This Instructable has been a long time coming. I've been talking about doing something like this for about 8 months but, until recently, have been too lazy to get off my butt and complete it. The idea was to make a "tree" filled with all of my cats' favorite toys. A few things happened that got me jump started however; the local Ace Hardware went out of business and I was able to buy a reciprocating saw, drill, and flashlight set for $60 (regular retail price of $120). Shortly after this purchase I was transferred to a different shift at the warehouse where I work and as a result had 1 day off less than I previously had. This prompted me to try to get more out of my days off. Last, and probably most important, the 38th Annual Madison Chautauqua was held this weekend. For the uninitiated, the Madison Chautauqua is a fairly large craft fair that takes over the downtown area of my small city in Southern Indiana. There's lots of cool stuff there but I can never get over how much the artisans price things. I'm the first one to do his best to support the arts but $150+ is a bit much for a portrait of a grasshopper. So the Cat Tree idea popped back in my head and I thought that I would make something Chautauqua worthy, but do it for little to no cost. And hey, if someone wants to give me 80 bucks for it next year, maybe I'll just become a hypocrite and make a little extra ca$h. :-)

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Materials

The material is pretty easy to gather. If you live near a wooded area a short hike and a little bit of searching will probably yield your perfect piece within just a few moments. I live right next to the Ohio River so I just took a walk down the bank a few days after some heavy rain and used some driftwood. The toys themselves don't need to be much really, just a few simple things that the cats can bat at and chew on. Being an owner of two very finicky cats I had several toy mice and bits of string & lace laying about that I use to attempt to engage them in play (usually unsuccessfully). The only thing I didn't have on hand was the dowel rod I used to connect the base to the tree and my friend/(bad)photographer dlewisa provided this. To simplify things I'll make out a list of items you'll need:

Base - This should be at least 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) thick to give it the appropriate weight/center of gravity. Using a thinner piece will result in the tree being turned over very often.

Tree - Any piece of driftwood or wood you rescue from becoming humus. Mine is about 3.5 feet (1.07 meters) tall. With the base the final product is right at 4 feet (1.22 meters).

Dowel Rod - The simplest way to connect the two pieces of wood. The one I used was 7/8 inches wide (2.22 centimeters). You could probably get away with using a thinner dowel, but I'd probably use two or three rods for added stability.

Cat Toys - Without these it's just some wood standing on top of some other wood. I suggest different types of yarns and strings. Any craft store will have yarns, strings, and lacy bow type stuff that can be used. My girlfriend has this lying around for some of her projects and I absconded with a few pieces. Bells, shiny things, and toy mice are always a plus.

The tools for this project are simple:

Reciprocating Saw - Used for cutting off loose pieces of wood or shaping the tree to your liking.

Cordless Drill - I drilled some holes in a few of the branches so I could work with the lengths of string I had available. By inserting the string/yarn through the branch instead of going around the whole circumference I was able to gain a bit more length for the dangling toys/string.

Palm Sander - I made sure to round the edges and corners as much as possible. I don't know that this is necessarily a requisite but I know that when I run into this thing in the dark some night it's going to hurt less if the edges are gone.

Corded Drill - I love my Craftsman Cordless drill but the little 15.6 volt battery just wasn't up to the challenge of drilling the paddle bit into a solid stump. I guess I should have made sure the battery was fully charged before I set to work. Fortunately dlewisa had a corded drill nearby that made short work of the hole.

Hammer - Not pictured but absolutely essential for Step 3 and one of the Optional Steps.
Wow! This is awesome!! I'm thinking of starting a cat rescue, and something like this would be so cool and cheap to add to the adoption room.
Glad you like it! I've been pleasantly surprised by how well the cats have taken to it. THey pretty much ignored it at first, but after my lady friend made some custom toys and we used the laser pointer on them, they were hooked! Send me some pictures if you end up making one.
So... do the cats like it?
UPDATE! After a couple months of this unsightly chunk of wood sitting in my living room, Angie redecorated it and added new toys (most of which she made herself). The result is a large in crease in play time. In fact the cats are enjoying it so much that the dogs (always jealous of anything the cats play with or eat or both) have started head butting some of the toys to make them squeak or jingle. Hooray!
Nice. Always good to see cats going nuts. Any strategic use of catnip?
Believe it or not, no. I put some on there a few days after bringing it in the house but they pretty much ignored it after rubbing their faces on the branches for a while. Angie's toy making ability is the driving force behind their new found passion. She attached one of the toys to a small toy fishing pole a while ago and had some great adventures with that. I hinted at doing an Instructable. Maybe I should take a break from the studying and get to work on something fun.
So far they've only played with it a bit. I tricked the male into playing with it yesterday by shining the laser pointer on it and then turning it off. I think he was attacking the tree because it ate the shiny dot he likes. Interestingly it was a stray that played with it the most. If you look at Darren's comment you'll see that there was a slight ant problem in the beginning. In order to try to keep the ants out of my house I sprayed it down with bug spray, then left it out on the porch for a couple of nights. A stray cat came up and started batting at it and went hogwild. He took off when I tried to get a pic though. :-( How's life? -EJC
My dad and I made a cat tree a few years ago as a scratching post, but it's relatively straight up and down. It's about four feet high, and the cats wouldn't play with it as first. I put a shelf on top and used a chainsaw to put in an appropriate niche for another shelf, carpeted both, and they LOVE it now.
That thing looks more like a home for wayward ants. Or the white tree of Gondor. Nice looking garage though. Any cats that play with this thing should have their sexuality questioned. Wait a minute . . . that's my garage.

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Bio: I was born at a very early age...
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