Introduction: Classy Cat Tower

Picture of Classy Cat Tower

Several weeks ago my cat asked me for a new play area. Naturally, I went straight to the pet store to buy her the best cat tree they had. Unfortunately, what I found were rather rickety monstrosities covered in what must be the most expensive carpeting in the world. My love for my cat and my inherent thriftiness were at odds. Fortunately, there was another option.

This cat tower uses simple construction techniques. It requires only basic hand tools. All the materials can be found at your local hardware store or just scrounged. I'm going to break down the construction of the different parts, and you can feel free to combine them in whatever way works for you (and your cat).

I've included a Sketchup file, which might help clarify the design.

Tools:

- hand saw (or better)
- measuring tape
- framing/speed square
- drill
- screwdriver
- razor knife
- staple gun

Materials:

- 2x4 lumber (approx. 20' for the pictured design)
- 3/4" plywood/particleboard (approx. 18" x 18" and 12" x 18")
- 2.5" wood screws.(a bunch)
- carpeting (several square feet)
- gaffer tape
- Sisal rope
- 2' long 4+" dia. tube OR 4x4" 2' long board
- eye hook
- string

Cut List for 2x4's:

- 4.5' x 2
- 3' x 1
- 2' x 1
- 18" x 4

A Word on Safety

Cats can be very destructive and anything you give them should be built to withstand their rough play. Take care when choosing your materials and construction techniques. Examine your work for sharp edges or other dangers. I attempted to make this tower no more dangerous than a common piece of furniture, but I am no expert. Please take care and use common sense. If you're not sure, ask until you find out!

Humans can be destructive when building, especially with sharp tools. Take care when choosing your construction materials and techniques. Practice proper tool safety, always. Please take care and use common sense. If you're not sure, ask until you find out!

Step 1: Wooden Frame

Picture of Wooden Frame

I designed this frame to be solid, yet inexpensive. It can easily support my weight, means it will stand up well against a rambunctious cat. The sturdy beams also provide an ideal surface for mounting any future attachments.

I planned out the design in SketchUp. The levels are each 18" high. This seemed about right to allow my cat to jump up without difficulty. You'll also want to ensure that each level is adequately supported by the 2x4's.

Take your two 4.5' vertical pieces and lay the horizontal pieces on top, as shown in the first picture above..

Drill one hole at each intersection and secure with a screw.

Use your square to check that everything is...well, square. Tap the boards lightly with a hammer to adjust the angles if need be. Once you're satisfied that everything is squared up, go ahead and add another screw or two to each joint.

Use the same process to add the 2' horizontal piece, then the remaining two horizontal supports, and finally the 3' vertical support. As long as you keep everything square, You can work around any other mistakes.

Secure your levels with a few screws along each side. Since we haven't added the scratching post, the frame may be a bit wobbly at this point.

I used a cedar board at the very top, mainly because I had it to spare. Some cats enjoy scratching the soft wood. If you want to use cedar, make sure your cat isn't allergic.

Step 2: Scratching Post

Picture of Scratching Post

Cats will scratch whatever they please, but they prefer something sturdy that they can really dig their claws into. I'll show you the basic construction method here.

You're going to need a sturdy core. Bear in mind this post is also acting as one of the main supports. I happened to have a wide, heavy pipe left over from another project. You can use anything that's strong and the right size. A 4x4" board will work well, and your cat won't care that the post is square instead of round.

If you have access to the tubular cardboard cores from shrink-wrap (Used a lot in warehouses), you can join a couple together to use as your core. Take some scrap wood and cut out a few circles slightly larger in diameter than the tubes. Join them together in a stack. Smooth out the edges, then jam it halfway into one tube. The fit should be tight enough that you need to hammer it in. Support the wooden stack from underneath and gently hammer the second tube on. I've found that this will hold very well.

Once you have your core, measure it against the height of your first level and cut a slot about one quarter of the way around. Test the fit, widening the slot until it fits snugly over the carpeting. Secure with a couple of screws.

Take one end of your sisal rope and glue it to the bottom of your core. Wind the sisal up the core, applying a very thin layer of glue as you go. You can add as many layers as you wish. I did three layers, finishing at the top. The key is to keep the wrapping close and tight. Secure the end in a mechanical way, such as tying it around a screw drilled into the core. The starting end should be hidden safely beneath the other layers.

I topped mine off with a plastic end cap, but if you don't have one on hand, you can finish off the top with a circle of wood, or a scrap of carpet or fabric.

Step 3: Carpeted Levels

Picture of Carpeted Levels

I just cut up an old area rug for this step. Use whatever you can scrounge. Cats aren't picky.

Simply measure your carpet to size and add about 1.5" to the sides that will fold under. A good razor knife should cut through it with ease.

Secure along the edges with a staple gun. Apply staples generously, parallel to the edge. Make sure your staples aren't so long that they go right through the top of the board.

To avoid fraying, cover the edges with gaffer tape. I prefer gaffer tape because it stays in place, but doesn't get all gummy over time like duct tape does.

The advantage to carpeting your levels this way, as opposed to using glue, is that you can replace the carpet fairly easily. If kitty makes a mess, you can always rip off the tape and pull out the staples.

Step 4: Hanging Toy

Picture of Hanging Toy

Cats love to take a swipe at dangling string, but it's hard to find a convenient place to hang it from. Place an eye hook under the overhanging beam. Tie on a length of elastic fabric, or just some sturdy string. A leather boot lace works well. You can tie anything you like to the other end. Once again, this is versatile as you can mix it up and change the toys to keep your furred one guessing.

Step 5: Curiosity Honeycomb

Picture of Curiosity Honeycomb

Challenge your feline's mental powers by hiding treats or toys in this series of tubes. Not only will they have to be nimble to get their prize out, but they'll have to check regularly to see if you've hidden anything new.

This one was really simple. I glued some toilet paper tubes together. You can either glue or staple the whole structure to your cat tower.

Unfortunately, this was a late addition to the tower and doesn't appear in all the photos.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

Sand down all your rough edges. If you want a classier look, you can sand the whole thing smooth and apply an appropriate stain and finish. My cat was too impatient to wait, so I just made sure there wasn't any splinter hazards and left it au naturale for now. Use caution with any substance you apply, and ensure that it's thoroughly cured, set, or dried before you allow a feline near it.

If you have hard-surfaced floors, put something underneath your frame to prevent scuffs. Scraps of carpeting work well. For shock absorption and grip, though, I'm considering hockey pucks.

If you have concerns about stability, you can attach the whole tower to a wide base made out of plywood or the like. Another option is to anchor the tower to a wall. a couple of screws drilled straight through the vertical supports and into a wall stud will do nicely.

I hope this instructable gave you some inspiration and useful tips. Please have fun, be safe, and cast your vote in the Pet Contest!

Comments

JunkyDNA (author)2017-09-09

Excellent! Thank you for sharing. We'll be making this (but bigger) and will post pics later!

BKLaRue made it! (author)2017-03-07

Thanks for posting this!!! We adopted two cats last week and one of my daughters has been on about building a cat tree/tower. I was lucky and had some lumber left over from another project and was able to knock one out in two days and only had to buy carpet and rope. I used slightly different dimensions and made a few alterations but other wise followed your Instructable to a "T". Thanks a million for the great idea and post!

mommywoman (author)2014-09-03

I think this next time I'm gonna make one instead of buying one, for a couple reasons. 1. Now that I know from experience what parts my cats enjoy I can forego the parts that disinterest them. 2. I can make mine much more stable. My one cat jumped from the dresser to the condo I bought and almost tipped the whole unit over and broke part of it in the process. 3. I can make one cheaper than buying one and 4. Mine would look better. Let's face it, the pet toy manufacturers make stuff that appeals to us humans not to our pets. Isn't that why we buy the things we do? The kitty condo I bought cost me $150. I thought it would be sturdier cause I was buying a "better" one. Surprise!

vshthestmpde00 (author)2014-05-18

I have two cats and have wanted to get them a cat condo/tower for them to play on, but money was an issue with the store one and now seeing this, I think I'll be able to make them one instead. awesome job.

Thanks, I'm glad you like it!

jessyratfink (author)2014-05-16

This is fantastic!! Much more simple than many of the other cat condos I've seen. :)

Noodleworks (author)jessyratfink2014-05-16

Thanks! I was definitely going for a minimalist approach. The plan was to have a simple platform to expand on, depending on what the cats like. I discovered my cat is just thrilled to lay on carpet three feet off the ground. :)

RandyPerson (author)2014-05-15

My PowerPoint slide doesn't seem to play well, so I'm attaching a jpg, which for some reason cuts off part of the notes, but I think you'll get the picture.

Noodleworks (author)RandyPerson2014-05-16

Thanks for the comments. I can see what you mean. I like your idea of using two angled supports in a corner, as it keeps things sturdy while using a minimal footprint. I cringe when I see a cat tree that wobbles if you bump into it. :)

RandyPerson (author)2014-05-15

Nice tower! Sounds like stability is an issue for some. Here's an idea we have used successfully. And it doesn't take up much room. Put the cat tree in the corner of a room. Make the top shelf with a 90 degree corner on one side, like a baseball home plate. Carpet it, including the sides, so it can rest against your walls with no attachment or damage to the finish. Add just two long legs, parallel to your walls, securely braced to the main tower, which can be any shape you want. Just be sure the legs extend beyond the reach of the tower components. Then tuck it into the corner, where the two legs and top shelf make a very secure 3-point support. Our athletic 16-pound cat could scramble over one 6 feet high in complete security. And since the legs are close to the walls, lamps, chairs, etc. can be placed quite close. With luck, there will be a sketch attached to help make sense of all this. Have fun!

Nice, it looks like your cat loves it!

Thanks! She sure does.

RustyRoller (author)2014-04-07

Pretty cute. I think I'd make two of the bottom supports from PVC or similar, so that I could fill with sand or pebbles, to make the whole thing more stable. To get around baseboards along the floor, and to keep the wall behind tower cleaner, I am going to screw on a couple of small blocks of wood to the verticle frame piece, then use longer screws to go through the frame as well into and through the blocks, on into the wall (with a molly bolt if not on stud). This way, I'll have no fears the girls will dump this whole thing over.

Noodleworks (author)RustyRoller2014-04-07

Great ideas! The more stability, the better. Using blocks of wood as spacers against the wall would also help if you have baseboards in the way.

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Bio: I primarily work in leather, but I also try to make anything I need whenever I can. Plastics are my nemesis.
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