Having an indoor cat comes with some responsibilities. One of these is ensuring your furry friend has adequate opportunities to climb, scratch, play, and survey their domain.
An excellent way to enrich your cat’s environment is by building them a cat tree made out of wood.
Cat trees provide cats with vertical space to satisfy their natural climbing instincts. The platforms and scratching posts also allow them to play, exercise, scratch, and perch up high to oversee the home.
Building your own cat tree out of wood is easier than it seems. With some simple tools, materials, and carpentry skills, you can create a customized climbing structure your cat will enjoy for years to come.
This guide will walk you through the entire process of constructing a sturdy, multi-level cat tree using wooden boards.
We’ll go over the supplies you need, important design considerations, cutting and assembling steps, and finishing touches to create a cat-approved climbing masterpiece.
Follow along to learn how to build an awesome cat tree your furry friend will adore – and that will fit perfectly into your home’s style.
Before starting your cat tree building project, you’ll need to gather the required materials. Having all the necessary supplies and tools on hand will make the construction process smoother. Here are the key items you’ll need:
- Wood boards – The type of wood you choose is up to you. Good options are plywood, MDF boards, pine boards, or other wood boards. Opt for woods that are smooth, sturdy and free of defects. For a medium-sized cat tree, you’ll need around 5-6 boards in various sizes.
- Wood screws and nails – These will be used to join the wooden pieces together securely. Make sure to get screws and nails suitable for the thickness of the wood boards.
- Sisal rope – Several yards of sisal rope are needed to wrap around the posts for scratching. Sisal is a tough natural fiber that resists fraying or shredding from cat claws.
- Carpet scraps – Use leftover carpet squares, remnants or scraps to cover the platform surfaces. Low pile carpeting is best to provide traction.
- Tools – You’ll need basic tools like a saw, drill, sander, staple gun, tape measure, level, pencil, and safety gear. A carpenter’s square helps make straight cuts.
- Sandpaper – Medium and fine grit sandpaper will be needed to smooth cut edges and round off perches.
Purchase all materials and ensure tools are in good working condition before starting the cat tree building. Having everything prepped ahead of time will make construction efficient.
Before starting the actual construction, take some time to think about the design. Mapping out the general layout and size of the cat tree will make the building process smoother. Here are some important design factors to consider:
- Height and platform levels – Consider your cat’s jumping skills and decide on the total height and number of platforms/perches. For most cats, a tree around 4-6 feet tall with 3-4 levels is ideal.
- Platform size – Bigger is better when it comes to the platform width and depth. Opt for at least 16 x 16 inches for good lounging space. Square and circular platforms work well.
- Wood type and thickness – Hardwood boards like oak or birch are attractive but may be heavy. Plywood and MDF are lighter but prone to scratches. Shoot for 3/4 to 1 inch thickness for durability.
- Weight bearing capacity – Ensure the base and main supports are strong enough to handle your cat’s weight without toppling. Wider posts and cross braces add stability.
- Anti-tipping measures – Incorporate design features like wide, heavy bases, L-brackets, and securing it to the wall to prevent tipping.
- Aesthetics – Consider the shape, styling, and stain or paint to complement your home’s decor. Add fun elements like hideaway cubes or dangling toys.
Sketch out some rough plans to visualize the layout. This will help estimate the wood needed and construction steps. Building a sturdy, safe, and stylish cat tree is all about the prep work.
Cutting the Wood Pieces
Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to start cutting the wood boards to size. Having all the pieces cut and prepared ahead of time will make constructing the frame quick and efficient.
Follow these steps:
- Start by measuring and marking the board lengths as per your plan. Use a measuring tape and pencil to mark the cutting lines.
- When cutting, make sure to account for the thickness of the boards. Cut the posts a little longer to allow inserting platforms.
- Use a circular saw, jigsaw or handsaw to cut along the marked lines. Take care to make straight cuts at 90 degree angles.
- Cut out notches, angles, and shapes as needed for multi-level platforms and stability features. Refer to the design plan.
- Use a sander to smooth any rough edges. Round off corners and perches to prevent splinters down the line.
- Drill holes into posts and platforms if you plan to incorporate dangling toys. Do this before assembling.
- Label each cut piece to avoid confusion later. Organize them by size and shape.
Cutting all the wood sections accurately takes time but is crucial. Rushing this step can lead to mistakes that compromise sturdiness down the road. Take it slow and double check all measurements.
Assembling the Frame
Once all the pieces are cut, it’s time for the fun part – assembling the cat tree frame. Follow these steps:
- Lay out the side boards and vertical posts in position as per your design plan.
- Align the edges and use clamps or an extra pair of hands to hold them in place.
- Drill pilot holes through the adjoining boards to prevent wood from splitting.
- Attach the pieces using wood screws. Stagger the screws for added stability.
- Check corners for 90 degree angles as you assemble. Use a carpenter’s square tool.
- Attach any cross braces or diagonal supports using wood glue and nails. Let the glue dry completely.
- Attach wide, sturdy boards to the base as supports if not already cut.
- Once assembled, shake the frame gently to test stability and balance. Make any needed adjustments.
- Don’t attach platforms yet. They will be added after covering the posts with sisal rope.
Assembling the frame properly is crucial for safety. Take your time and double check for secure joints and right angles. The platforms will get attached in the next step.
Here are some more details on joinery techniques, stability tips, and safety measures for assembling the cat tree frame:
- Butt joints – Simple straight joining of two boards end-to-end. Use wood glue and screws/nails to secure.
- Lap joints – One board overlaps another. Allows for more gluing surface. Screw/nail through overlap.
- Bridle joints – Notching method for joining two boards at right angles. Very sturdy.
- Dado joints – Groove cut in one board to insert another board perpendicularly. Creates a tight fit.
- Ensure base is heavy and wide enough to prevent tipping. Attach L-brackets for added support.
- Use triangular gussets and cross braces for multi-level trees. Provides lateral strength.
- Stagger placement of screws/nails to reinforce joints. Avoid clustering them too close together.
- Use sturdy wood like birch or oak for main supports. Softer woods may split over time.
- Check for wobbling – shake gently when assembled. Identify weak spots and reinforce.
- Wear gloves when handling rough wood. Sand down sharp edges.
- Use eye and ear protection when operating power tools.
- Follow all tool safety guidelines. Unplug when not in use.
- Allow glue to dry fully before attaching platforms. Wet glue can cause slipping.
- Don’t leave unfinished/unstable trees accessible to cats unattended.
Once the underlying frame is securely assembled, it’s time to add the fun platforms! Follow these steps:
- Cut the wood boards for the platforms to the desired shapes and sizes per your plan.
- Sand the boards well and round off the edges to create perches. Smooth any rough patches.
- Drill holes through the platform boards if you want to incorporate dangling toys.
- Position a platform at the desired height and outline where it will attach to posts.
- Drill pilot holes in the outlined section and through the platform board.
- Use wood screws to securely attach the platform to the posts through the pre-drilled holes.
- Repeat process to attach all remaining platforms where needed on the frame.
- Ensure platforms are stable and do not wobble. Add corner braces if needed.
- Allow a 1-2 inch overhang for upper platforms. This creates ledges for easy climbing.
Attach platforms starting from the top and working your way down. Take care not to split the wood. Added levels will give your cat more vertical space to climb and perch.
Here are some more details and examples on platform shapes and placement when adding levels to the cat tree:
- Square platforms – Classic and simple. Easy to cut and attach. Good for lounging.
- Circular platforms – Also easy to construct. Provides a cozy, enclosed feel for cats.
- Triangular platforms – Sturdy shape that fits nicely in corners. Offers variety.
- Hexagonal/octagonal – Interesting geometric shapes for visual appeal.
- Irregular shapes – Cut boards into creative shapes like waves or silhouettes.
- Incorporate hideaway cubes or tunnels – Fun for cats to duck into.
- Vary platform height – Some close to base, others higher up for climbing.
- Angle platforms horizontally for variety. Allows for stretching out.
- Place platforms strategically to create ledges and ramps for access.
- Position platforms near walls or corners – offers added stability.
- Face some platforms inward, others outward for multiple views.
- Allow at least 14-16 inches of clearance between platforms.
- Incorporate interactive elements like scratch pads, dangling toys, beds.
Covering Platforms and Posts
Once all the platforms are securely in place, the next step is adding a soft covering to make the cat tree comfortable. Here’s how:
- Take your carpet scraps and cut pieces to fit the top of each platform. Allow for 2-3 inches of overhang.
- Use a staple gun to attach the carpet pieces to the platform boards. Staple every 2-3 inches around the edges.
- Pull the carpet taut as you staple to keep it smooth and wrinkle-free. Trim excess carpet.
- For posts and scratching surfaces, tightly wrap sisal rope from top to bottom. Secure with staples.
- Where sisal rope meets carpet, neatly tuck and fold the carpet over the rope. Staple into place.
- To cover curved surfaces, make shallow vertical cuts in the back of the carpet to ease wrapping it around contours.
- Use scissors to trim any frayed sisal fibers. Check for any splinters or sharp points.
Adding soft finishes gives cats comfortable surfaces to lounge and scratch. It also protects your furniture from claws! Use fabric glue for extra hold if needed.
The structural construction is complete! Now it’s time for some finishing touches to perfect your handmade cat tree:
- Thoroughly sand any perches, posts, and platforms that will be exposed. Smooth any rough patches.
- Consider staining or painting the wood if you want a colorful design. Let stains/paint dry fully before reassembly.
- Add decorative elements like ribbons, garlands, or fabric flowers to liven up the look.
- Attach any beds, hammocks, or scratch pads to platforms with screws or industrial strength velcro.
- Hang dangling toys, bells, and feathers from posts and platforms to entice play. Use sturdy string.
- Ensure the base is wide and heavy enough to prevent tipping. Secure to the wall if needed.
- Place the cat tree in the desired spot and entice your cat to explore with treats or catnip.
- Monitor initial use and make adjustments. Add non-slip pads if platforms are slippery.
With its custom design and handmade quality, your cat is sure to love this new climbing masterpiece! Building it yourself makes it extra special.
A Purrfect Activity for You and Your Cat
Constructing a handmade cat tree is extremely rewarding, both for you and your beloved cat. Beyond providing your furry friend with entertainment and exercise, this project allows you to create something unique to your home.
The process of designing, building and customizing a climbing structure allows you to put personal thought into meeting your cat’s needs. The time invested pays off when you see your cat happily playing, climbing, scratching and perching on their new tree.
The sense of accomplishment from completing this DIY woodworking project is very satisfying. Your cat tree will become a beloved part of your home for years to come. As your skills improve, you can even build new structures for more cats to enjoy.
In addition to the entertainment value, a quality cat tree has many health benefits for your cat. It helps prevent obesity, joint issues, and boredom-related behavior problems. Building your own allows you to cater the design exactly to your cat’s abilities and preferences.
So don’t be intimidated by the prospect of constructing your cat’s perfect wooden climbing tree. With the right tools, materials, and patience, you can create something your cat will adore. Just be sure to capture plenty of photos and videos of your cat enjoying their new hand-built hangout!
Frequently Asked Questions About This Purrfect DIY
What type of wood should I use?
Plywood, MDF and pine boards are good options. Opt for smooth, sturdy woods at least 3/4″ thick. Hardwoods like oak are very durable but heavier.
How tall should I make the cat tree?
4-6 feet is ideal for most cats. Add levels and perches based on your cat’s jumping ability. Start lower and increase height gradually.
How can I prevent my cat tree from tipping over?
Use a wide, heavy base and secure it to the wall with brackets. Don’t overload the top levels. Add cross braces lower down for stability.
Should I put the cat tree together first or cover it first?
Assemble the bare frame first. Once stable, add carpet and sisal rope. Then attach any platforms or accessories.
How do I get my cat to use their new tree?
Place it in a spot your cat frequents. Entice them with treats and catnip. Add toys and beds so they associate it with comfort.
What maintenance does a cat tree need?
Check for damage or instability. Replace worn sisal rope and carpet as needed. Wipe platforms with gentle cleaner regularly.