Introduction: Cool and Cozy Cat Hammock

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

Every cat needs a cozy place to sleep. A hammock allows air to flow underneath and helps keep your sleeping kitty cool. The canopy provides a little shade and also some style.

This project requires no metal fasteners, and minimal materials and tools. Total cost should be under $10. If you can cut and drill, I am confident that you can build this!

I figured out a lot of the construction as I went, through trial and error. I've presented these instructions in the order that I think makes the most sense, not necessarily the way I did it. Hopefully, this will make your building experience goes smoother than mine.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Here's what you'll need. I've listed everything that I used, but put the bare minimum needed in bold.

Materials needed:

  • 1x2 board, 8' long
  • 1x4 board, 8' long
  • 3/4" dowel, 4' long
  • 3/8" dowel, 1' long (x5)
  • Yarn for hammock (or 12" x 14" soft fabric)
  • 10" x 24" lightweight leather (or heavy, opaque fabric)
  • Leather lace (or string)

Tools needed:

  • mitre saw (or any saw)
  • jig saw
  • rasp
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • speed square
  • drill
  • 3/4" and 3/8" drill bits
  • sandpaper
  • wood finish
  • knitting needles
  • leather punch

That's about it!

Step 2: Cut and Drill Your Support Posts

Cut the 1x2 into four equal pieces, at 30-degree angles.

Time to mark and drill some holes. Measuring from angled sides can be tricky. I measured from the closest end of the edge, then down. See the diagram. One hole is 1 3/4" from the edge, the other is 7 3/4".

To keep the holes straight, I first drilled a pilot hole with a Dremel drill press. Even if you just drill a pilot hole freehand, it can be a big help.

Once the pilot hole is done, pop in your 3/4" bit and bore out a nice big hole. Note that you'll want to have a sacrificial board underneath to keep the hole neat. It also helps to clamp your work down tightly, especially when using large drill bits.

Step 3: Cut the Curvy Bits

Here's where things get interesting.

Cut your 1x4 into four equal pieces.

I considered different ways to bend wood into a pleasing curve, but ultimately decided it was simpler to just cheat.

Essentially, we're going to make a 1x4 look like a bent 1x2.

Mark the short edges of each board at 1 1/2". Next, find the centre of the long edge, and mark 1 1/2" in, from the opposite direction. See the picture, it will make more sense.

There are many ways to calculate and mark the curve. I just set up some clamps at the appropriate points and bent a piece of masonite across them. Do whatever works. You can make the curve fancier if you want, or just use a series of straight lines.

Before you cut, select two pieces to be the bottom. mark and drill 3/4" holes 3/4" from each edge, between the curved lines.

I cut along the line with a jig saw, which was a bit of a struggle because of the thickness. Don't worry too much about being perfect; you can smooth out the rough spots with a rasp afterward. Once you've cut your first piece, you can use it as a guide to draw the other three.

Step 4: Test Fit and More Drilling

Time to see what you've got so far! I spent a lot of time assembling and disassembling my bed. It helps to twist the dowels through the holes. It was also easier after I decided to sand down the edges a bit. With all the twisting, be careful to avoid blisters!

Cut your 3/4" dowel into four pieces. Mark them all about 1" from each edge. Sand the edges lightly.

Assemble what you've built so far. The dowels will probably be very tight and things may not line up quite perfectly. This is why we haven't drilled the holes in the top curved pieces yet. Use the holes on the support beams as a guide to mark the four holes. If you were a little off in any of your measurements, you can compensate here and the bed will still fit together.

Drill the holes in the upper curved pieces, then test fit again. Use the marks you made on the dowels to keep the pieces at the corrects width. It should be quite tight, and you may need to use a mallet or board to gently hammer the pieces together. Remember that wood has a little bit of flex to it. If need be, sand the inside of one or more holes to make the bed fit together.

You may notice that the bed still isn't stable. It can lean left or right, pivoting on the dowels. We'll fix that. Mark where the inner edge of the support posts meet the upper curved pieces. Disassemble everything. Rub your sore hands together and take a deep breath.

You want the inner edge of the support beam to rest against a 3/8" dowel. Use the marks you made earlier and drill 3/8" holes. While you're drilling, make another hole at the very centre, and a hole about 2" from each edge.

The upper curved pieces should now have a total of five 3/8" holes each.

Step 5: Smoothing and Sealing

If you want to make your curved pieces look a little smoother and more symmetrical, now is the time. Use the dowels to hold each pair of curved boards together. A rasp is handy for removing material to shape the curve. Sandpaper will smooth out rough spots and imperfections. I decided to go for a "distressed" look by using the rasp and then lightly sanding.

Everything looks better when it's smooth and shiny. For a little contrast, I used walnut stain on the boards and plain tung oil on the dowels. Make sure everything is completely dried before moving on.

Reassemble (again). One of my dowel holes didn't line up quite right, so I took a knife and shaved the end of the dowel just enough to make it fit through. Remember that you want everything to be tight.

Once you're happy with how your bed fits together, your frame is complete! You can add a little glue during your final assembly if things seem too loose. Mine was so tight that I didn't see the need to try and disassemble it again.

Step 6: Knit a Hammock

For the hammock itself, I turned to m mother for help. She knitted a 12" x 14" rectangle from my cat's favourite colours. You can use anything you like for this; just ensure that it can support your cat's weight and that you can fasten it securely to the dowels.

Step 7: Create a Canopy

My canopy is a 10" x 25" rectangle of 1 oz.leather. I punched five holes along each edge, corresponding to the dowels. A little leather lace is threaded through to hold it in place.

Again, any fabric will do, as long as it keeps the sunshine out. It helps if it has a little stretch in it, as well.

Step 8: Conclusion

Part of the thinking behind this project was to try a different construction method than just screws and nails. I'm great and building boxes with straight sides and 90-degree angles, so I wanted to see what else I could do with basic materials and tools. The end result was sturdier and better looking than I anticipated. I hope you've been inspired to build your own Cool and Cozy Cat Hammock!

Ebony does like her new bed, even if she won't sit still for a picture yet. I was concerned about its sturdiness, but it's held up very well to all her roughhousing.

The 3/8" dowels provide a great place to hang toys. Also, the top could be replaced with a thin sheet of plywood for a solid, though less attractive, basking spot.

Please let me know what you think! Ask me any questions you may have, and don't forget to consider me for the Cat Contest. :)

Cat Challenge 2016

Runner Up in the
Cat Challenge 2016