t go over how to cut wood, but I used my table saw to cut all three levels and then a circular saw to cut the 2”x4”s to length. Here’s all the stuff piled up outside on my makeshift workbench.
I’m also going to skip the simple stuff like how to fasten the 2”x4” upright to the base. Just make sure it’s plumb and use some screws from the base into the upright. As for attaching the first and second floors, I used pocket holes. Pocket holes allow you to essentially put a screw, at an angle of about 15 degrees, from one workpiece into another. Kinda like a screw on the same horizontal plane as the workpiece. This let me fasten the first and second floors directly into the uprights without the use of a cleat, or fastening from the upright, into the floor surface.
Here’s my Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. It is clamped where you want to create a pocket hole…
…then drill through the jig using the Kreg pocket hole drill bit. The tip is formed to create a pilot hole for the screw, and countersink the screw at the same time.
Here’s two pocket holes. The screw will fit entirely within the hole, so the screw head will not protrude above the plane of the workpiece.
I got the twins, and my youngest involved with sanding some of the pre-drilled holes for the uprights. The MDF tends to bulge a bit on the opposite side of your pre-drilled, countersunk hole.
Fighting over who’s going to sand.
I marked the uprights so I’d have some reference to fasten each level of the cat tower. Then, I assembled it in its entirety to check for fit prior to upholstery. What gets tricky is every piece gets ½” larger after upholstering. The carpet is about ¼” thick. I made up for that by cutting my boards a bit smaller (cut list is accurate), and trimming away some carpet in some locations on the uprights. You’ll see where in the next few steps.
Let’s wrap the uprights. I butt the end of one upright to the selvedge on the carpet and got ready to staple using my Craftsman Pneumatic 1/2” Crown Stapler. You can bust out the Arrow T-50 if you don’t have an air stapler.
I stapled one edge all the way down, then rolled the carpet around the upright and stapled along the other edge. Using a long metal straightedge, I trimmed the carpet along the center to make a nice straight seam. This shot shows the two areas I trimmed away to allow for the first and second floors to fit nicely once they are upholstered.
Here’s the upright for the first floor. I wanted to wrap this in sisal rope so the rats…err…cats have a place to scratch. Or simu-scratch since they’ve been declawed.
Wrap the rope around the upright and place a staple on the backside every 10 courses or so. Use a fairly long staple here, so it can get good bite in the wood, and be less likely to pull out later. I figured the cats would come at this thing from the front anyway, so their little paws won’t get hurt if I kept the staples on the back.
Here’s a shot of the second floor. You can see my markings and holes for fastening to the medium-height upright, and the pocket holes into the tall upright. You need to wrap this thing with carpet, so cut a piece that allows about 2”-3” overlap on all sides.
I fold over one side, and staple from the middle out to about 2” from each corner. DON’T staple all the way to the corner, cause you’ll need to fold the corners up at the end.
Here’s three sides done. See the corners? I do those last. And right now I am wondering how I will commit that process to text on a page.
Here’s how. Just show a finished shot. Nah. Move onto the next shot and you can see corners.
My normal approach to wrapping a corner is seen on the left. But with thick, rigid carpet I take the approach on the right. It’s okay to seam the corner since the carpet pile will hide the seam if you do it right. In the first frame I drew some guides to show how I plan to cut. I follow the topside edge of the board out ¾” of an inch, which will allow for a seam on the corner of the sides of the board. The cut coming across the diagram makes for nice 45-degree flaps to staple on the back.
Here’s the back of the second floor, go ahead and cut out the carpet areas to allow for mounting on the upright.
With everything upholstered, I’ve moved onto the messy porch to finish assembly. Frank is there to help me. Since we had already assembled the cat condo once, this was a breeze. And for the second and third floors. I just shot the screws right through the carpeting, into the uprights (from the top down into the upright).
So that’s it. Done. As soon as I put it in the house, one of the cats had to try it out.
I ended up turning the tree around, so it would be easier to access the third floor, and threw one of their beds up top—to entice them to get away from me and our tail-pulling two-year-old.
Try and make your own DIY cat tower. Send us some pics or something. Just don’t send me any more cats.
Download the awesome cat tower plans here.
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