Tips and Inspiration for Building a DIY Cat Tree

diy cat tree

Zac, an avid rock climber, has a not-so-typical climbing buddy: a tabby named Kenny, who defies housecat expectations.

Kenny loves to explore the great outdoors, making him the ultimate adventure cat. Navigating through the beautiful canyons of Utah, the orange cat leads Zac on the journey of a lifetime.

But some of his best adventures happen inside, too. And when they do, Kenny’s DIY cat tree is the center of his attention.

If you’re looking to show your favorite feline some love, start with building (instead of buying) a cat tree. Get inspiration from Kenny’s tree, along with two other cats’ getaways:

Kenny’s outdoorsy getaway

Because Kenny and Zac are creating memories together outdoors, Zac wanted Kenny’s DIY cat tree to bring a touch of their adventures into their home.

“Kenny and I have been out in the desert on a bunch of trips,” Zac says. “Cat trees [bring] a bit of that feel to the indoor environment he’s in most of the week.”

Zac found a juniper tree like the kind Kenny climbs on his adventures. Zac trimmed it up, keeping the branches that would work well in their house.

diy cat tree juniper branches

“The beautiful part about it is that it’s a real tree and a natural shape, so you can’t really plan out exactly what it’s going to look like,” Zac says. “But finding something that fits in the space you’re looking for, you can try to determine that.”

After trimming the tree to his liking, Zac power-washed, sanded, and gave the tree a thin coat of lacquer for a nice finished look. Then he added accessories—climbing rope, standard hemp rope, and small shelves—and anchored the top of the tree with rope to the wall in the corner of his living room.

Zac’s DIY cat-tree advice: “Build something that speaks to whatever you’re looking for. Not just an accessory, but another piece of furniture or artwork in your home.”

Kenny uses the tree often as his prime lounging spot, but has especially taken a liking to it in the morning, knowing that if he’s there, he’ll get treats. Me-ow.

Many cat parents don’t want to settle for commercial cat trees. Now, they’re making unique ones for their furry friends. And these days, you can take inspiration from anything, not just the outdoors. These cat trees, made from two cat parents and DIY enthusiasts, might inspire you to make a DIY cat tree for your favorite feline at home:

Rajah’s functional catwalk

diy cat tree wall catwalk

Cynthia is a life-long DIYer who runs her own design sewing studio, which she says gives her the opportunity to constantly pursue DIY projects. She’s been a cat parent for six years, too. So when she redesigned her living room, she found herself with a mostly empty wall. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity to marry form and function to benefit all members of our household,” Cynthia says. “And since most things revolve around the cat, he had the most input into the design.”

So what did her cat, Rajah, want? A cat wall.

Cynthia already had an idea of what this cat wall would include: shelves, boxes, ramps, and a cave. So she drew a plan inspired by her love of treehouses, books, and her cat, and then made a rough model of her design.

Using a miter saw, Cynthia cut premium pine into the boards needed for the cat wall, and labeled each piece and the model to match. “This made things a lot easier,” she says. Then, she cut grooves for biscuit joints followed by gluing the pieces of wood together in her preferred shape, using clamps and going slowly.

She sanded the surfaces, rounded the edges, and cleaned everything with a damp sponge. Then, she used shelf brackets to attach the cat wall to her living-room wall. “These are all anchored into studs,” Cynthia says. “That was the trick and solution for me.”

Cynthia went above and beyond for Rajah by including an LED strip, an optional but impressive finishing touch. She added carpet runners where Rajah would be walking, and attached a rope bridge—made from six slats, a clothesline rope, and large wooden beads—from the main structure to a higher-up “cat cave.”

Rajah uses his cat wall for napping, enjoying some peace and quiet, and keeping his stash of catnip to himself. When Cynthia asked him for input about what he loves about his cat wall, he added: “Meow, meow.” (“That it is mine, and mine alone.”)

Artie’s private eatery

diy cat tree iron pipes

Andrew, a life-long cat and dog parent, has been repairing and rebuilding things since the age of 13. He’s also the captain of a fire-rescue department, explaining that the job often allows him to be creative.

When he first brought home his kitten, Artie, he quickly found that his dog really liked cat food. To put Artie’s food out of the dog’s reach, he built a cat tree from iron gas pipes and couplings, and stained pine boards in an unused space in his kitchen.

“I had to figure out a way to get his food up and away from the dog,” Andrew says. “I looked into purchasing a commercial cat tree and found that the cost and quality weren’t worth the price.”

Andrew sketched out a rough plan on paper but soon found that improvising was the best course of action. So after spraying the pipes with polyurethane to prevent rusting, he laid the pipes on the floor and experimented with different combinations until he found one he liked.

He used pine boards for the platforms, cut them to fit the designated spaces, and applied black wood stain to match the look of the pipe. Then, he added grip tape to the platforms, which he says gives Artie more confidence to go up and down the tree. He also suggests using thread-lock glue to thread, level, and set the pipes in the case they don’t tighten enough.

For this tree, you’ll need to ensure the platforms are spaced close enough for the cat to navigate safely. “The trick is to place [the platforms] just right, not too far apart or too close, as it could make his ascent too difficult,” Andrew says.

Oh, and the final touch: the food bowl. Artie’s bowl is made out of an oxygen cylinder that Andrew saved from being scrapped. Finished with a rim made from red oak, Artie can now eat his food in peace.

You forgot one thing. STAINMASTER® PetProtect™ flooring, because every DIY cat tree needs a sturdy foundation.

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