Cat structures are essential for your felines, yet store-bought models are incredibly expensive and rather drab. For a fraction of the cost, you can build your own colorful cat condo made with just PVC, cardboard, and duct tape! Follow the instructions herein, or use these ideas as a springboard to create a custom, sprawling cat metropolis.
All vector illustrations in this Instructable are artfully created by Ali Phelps.
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Step 1: Materials
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- PVC pipe cutters
- Permanent marker or pencil
- Metal measuring stick
- five 10' pieces of 1/2" schedule 40 PVC pipe
- four ½" PVC tee connectors
- eleven ½" furniture-grade PVC 3-way connectors
- nine ½" furniture-grade PVC 4-way connectors
- 75 yards of colored duct tape
- 10 inches of 2" PVC pipe
- 2 inch PVC coupler
- 2 inch – ½" PVC reducer
- 2 inch PVC end cap
- 5' of ¼" sisal rope
- three white 36x48" trifold, heavy duty cardboard display board
- utility knife
Display board can be expensive. Regular double-thickness cardboard boxes will also work, but may not look quite as nice as white cardboard.
Step 2: Foundation and First Levels
First cut the PVC pipe into these lengths:
- Twenty-eight 14" (35.5cm)
- Four 6" (15cm)
- Six 10" (25.5cm)
- Two 25" (63.5cm)
- One 1.5" (3.8cm)
Connect eight of the 14" (35.5cm) pieces together in a rectangle, with 3-way connectors at the corners, and the four ½" PVC tees in the center facing up as shown.
Fit the four 6" (15cm) pieces of PVC upright into four adjacent connectors, and four 10" (25.5cm) pieces into the other four remaining connectors. Attach 4-way connectors onto every pipe except for the front-corner of the 6"-tall section as shown. Connect all of the 4-way connectors with 14" (35.5cm) PVC to form two squares.
Step 3: Middle and Highest Levels
Create the center platform frame by fitting two 14" pieces of pipe above the 6" pieces, and two 10" pieces above the other 10" pipe. Attach 3-way connectors onto two corners and 4-way connectors onto the other corners as shown, and then connect these connectors together with more 14" pieces of PVC.
Make the final and tallest platform frame by fitting 14" pieces above the 10" pieces, and the two 25" pieces into the remaining connectors. Attach 3-way connectors on top of all four pipe pieces, then connect them together with the last 14" pieces of pipe.
Whack the tops and sides of every connector with a mallet to ensure that the pipe is fitting tightly into the connectors. As you do so, turn the structure on its side so your mallet blows are always striking downwards. This helps ensure that the force of the mallet is pressing the connectors together.
Step 4: Duct Tape Platforms and Scratching Post
Create the platform itself by tightly wrapping overlapping layers of duct tape around the pipe as shown, similar to a duct tape sheet. Make sure the platform is below the top of edge of the surrounding PVC pipe. This allows the pipe to form a short barrier, which will prevent cushions or blankets from sliding off of the platform. Repeat on the other three 14x14" platform frames.
Assemble a scratching post by first fitting the 2" end cap onto one end of the 2" PVC pipe, then fit the 2" coupler and reducer onto the other end. Finally, attach a 1.5" (3.8cm) piece of ½" PVC into the reducer. Stand the assembly upright, then whack it with a mallet to ensure the pieces fit snugly.
Tape one end of the sisal rope to the scratcher post, then tightly wrap it around. When there’s no more rope to wrap, tape the other end to the bottom of the post. Attach the whole scratcher post onto the remaining open connector as shown.
Step 5: Create Cover and Entice Your Cats
Create portals by first tracing circles onto cardboard with dinner plates, and then carefully cut out the circles with a utility knife.
After the portals are made, tape the white cardboard panels onto the structure. In this example, the three smallest panels are made from 7.5x14.5" (19x39cm) pieces, the two next largest side panels are 22.5x14.5 (57x39cm), and the three largest side panels are 38x15.5 (97x39cm). Two 14x14" (35.5x35.5cm) squares cover remaining openings.
Put some cushions onto all four duct tape platforms, sprinkle some catnip on top, and watch as your cats settle in to their new favorite home.