Introduction: A Real Indoor Cat Tree

About: I'm a writer and illustrator of books for children and Marvin is a craftsman, carpenter, and retired building contractor. We build various things for our Funny Farm and I write about them.

Several cats have owned us over the 40+ years we've lived in rural Oregon. They were always inside/outside cats. All of them lived long happy lives until we lost the last two due to a sudden influx of wildcats in our area. Rather than go on a rampage against the native fauna, we started keeping our cats inside. Which, as all owned-by-cat people know, is a real adventure. Allow me to introduce Bonita and Shinny.

We felt bad for our deprived indoor cats, so we decided to put a tree for them in the new house I was building. A carpeted cat-tree just didn't cut it. And a long straight tree with platforms would not take up much space. We decided to position the tree by a large window so the cats could watch their very own live nature show.

Step 1: Find a Suitable Tree

I had recently cleared the site for our yurt and cut down a cedar tree that would serve the purpose. You could use a discarded Christmas tree, or perhaps find a building site that's being cleared.

I cut a reasonably sized trunk of the tree to the length I wanted and brought it back to the shop where I debarked it and cut off limbs where they wouldn't be needed. To note, cedar bark peels off easily. I left other limbs sticking out for the cats to scratch or step on.

Our house has 9' ceilings, but I made the tree slightly under that height. Since wedging a full height tree would scar the ceiling, I fabricated a way to extend the tree in place.

Step 2: Build a Tree Base

I added a bottom base so the tree wouldn't slide around on our concrete floor. I cut the base from a larger diameter trunk and ground out a 1/4” deep area matching the tree bottom. The tree rests in that. The base has a piece of rubberized material on the bottom to keep the tree from sliding.

Step 3: Install an Adjustable Ceiling Fixture

I drilled a 5/8” diameter hole about 3-1/2” deep into the top of the tree. Then at the very top I chiseled out around the hole just deep enough to fit in a 5/8” nut. Finally a 5 inch 5/8” bolt was turned into the nut and hole. An additional nut can be run up to the bolt head to make turning the bolt easier. A plastic cap was placed over the bolt head to cushion at the ceiling. The bolt was turned upward until the tree was snug floor to ceiling. I could adjust if it came loose (green trees can shrink), and for good measure, I used a piece of heavy gauge copper wire (ground wire that is easy to bend) to fasten the top to the adjacent wall.

Step 4: Build the Platform Supports

I figured the cats could easily manage 24-inch jumps, so I would space three platforms 22” apart. The supports were cut from 1x2 fir pieces. I cut a rounded notch out on the 1x2s so they fit snug against the tree. The supports were screwed together at the tip end, then spread around the tree and screwed with two screws on each side into the tree.

Step 5: Build and Install the Platforms

I cut out 3/4" plywood for the three platforms. I cut a hole the size of the tree into the platform at the appropriate location, creating a horseshoe shape. I cut a back piece that fit snug against the tree, making the platform all one unit. The back end of the shelf is cut along the centerline of the support members until the outer edge of the hole is intersected at both sides. The shelf can then set on the supports up to the tree. The platforms were screwed into the support structures. The back piece was then butted up and screwed down.

Step 6: Wrap It Up!

Finally, I wrapped the bottom and top of the tree in sisal rope, stapling the ends. I wrapped rope on the branches, too, and later, added more in the middle. I put a chair next to it for the cats to get a head start, which they no longer need today. As you can see, Bonita and Shinny love their real tree, where it sits next to a big window to the scary outdoors. And now you know how Shinny got her name.

Thanks for reading this Instructable! Be sure to check out our suspension bridge book - Building a Small Cable Suspension Bridge with the Cable Locking System. And, stay tuned for the 2018 publication of our new book, Building a Wood-Framed Panelized Yurt. You can see how the yurt is progressing via Facebook's Yurt Yaks. You can find links to our books and other building projects on Wildcat Man.

Images, diagrams, and text copyright 2018 by Marvin Denmark and Robin Koontz unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy and post our content anywhere without permission. Thank you.

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