How to Build a DIY Cat Tree

We love our pets around here (and we love to make them things, like durable DIY dog beds and pet car safety hammocks). After many months of discussion, the family has convinced me to adopt a cat. I suppose that all kinds of things that come along with that, and though it’s been awhile since I co-existed with a cat, I do remember how elaborate some of the toys could be. I also remember how scratched our furniture could become. With that consideration, we know already that we’ll build our own DIY Cat Tower (or cat tree, or whatever retailers label them these days), somewhere where the little guy can scratch comfortably and jump out of reach from our big, furry dog. Our inspiration? This one that our friend Marty at Dadand.com built.

Make a multi-tiered DIY cat tower using wood and carpet.

Cat lovers, I think you’ll be excited to know how easy and inexpensive it can be to make your own cat condo. Keep in mind that yours can be to any dimension that works in your home.

With just a few tools and materials, you can get started. Here’s what he used:

  • Table saw or circular saw
  • Drill
  • Pocket Hole Jig (optional, and requires the use of pocket hole screws)
  • 1/2” Stapler (an electric stapler will make it easy to secure layers of carpeting)
  • Utility Knife
  • 2’x4’x1/2” Plywood, Particle Board or MDF
  • (1) 2”x4”x8’
  • 50 ft. of ¼” or 3/8” Sisal Rope
  • 1 Yd by 12 ft Progressive – Natural Carpet (look for remnant!)
  • 2” Screws – wood or drywall, and also some kreg pocket hole screws if you own a Kreg Jig

The design required the use of only one 2′ x 4′ board, which kept costs and waste low. I like that. He started by planning out how all of the tiers of the cat tower would be sized, maximizing the available materials.

Planning the size of the cat tower stories.

He cut, predrilled, sanded, and built up the entire piece to ensure it was solid and attached securely.

Make a multi level cat tree using scrap wood and carpet.

Because he had done his test fitting with screws (not nails) he was able to disassemble it to wrap the surfaces in sisal rope and carpeting. Staples helped to secure the rope onto the vertical spans of 2×4, giving the cats a secure place to scratch.

Stapling wrapped sisal into place on the DIY cat tower.

The four tiers of the cat tree received a similar treatment, each wrapped individually with pieces of inexpensive carpeting and stapled securely into place to give the animals a sleeping surface that would withstand the wear and tear of cat claws.

Kitty Condo tower wrapped in inexpensive carpet.

Cat tree wrapped with carpeting.

The finished piece, once reassembled, lends itself as a tall, narrow piece with a wide base that could easily fit in an unobtrusive way in nearly any home. Planning your own? In addition to checking for carpet at the Big Box stores, look for remnants at second hand shops like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore to get a small quantity at a discount price.

For the full tutorial on how this specific piece was built, click here.

How to make a big cat tower tree for your pets.

Looking for other pet projects? Here are a few more ideas that you can make or buy to make your pet feel right at home.

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Fazio is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

24 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I built this cat tree according to your plans. I found that it was a bit unstabe so I did a redesign on it and it came out more stable. We have a larger cat so your design was a bit small for him. However, thanks for getting me started! I have a photo but don't know how to post?

    Columns (2×4)
    Bottom: 15 inches high (3)
    Middle: 27 Inches high (2)
    Top: 44 inches high (3)

    Platforms
    Bottom: 24"X35"
    1st level: 24"x15"
    2nd level: 19"X16 5/8"
    Top Level: 19"X15

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  3. Rainy says:

    How is it for stability? I live in an apartment and cant secure anything like this to the ceiling or wall. I tried one from wal-mart and it wobbled so bad my cat was afraid of it.

    • @n5jxs says:

      Make the base larger for stability. This design looks, to me, like its base is good, and the lower levels have great 2×4 . The top may wobble a little; I'd probably use a 4×4 post in place of the long 2×4 but then, I'm usually accused of over-engineering things.

  4. Brenda says:

    The more posts with rope on the better. If you teach your cats to claw on carpeted posts they can then think all carpet or material is okay to sharpen their claws. If you have big cats like my Maine Coons then rope is needed at least 3 foot high as they can stretch that high or more.

    • Vicky says:

      Thanks for that suggestion about the carpet vs. rope. I wouldn't have thought of that yet it makes complete sense. 3'? I wonder how high a smaller cat can reach, our old cat never had one but she could stretch pretty high. Something to keep in mind.

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  9. Barbara says:

    I have indoor cats (no claws…adopted that way). One year my wonderful brother made me (& cats) the best Christmas gift. He built them a 5 level stand closed in on sides and open front and back except for the first level back. I have the litter box on bottom, water on 2nd, food for cats on 3rd & 4th, with an empty top. There are cut outs on all but 2nd level for the cats to crawl through. I put it in front of window in utility room and they are content to lay there and watch the outdoors. Still might get him to make them this project as well.

  10. Calico says:

    You can always cover the post with carpet instead of using the rope.

  11. Auntiepatch says:

    That's really nice but none of my 4 cats will touch sisal rope.

  12. Jlp369 says:

    I used screws for everything including the rope. All materials cost about $50 or less. I already had the plywood! Alot of work but so worth it!

  13. beth says:

    I've wanted one but was put off by costs, even with sale coupons. Maybe I can get hubby to build me one. Please tell me what was your cost for all the materials?

  14. samuel rivers says:

    rather than useing staples to secure the rope to the board or carpet tube. Use a flat line of builders glue, and the rope will not ever shift .Cats are very strong for their size, and over time (months,years) staples can work loose ,causeing a bloody foot or other injury . And do not use berber carpet ,it snags &" runs" ,too easy .Ruinning the looks . The plans are very good , you can build 3 floor to ceiling cat trees. For what a pet store will charge for one .

  15. @cedargarden says:

    Neat article will save money making your own! Please also make sure to set staples so they can't pull loose.

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  17. Peggy Worth says:

    Thanks so much. I have wanted to make one of these for a while. This will help a lot!!

  18. Moodyvega says:

    Looks like a very nice cat scratch post. Cat also looks happy!

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About Emily Fazio 

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I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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