Introduction: Upcycling Furniture Into a Pet Enclosure

The following is intended to provide ideas and inspiration about modifying and giving existing furtniture a second life as a pet enclosure, ideally for small rabbits and guinea pigs.
NB. The general size of a similar enclosure is not sufficient in size for 24/7 living. Animals require more space for exercise and play to live a healthy life. If you can not provide this additional space as well as social time pets may not be for you.

As furniture comes in such a variety of sizes, shapes materials this will focus on core ideas and structure, with tips and pitfalls to avoid, rather than specific measurements.

Before embarking on building a custom enclosures please be aware of your animals specfic needs. There are many types of materials that are toxic to pets if they consume them.
Paints currently being produced (or even still in date) are now VOC (volatile organic compounds) free and lead free, so provided you don't have a chewing obssessed pet you should be safe with paint. Always supervise your pet in new environments to ensure they are safe.

I have lost a few photo's along the way so I've added some in showing the part in it's finished form.


You will be needing some furniture!

If you don't already have a piece handy you may be limited in the size or the furniture you can transport (like me).
Before acquiring the furniture;
Get the dimensions/measurements.
Can you lift/move it?
Will it need to be disassembled/do you need to bring tools?
Check you can safely transport it to your workspace.
Check it will be large enough for your pets comfort.
Is the materials suitable/safe for the project?

Try to plan out how you would use the furniture and it's space when looking for furniture.

Additional timber for constructing ramps, shelves (I reused the bulk of the shelves and walls I removed)
Wire mesh
Vents (optional)
Door handles (can reuse)
Hinges (can reuse)
Door locks/magnets (can reuse)

Will also most likely go through some consumables

Painters tape

Step 1: Tools

Paint brushes
Staple gun

Power tools
(you can get away with hand tools of course but you may get better results faster with certain power tools)

Jig saw

Step 2: Plan, Prepare and (P)smash?

So assuming you thought about how you would use your piece when you were searching for it (or if you just had a suitable piece) now is the time to start stripping it of any parts you don't need.

Consider features
In this build I included;
A shelve for a higher viewing area.
A split ramp with cross sections for grip to provide access between levels.
Areas to attach toys, food etc.
The right side was left large enough to accomodate a litter tray.

Consider light and air flow
As my piece was an old TV unit it had a circles drilled through the back in the middle for cabling. Instead of trying to cover it I made them into a rectangles and added an extra on either side to include vents for a more polished look.

The cross hatching on the doors always had to go as it wouldn't let in anywhere near enough light. At this stage I removed the doors altogether to work easier on the piece. I originally considering cutting a hole(s) in the side panels to allow movments between section but some privacy but decided it would restrict light and air flow. I instead opted to entirely remove the side internal walls.

Consider Finish
To make cleaning easier I chose an exterior hard wearing gloss for the paint to help cleaning up any spills.
Remember matte and flat paints can help to cover up inperfections while gloss tends to highlight these.
A nice destressed finish looks nice and stops you worrying about having to keep it pristine.
If you're going for a clean look you will need to put in extra prep at this point to putty up any dings and sand it back to a flast surface suitable for painting.

To save time you can buy undercoat paints that help prep your surface. (they tend to be more expensive and are a bit thicker)

Step 3: Go for It

Have a quick look over to search for the easiest way to remove parts with minimal damage to any sections you wish to keep or reuse.I tend to try and gently pry pieces off with a bar and scrap timber to prevent damage to the workpiece.

I was a bit too enthusiastic and took off the timber that the doors latch onto so I had to replace those parts.

Once it's all out, check for any nails,staples, screws left sticking out and remove.

Attach any main timber sections now. (pic in next stage)
I included a timber edge at the bottom that the door shuts against to prevent any hay from being pushed out and making a mess.

I cut out the vents, chiseled out the door handles and hinges at this stage.

Putty if desired


Step 4: Undercoat

Apply your undercoat
Check your paints instructions for working temps and waiting times.
I just used an undercoat I had left over.

Step 5: Build Your Internal Additions.

I've included some building after the first undercoat just to make it easier to reach painting wise. I painted the undercoat on the parts I installed first.base

I reused one of the shelves and screwed in timber supports around the walls underneath for it to rest on and then installed screws with pilot holes into the shelf from the back and sid walls.
I then touched up the screws on the outside so they could be painted over.

After installing the shelf I eyeballed a decent slope for the ramp and cut the ends on an angle through the table saw. I drilled pilot holes and secured with screws, i repeated to the the tops section, mid and bottom. It was less sturdy that I liked so I added in a support and scred that into the base and the mid section of the ramp. The grips were added by gluing and clamping. I also used some of these grips to cover up the screws for a cleaner look..

Step 6: Final Coats

First mask off any areas you need to.
I did two colours and wanted cleaner edges.
White final first, masked off and yellow finals.

Step 7: Install Internal Accessories

Install all internal parts before throwing the doors on otherwise it just become more fiddly later.
Remove any tape.
I screwed in some simple vent covers, new door handles, door magnets and magnetic strike plates.
I just reused the old hinges.
If you're planning on bottle feeders, hooks etc, install now. Be mindful that they can't harm the pet.

Step 8: Mesh

This is coated steel mesh. I cut it to size and then carefully rounded off the edges with a file to remove the sharp edge hazard. For the centre panel i didn't want to cut before a horizontal bar and have many wires sticking out so I cut at the end of a row and simply rounded the entire panel edge by placing it over a piece of timber and using a soft mallet to fold it over.

As the mesh was cut (I had 2 pieces) it had two sealed and two cut edges. I orientated the piece so that the cut on the outside was up against the door timber and the inside cut was at the top of the enclosure out of harms way.

All the edges were rounded anyway but it doesn't hurt to take the precaution. I used a staple gun to secure the mesh although screws or brackets would also work.

Step 9: Final Product

You're done!

Step 10: Tips, Reminders and Ideas

Always secure your workpiece.
Always wear your safety gear, it's not good breathing in dust.
File away from your body.
Uses guides where possible to get straight lines. I used a jigsaw for the vent holes, a guide and a router would have given a better edge.
When drilling holes you can place tape around the drill bit to help indicate the depth you need.
I used wire cutters on a pair of pliers, proper metal snips would make that easier work.
Dry fit parts before installing/painting etc to ensure correct movement.
If the previous screws left too large a whole a little bit of dowel and glue will help a new screw fit better.
When painting more, lighter coats tends to result in a better finish.
If you think you've finished sanding you probably are not.


A draw to keep their records or small items would be handy and a piece with a functional draw already installed would be handy. (I even considered putting one in anyway)

I chose a piece that went pretty much all the way to the floor, as I thought and space under the unit would be a waste.

Depending on the piece it may be more practicle to place heavy duty casters underneath for moving.

An external latch may be preferable as a magnet will only take so much force to open.

Pets Challenge

Participated in the
Pets Challenge