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How to build a homemade cat tree

Cat on cat tree platform

Learn how to build a cat tree for your feline

© ANURAK PONGPATIMET - Shutterstock

Cats love climbing and sleeping high up, so a cat tree is perfect for them. But rather than buy an expensive one, make your own with our DIY cat tree guide.

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the

Cats are natural climbers and love nothing more than being up high to survey their territory below. A homemade cat tree will give your feline friends many hours of entertainment, and you can build it at a fraction of the cost of a cat tree bought from a pet shop. All it takes is a little time and effort.

Do cats need a cat tree? 

Cat trees offer a huge array of benefits for your cat. A cat tree is rather like a home gym for felines. They encourage your cat to exercise, give them something they can scratch (without being told off), climb, play and jump. They often have caverns and holes to keep a cat curious.  On top of this, they are also a cosy and comfortable place for your cat to nap and relax. Most cat trees have a top-level ideal for felines to take a catnap on.

As a cat owner, you'll also benefit as a cat tree can help to redirect your cat's natural tendency to scratch away from your furniture. Cat trees are designed to be durable and can take a heavy beating from your cat's sharp claws.

Do cat trees make cats happy?

Most cats love cat trees because they are irresistible to scratch and a lot of fun to climb. They can use reach high places and use their bodies to balance.

For indoor cats, a cat tree can be even more beneficial. While they may not be able to scale a real tree outside, they can perch on the top level of their cat tree, gaze out the window, and keep an eye on what's happening below. It also gives them more territory, especially a cat tree with multiple levels, perches and hideaways. Furthermore, if you have multiple felines, a cat tree offers a place to escape and reduce potential feline conflicts.

How to make a cat tree

Building your own cat tree can take a little time and effort, but it will ultimately be cheaper than buying one from a pet shop. And it will probably last much longer too.

Before you build

Before you purchase any materials and start building, you'll need to design your cat tree. You'll need to consider the space you have for the cat tree, so decide where you'll put it and what size cat tree will fit into that area.

You should also think about your cat's personality. If your feline friend enjoys climbing, a tall cat tree with perches is a good idea. If they are shy and often like to be by themselves, think about building a little covered sleeping nook. If your DIY and carpentry skills are fairly limited, opt for a simpler design.

Materials

Use your design to decide what materials you need. PVC pipes, cardboard and dimensional lumber work well for vertical supports, while plywood is effective for horizontal platforms. Carpet is perfect for covering wood and will make it comfortable for your cat. With your design as a guide, cut all the materials to size and sand any rough edges.

The base of the cat tree

Your cat tree must have a sturdy base extending further from the centre than any other part of the tree so it doesn't tip over. To build the base, cut two plywood squares to the size you need and glue them together. For a basic cat tree, a 60cm square works well. But if you're building a tall cat tree, you'll need a larger base to ensure its sturdiness.

Cover with carpet

You should then cover the base with carpet or a thick upholstery fabric before attaching any vertical supports. If you want to make a stylish cat tree, think about the fabric's colour and pattern you choose. Make sure you cut the carpet a few inches larger than the base across all sides and wrap the edges over the edges of the base. Using a staple gun, staple the carpet in place on the underside of the base. You may find that you'll have to make a few cuts into the carpet at the carpets to ensure it can fold underneath the base neatly.

Attach the vertical supports

The vertical supports will hold up the platforms of the cat tree, and these can be attached to the base using wood glue, nails or screws. On the underside of the base, drill holes where you want the supports to go. Insert snails or screws through the holes and drive them into the supports. If your cat tree to also double as a cat scratching post, wrap at least one of the supports with sisal rope and use staples to secure each end in place out of view.

Attach the horizontal perches

You can then attach your plywood perches with wood screws or glue. Once you've fixed them in place, wrap them in fabric or carpet to hide the screws and staple the material in place on the underside.

Carry on building your cat tree according to your design. As you fix each component, make sure you make necessary adjustments to your design to consider new ideas or stability issues.

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