Introduction: $50 DIY Cat Paradise!
Finding a cheap paradise for your cat(s) to perch, climb, play, sleep, and feel secure is like finding a flea on an elephant's behind. It just ain't gonna happen...until now!
For just $50 USD (or between $60-70 CAD) you can get a 7' tall by 10' wide play space with two climbing/scratching posts (one in sisal rope and the other in carpet), multiple play areas with toys, multiple levels of lounging space, a hammock, kitty steps on two different sides, and a double cat condo (with a step to get to the higher condo).
Step 1: Gather the Materials
To make this project I used the following...
1 piece of 3/8"x4'x8' standard grade spruce plywood
Carpet (I already had on hand)
3-3/8"x50' packages of twisted sisal rope
Kitty beds (I used two cushions you'd put on wooden dining room chairs)
Kitty toys (Already on hand)
Old, clean bath towel (For the hammock)
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES:
-Jigsaw (to do all the rest of the cuts)
-Drill (with multiple types of bits)
-Hot glue gun (with hot glue sticks)
-Box Nails (specifically for not splitting softer wood)
-Wood screws (of various lengths)
-5 packages of 3" corner L brackets (4 brackets per package)
-2 to 3 packages of 1" corner L brackets (4 brackets per package)
Step 2: Make All Your Cuts
My exact kitty paradise (which I feel looks a little more chic then a completely carpeted one) features two separate 4' long (x 7' tall) structures that can be connected by an extra connector bridge I made (not pictured on this step, but find it on the last step). So these steps will reflect this...but feel free to adjust everything to fit your needs! :)
1. Cut 8 of your 2x3 (saving two 2x3x8) and both of your 2x4 lumber pieces to 7' lengths. Save all the 1' pieces for the cat condo and as extras.
2. Cut the plywood into strips with the following widths: 14" (by the entire 8' length), 12" (by the entire 8' length), and 6" (by the entire 8' length). This leaves a 16" wide strip (by 8' length).
3. Cut the 6" wide x 8' long plywood strip into eight 1' long pieces. These eight 6" x 1' pieces will make up your eight kitty steps. (OPTIONAL: you can cut an additional "step" for the cat condo from leftover plywood pieces that you will have.)
4. Cut the 14" wide (x 8') strip in half to make two 4' long x 14" wide pieces. These will be your bridges for atop your structures. In one end of each 4'x14" piece, cut a roughly 5-6" wide x 7-9" long hole with your jigsaw. These will be the entrance points to the bridges from the stairs. Tip: If it is hard to get a nice, clean 90 degree corner, pre-drill holes in the corners with a 1" spade drill bit to make a spot for your jigsaw to maneuver through cleanly.
5. Cut two 1x2x8s in half to make four 1x2x4s that will add stability to your bridge pieces from step 4.
6. Cut the 16" plywood strip into six 6" lengths so you have six 6" x 16" pieces...these will be the "feet" at the bases of the structures.
OPTIONAL: To replace one of the steps with a perch (as seen in the structure with the carpeted post), also cut out a 32" length from the 12" wide plywood strip (and cut 2 matching lengths of the 1x2x8 piece of lumber that you have as extra from the supply list).
Step 3: Assemble Your Kitty Paradise
Tip: I bought the cheapest standard grade plywood and reinforced it with the 1x2s so I could save a good chunk of change. :)
1. Make the steps of the structure first. Lay two 2x3s out and fit one step in-between them to determine the exact width needed. Put in the second step where you think it should go. Lay out your other two 2x3s for this structure next to it, and do the same with fitting in the steps, but position them so they go between the locations of the first ones steps (see the picture for better explanation). Tip: For my outside stair frames, I had the steps higher then the inner stair frames so that when the cat reached the top of the stairs, she could jump through the pre-cut hole in the bridge and access the highest point of the structure this way.
2. Once these are positioned where you want them, use your 3" L brackets to secure each step to the 2x3s (two L brackets per step). These will be secured into the step and into the 2x3s.
3. Attach the plywood bases (from the 6" long x 16" wide plywood cuts) to the bottoms of these two stair frames (as seen in the picture) using either screws or long (1-1.5") nails.
4. Lay out your first 2x4 (cut to 7' length) next to these stair frames. Attach a base to it from the 6"x16" plywood cuts with the same screws or nails you used for step 3. (Reinforcing the post with L brackets will come after the structure is standing up so it is easier to get it centered.)
5. Reinforce your pre-cut 4'x14" plywood bridge pieces with the 1x2x4s that go with them (2 per bridge piece). Since the stairs are separating the stair frames by 12", you come in just about 1" from the sides. Place your 1x2x4s here (running the 4' length of the board). See the picture for a visual.
6. Rotate your stair frames to have the steps face each other, and make sure the 2x4 plank has it's base piece running the same way as the bases of your stair frames (if you secured the 2x4 the "wrong" way to the base piece, just rotate the entire thing to match the stair frames base direction and it will be A-OK. There's really no wrong way to put the 2x4s onto the structure, as the kitties will climb up it either way--you may notice in my pictures that the two planks covered in sisal rope and carpet are not installed the same direction). Secure the bridge piece into the 2x3s and into the 2x4 with wood screws (about 2 screws per lumber piece to make sure it's sturdy).
Step 4: Repeat the Process
Stand up your finished structure and secure the base of the 2x4 (as shown in picture #1) with an L bracket on either side of whatever edges are facing you and facing the back when it's standing. Don't worry if the structure is a little wobbly at this point as we will be securing it to the wall at the end.
Double check your steps, and that your kitty can actually climb up them (grab their favorite chasing toy and run it up the steps, having them follow it). If there's a step that is too far from the previous step, you can add a diagonal climb to that area (as seen in picture #2). To accomplish this, lay a piece of 2x3 over the area and draw a line where you want to cut it off at. Make the cut with your saw and then attach the piece to the stair frames with your 1" L brackets (just make sure the brackets are flush to all sides that you will be drilling them into). Once you've added this extra climb, note the distance that you need to change your next structure's steps to, and then...
Repeat this entire process to build one more structure just like it...only flip the structure, so if both were standing, the insides facing each other would be the 2x4 sections. Also, if you choose to add a perching area (like mine) instead of a step, just secure the entire piece (with it's reinforcing 1x2s as mentioned previously) to the 2x4 with a 3" L bracket (or two) AND the back end of it to where the step would normally have sat between the stair frame legs (making sure to leave the same overhang you would've left for the step--so kitty can jump onto it like a step).
Step 5: Design a Kitty Condo!
This was probably the easiest part of it all. :)
1. Utilizing the extra 2x3x8s you have left over, cut eight 18" lengths. So now you should have eight 2x3x18" pieces. These will be your internal framework for your kitty condo. Also utilizing the leftover 12" wide plywood you have, cut 3 12" lengths. So now you also have three 12"x12" plywood squares.
2. Get an extra set of hands to help you with this part. First, put four lumber pieces standing up straight on the ground. While you hold these, have someone else place the first plywood square atop these pieces. Hold one piece at a time flush against the corner of the plywood square while the other person hammers in a couple 1.5-2" nails (with flat heads). Do this for the remaining three corners.
3. Now make a second one of these table-looking structures the exact same way, except add a plywood square on the opposite end so it's more like a wall-less cube (having a top and bottom surface).
4. Turn the first "table" structure over and this is now the base. Put the wall-less cube structure over top of this and use 1" L brackets to secure each leg of the upside-down "table" structure to the underside of the wall-less cube structure. Also add four 1" L brackets to the underside of the top of the structure in all the corners (this adds stability and strength). If so desired, you can add 1" L brackets to the bottom four corners, too. So many brackets! Lol.
5. To make "walls," I found that if you simply wrap the carpet completely around the structure (gluing and nailing to keep it nice and taut--have someone help with this process as carpet is kinda tough to work with) and then cut two holes in it that are big enough for your cat(s) to go through in the designated "front"...that's it! Instant walls :)
6. To make the little step (like I did for accessing the top condo), simply use two of your 1ft pieces that you chopped off the 2x3s, and put two small plywood pieces at the top and bottom of the wood. These pieces should be a 6" deep x 12" wide piece of plywood for the top (you could use the step you didn't use on the one structure if you supplemented it for the elongated perch instead), and an 8-9" deep x 12" wide piece of plywood for the base (it's a little deeper so it doesn't topple over when kitty jumps on the top). Nail the base in to the 2x3 legs first, but KEEP THE LEGS TO THE BACK CORNERS of the plywood. Turn this over and nail in the top to the 2x3 legs making sure to align the legs in the same two corners the first plywood piece was in (so, unlike when you made the steps with overhang on both sides, this will now stand flush against the kitty condo). **Make sure when you're accessorizing in the final step that you carpet this, too.** Hot glue the backing wood (basically anywhere sitting flush against the condo) to the carpet "wall" in the front of the condo to give it a sturdy reinforcement for unlimited wear and tear. Done.
It's so complicated-sounding to write it out...but just look at the picture and make that! hahaha lol ;-P
BONUS: This kitty condo makes a great perch for your feline friend to look out the window or an open door (as in the pic above)!
Step 6: Accessorize and Secure to the Wall
Lastly, the fun part! Accessorize the new Cat Paradise!
1. Add sisal rope to the one 2x4 by hot gluing the beginning rope at the top, back side. Then wrap it around the post securing with some more hot glue and staples every few times around.
2. Attach the carpet to the other 2x4 simply with hot glue. Tip: to easily cut carpet, turn it over, measure how long you need and with a marker, colored pencil--or any writing utensil of this sort--draw your lines using the grid of the backing to keep your lines straight. Cut right along these lines.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Anywhere the cat(s) can jump on to needs to be covered in carpet as well. So we're talking steps, walkways (like the diagonal piece I added to mine), and if you made the perching "step" on the one structure, this will need it too. Just simply hot glue the carpet down to the wood. Works like a charm!
3. Add plenty of cushions, perches, and lounge areas, as well as plenty of toys and play areas too! Tip: for the hammock I simply hammered through the towel into the lumber pieces with a few nails in each spot. They're NOT hammered all the way in. This allows them to be easily removed if necessary, and it makes it so the towel doesn't want to rip away from the wood when the cats jump and climb in the hammock.
4. Finally, secure this baby to the wall by adding at least two 3" L brackets in different areas to make it sturdy.
Sit back and enjoy your new creation. And get used to being called, "The Crazy Cat Lady/Guy!" ;)
TIP: To get your kitty to like their new cat paradise, play with them often up and down it by using their toys to encourage their interaction. Run the toy up and down the posts. Put familiar items on the perching areas (like their kitty beds, pillows, blankets, etc). Add their already used toys to the structures. The more of their scent that's on this new thing, the more they will want to interact with it and call it home. Also, placing your kitty on different perching levels or in the hammock often will also help them to understand this new thing is safe and a happy place for them to be. Soon, they will be running, jumping, playing, perching, and snoozing all over it!
BONUS: As aforementioned, I made a little plywood "bridging-the-gap" piece that I can secure with a single screw (on each side) over the 2x4 areas to make this structure like one single piece. You can see it in the last picture in this step. I bet after all that work of building this Cat Paradise, you can totally figure out this little bridge! After all, you're now a cat-stuff-building-expert! Happy building :)