Introduction: DIY Cat Tree House

About: I love creating. I love ART in all its forms. I am a daughter of the 50s, born in 1992. I had the pleasure to be a Featured Author on this fabulous site, and you can read my interview here: https://www.instr…

Big cat trees are beautiful but really expensive. One day I saw this huge cat tree and the more I looked at it, the more I convinced myself that I could build one for...nothing! Not even half of the price.

I already had all of the things needed to make this cat tree so I really had to buy nothing.
But still, if you are going to build one too and don't have all the materials, you can buy them spending just a few dollars.

Before buying anything though, make sure to look around and reuse what you can find:
the thick cardboard tubes I used were found near factories, ready to be thrown in the garbage. I got them before deciding to make this project because they are incredibly strong and can be used for many different projects.

So, this is my version of that cat tree. I ended up making a few changes and personalizing it a bit.

I really hope you like it, and if you do, I would really appreciate your vote in contests! :D Thanks!

Step 1: ​Materials and Tools:

  • different sizes of wood (see the next steps)
  • thick cardboard tubes - the diameter of the ones I used is about 7cm (2.75 inches)
  • 4 curtain wooden rods (or anything similar) - diameter: 3cm (1.18 inches)
  • a piece of thick styrofoam
  • fabric - I used one that looks like velvet/plush
  • thin upholstery foam - about 2cm (0.78 inches)
  • 12 screws
  • thin nails - with nail gun if you have one, or just a hammer
  • staples and staple gun
  • upholstery batting
  • lots of twine
  • primer for wood and any paint you like
  • black acrylic paint
  • paint brush
  • sheet of paper
  • sewing machine
  • super glue or hot glue
  • white glue
  • velcro pieces
  • cutter or x-acto knife
  • drill with hole cutter and forstner bit
  • screwdriver
  • jigsaw
  • scissors
  • sand paper

Yes, they are a few...but the main ones are not so many after all ;)

Step 2: Cut the Base Pieces

Let's start cutting the base pieces out of wood using a jigsaw.

The base is composed of 2 different pieces: a rectangle and a square.
The rectangle (A) is 55 x 40cm (21.65 x 15.74 inches) and the square (B) is 30 x 30cm (11.81 inches).

Piece A needs to have 3 round holes that don't pass through. I used a forstner bit that is as big as the rods' diameter (3cm - 1.18 inches).
This means that you must make a hole from the front side until about half of the wood's thickness. Don't let the drill's bit pierce the whole wood till the bottom! (see third photo)
Let's call them "half holes"! :)

Please look at the drawing in the first picture to see the measures for each hole on the rectangle.

The square (B) only needs one half hole right in the middle.

Make sure to sand each of your wooden pieces after you've cut them. Start with thick sandpaper and end with a fine one to smooth the wood.
Do this for ALL of your wooden pieces, including the ones in the next steps.

Step 3: Cut the Top Pieces

The top of the cat tree will have multiple top pieces:

  • the cat house
  • 2 round pieces ("C" in the drawing)

I will show you how to build the cat house in the next steps, let's prepare the 2 round pieces now.

Draw a circle on a piece of wood. The circle needs to have a diameter of about 40cm.
Cut it using a jigsaw. Cutting a round piece is a little complicated and you must be accurate, but it's not impossible! :)

Make another wooden disc just like this one.

Now make a "half hole" in the middle of each of them, just like the holes made in the previous pieces.

Step 4: Cut the Rods

The 4 rods will keep the whole structure up so they are very important.


  • the shortest one is 85cm (33.46 inches)
  • the tallest one is 173cm (69.11 inches)
  • the 2 middle ones are 120cm (47.24 inches)

I cut them using a jigsaw like I did before. To make sure that the cut turns out perfect and the rods won't shake while you cut them, keep both ends firm with something or ask someone to keep one side while you keep the other with your free hand.

These rods will be placed in the "half holes" you made in the bases (as you can see in the picture), but you'll do this at the end.

Step 5: Cut the Middle Pieces

Between the top and base of the cat tree there are other pieces of wood. All of them are mainly rectangles, but you can make different shapes too!

Here is how to cut them:

  • Piece D is 40 x 30cm (15.74 x 11.81 inches) with 2 REAL holes on the sides.
  • Piece E is 30 x 20cm (11.81 x 7.84 inches) with a hole on one side only.
  • Piece F* is just like piece D (40 x 30cm) and one hole on the side. I decided to make its shortest sides round, just to make a different piece, but this is not necessary.
  • Piece G (not in the drawing) is exactly like piece A on step 2. The only difference is that G has real holes instead.

Please keep looking at the drawing to see the measures for the holes.

Remember that all of these holes are regular holes (not half holes), but they are just as big as the others. For this reason you can use the same forstner bit you used before, or a hole cutter with the same diameter.

*Other than making it roundish, I decided to paint my F piece instead of upholstering it. I passed a layer of wood primer on it before painting it.
You are free to do this as well or you can upholster it instead, it's not really important!

Step 6: Upholster the Wooden Pieces - Part 1

It's time to start upholstering the round pieces (C)!

Cut a big piece of fabric (I used one that looks like velvet/plush). It must be big enough to cover the whole side of the disc.
Also, cut a disc out of upholstery foam that is about 1cm (0.39 inches) bigger than the wooden disc, all around. I used a foam that is 2cm thick (0.78 inches).

Lay your piece of fabric with the front facing the table and place the foam disc on it.
Finally place the wooden disc on it with the half hole in front of you. The side of the wooden piece with the half hole is its bottom.

Start folding the 4 sides of the fabric on the wood and staple them using a staple gun, pulling the fabric a little to keep it tight.
Keep stapling the fabric all around the wooden disc. Make sure to always pull it so that there won't be too many bumps all around it.

When you are done, cut out the exceeding fabric.

Step 7: Upholster the Wooden Pieces - Part 2

The bottom of the discs will be visible too because they will be lifted from the floor. For this reason you should cover it too.

To do this, cut a smaller piece of fabric that is about as big as the disc. Make it round too, but it doesn't need to be perfect.

Lay it on the wood trying to center it, and staple it all around the disc folding the edges on the inside, as you can see in the second photo.
As usual, make sure to start stapling the 4 sides, then proceed with the rest.

Do all of this for your other wooden disc too. These will be the only soft pieces. I decided not to put any foam on the other rectangles, but you can do that if you prefer.

So, upholster all of the other wooden pieces just like you did for the round ones and without the foam.
The rectangular pieces are much easier to upholster than the discs: simply staple the straight sides, finally pull the angles and staple them too.

The bottoms of the 2 base pieces (A and B) don't need to be covered with more fabric because they will be hidden. I decided to still cover them using a scrap of thinner fabric, but it's not necessary.

When you are done upholstering all pieces, make some cuts where the holes and half holes are to free them from the fabric.

Step 8: Prepare the Cardboard Tubes

All the wooden pieces are ready now so let's work on the tubes.

You need to cut them with a jigsaw because they are really thick. Make sure to follow the advice I gave you on step 4 about cutting rods.
These are the sizes:

  • 6 tubes are 40cm (15.74 inches)
  • 1 tube is 82cm (32.28 inches)
  • 2 tubes are 35cm (13.77 inches)
  • 1 tube is 46cm (18.11 inches)
  • 1 tube is 38cm (14.96 inches)

If your tubes are shorter than that, join 2 together with some scotch tape. I did that to create the longest tube I needed.

My tubes have a hole inside that is bigger than the diameter of my rods, so I cut some discs out of styrofoam using a drill with 2 different hole cutters: one is as big as my tubes' hole, and the other is as big as my rods' diameter.
I made many of these and inserted a couple of them inside each of my tubes. This way the whole structure wouldn't shake too much at the end.

Step 9: Cover the Tubes With Twine

Every cat scratch post has twine all around that's the way I decided to cover my tubes too! The thicker your twine is, the faster this step will be.

You need a lot of twine and patience so watch your favorite movie on tv while you do this :D

The first thing you need to do is to secure the tip of the twine on the edge of the tube. I used some scotch tape, but you can use hot glue if you prefer.
Now I tried 2 different methods to roll the twine around the tube:

Method 1:
roll the twine around the tube applying white glue (or hot glue) every now and then. Make sure to have all rounds very close to each other, moving them a little next to the other if there seem to be holes between them.
Method 2:
stick a couple of long strips of double sided tape on the tube's length. I actually put 3 strips because they were really thin. Roll the twine around the tube pressing it on the sticky strips, always making sure that there are no holes between each round.

Keep rolling and rolling until you reach the other end of the tube. Cut the twine and secure the tip with more glue.

Do this for ALL of your cardboard tubes so that they are all covered with twine! :D

Conclusion: I realized that the second method was much faster to me. The first one took forever.

Step 10: Cut the Cat House Pieces

It's finally time to build the cat house!

The cat house is composed of 5 pieces:

  • the bottom is 50 x 36cm (19.68 x 14.17 inches) and one of its shortest sides is roundish. That round part won't be part of the "box" so consider 38cm (14.96 inches) from the other side (see drawing).
  • the 2 sides are 38 x 23cm (14.96 x 9 inches). These pieces will end up closing the box so the side would be 20cm instead, but I considered it 3cm longer because the thickness of my wood pieces is about 1,5cm (x2).
  • the top is 38 x 36cm (14.96 x 14.17 inches), which is exactly like the bottom without the round side.
  • the back is 36 x 20cm (14.17 x 7.87 inches)
  • the front is just like the back piece with a round "door" in the middle, as you can see in the drawing.

Please take a look at the drawing to see exactly what I mean and read every measure.

As usual, make sure to sand every piece of wood.

Upholster all of these pieces too, like you did for the previous ones, except the front piece.
Actually, you can upholster it too if you want, but I decided to paint it instead.

To do that, apply a layer or 2 of wood primer, let it dry, sand it a little with fine sandpaper and paint it with the color you like.
Let it dry completely.

Step 11: Decorate the Front

You may think that the front of the cat house is done wasn't enough for me! :D
I decided to decorate it and personalize it with stencils of cats paws and my cat's name :)

You can either draw the paws and name or print it. I printed them on paper, trying to adjust the size to my front piece.
By the way, you could also paint all of these by hand directly on the wood if you want to! I am not that good at it so I made my own stencils...and yes, I love creating stencils! :D

If you are making a stencil too and your letters have holes in the middle like my "R" and "e", make sure to draw some "bridges" (see first picture) to keep those holes attached to the rest of the paper around the letters. If you don't do this, you end up having too much space on those spots.

Carefully cut out all of the letters using a cutter or x-acto knife, being as accurate as possible.

When you are done, lay your piece of paper on the wood piece where you want the stencil to be, and keep it firm with a piece of scotch tape, to make sure that it won't move while you paint on it.

Now put some black acrylic paint on a piece of sponge or foam and dab it on the stencil. Too much paint may filter through the paper ruining your stencil so make sure not to put too much and be careful.

When you are done with the stencil of the name, carefully remove it and paint the spaces left free by the stencil's bridges using a tiny paint brush and paint. Also correct any mistake that may have been caused by too much paint.

Do the same for the paws and let everything dry.

Step 12: Compose the Cat House

All of your cat house pieces are ready so you can finally build it! :)

Compose the "box" joining the pieces together with thin nails on the borders. I suggest you to join the back piece with the bottom and top first. Add the sides to close the structure and finally the front.

This cat house is very large and comfortable so my cat loves it!

Step 13: Make a Ladder

The cat tree I saw had a small ladder too. I decided to make one too but...taller!

The ladder is very simple and fun to make.

Cut 2 identical strips of wood that are 95 x 7cm (37.4 x 2.75 inches) using a jigsaw.
Make an identical oblique cut on one side of both strips.
I decided to make the other side a little roundish.

Make a smaller cut that looks like a long oval close to the round side (see first picture).
These cuts must match with the middle "floor" of the cat tree to be able to hook it and keep the ladder firm. For this reason, you may want to do this at the end when you can put the ladder next to the already-built cat tree.

Sand everything as usual.

Now divide both strips in 6 sections making 5 signs on their length. These 5 signs are the spots where the pegs of the ladder will be.
Make new "half holes" on each of them using a forstner bit, just like you did for all of the other half holes. The diameter is the same one.

Take another rod (you can use pieces left from the ones you cut previously) and cut 5 identical smaller rods out of it with a jigsaw. They need to be 22cm (8.66 inches) long.

Lay the 2 strips of wood next to each other with the half holes facing each other, and insert the rods in them.
Secure the first and last rod of the ladder with 2 screws each, one on the right and one on the left.
All of the others will automatically be blocked thanks to the half holes so you don't need to add other screws :D

Step 14: Twine and Stencil...again!

Glue some more twine around each rod of the ladder, just like you did on the cardboard tubes.

I decided not to paint the rest of the ladder because I like that wood so I simply decorated it with more cat paws on the whole length of the strips :)

Again, I printed, cut my own stencil and dabbed it on the ladder with black acrylic paint. I only made a 4-paws stencil so I kept replacing it following the 2 previous paws, until I reached the other end.

The ladder is done!

Step 15: Secure the Base

I used a particular kind of screw that has a piece with it that can be used to better secure the screw. I am not sure what it's called, but you can see it on the first photos.
This is not really important anyways, you can use regular screws too!

Another thing I made is cutting some thin discs of wood to put under the base pieces, but that's not so important either.

What is really important is to insert the rods in the half holes of the base pieces and secure them from the bottom with one screw each.

This is the way the rods should be placed:

  • the 2 middle rods are in the 2 close half holes of piece A
  • the tallest rod is alone on the other side of piece A
  • the shortest rod is in the square base

Step 16: Compose the Cat Tree!

Yes, it's finally time to compose everything! How fun! :D

Make sure to look at the pictures to understand exactly what I mean:

  • insert the 82cm tube in one of the middle rods
  • insert the 40cm tube in each of the other 3 rods
  • insert piece E in the tallest rod
  • insert piece D in the middle rod (the one with the short tube) and in the shortest rod
  • insert the remaining 40cm tubes in the tallest rod, in the shortest rod, and in one of the middle rods (on piece D)
  • insert piece G in the tallest rod and in the middle rods, right on base A
  • insert the two 35cm tubes in the middle rods
  • insert the 46cm tube in the tallest rod, then add piece F on it and the 38cm tube on top of it.

Step 17: Add the Top Pieces

Add the round pieces on top of the tallest and shortest rods and secure them with screws, making sure to insert the rods in the half holes at the bottom of the round pieces.

Finally, lay the cat house on top of the two middle rods, making sure to center it, and make a sign on the bottom of the cat house where the rods touch it.
Make holes on the 2 signs using a drill, then lay the cat house on the rods again and secure everything with 2 screws in the holes.

The structure is done!

Step 18: Sew the Pillow

You may think that it's done...but there is one more thing I want to add!

The original cat bed had some round pillows on the round tops, and they are really easy to do.

Cut a long piece out of fabric (always the same one) that is as long at the round top's circumference, and about 30cm (11.81 inches) large.

Fold it in half lengthwise with the back side on the front and sew alongside the two edges, to join them together.

Reverse the piece of fabric so that the seam is hidden inside and the front side of the fabric is back to the front.

Step 19: Fill the Pillow

Fill the piece of fabric with upholstery batting, a little at a time. Make sure to leave some free fabric at the top and bottom.

When you are done, insert one of the sides inside of the other forming a ring.
Fold the edges a little on the inside and join the two sides together with some glue. You can even sew it if you prefer.

Step 20: Place the Pillow on the Cat Tree

Cut 4 strips of velcro and glue them on 4 sides of the pillow ring.

Glue the other side of the velcro pieces on the round top, laying the whole ring on it.

This way you'll be able to keep it there or remove it whenever you want to! :)

I made only one of these for the tallest top, leaving the other round one free. This can be made for both of them though, so I leave the choice up to you!

Step 21: Done!

Your cat tree is finally done!! :D

Don't forget to add the ladder to it...and let your cat explore it!
The small base (the short piece of the cat tree) can be moved. This way you can keep it on the side, or form an angle that doesn't require that much space (as you can see in my pictures).

It was a lot of work but definitely worth cat loves it! :)

Please vote for it in contests if you like it! Thanks!

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