How I Made a Cat Tree For FREE

It has been crazy around here lately. I have been working my way through the backlog of projects I accumulated over the summer. It was way too hot to do anything outside and I do not have an air conditioned shop to work in. So, I am playing catch up right now. 

One of those projects was to put together a cat tree for Luigi. He is a very spoiled feline and even though he has a few things around the house that are his to scratch up, he still preferred to sharpen his claws on my favorite chair. Since I was pretty sure that the battle over the upholstery would result in excessive violence, I decided to present him with a peace offering. I would get a cat tree so that he would have a cool new option that isn’t my chair. To Amazon!

But have you SEEN how much those things cost?! They’re mostly made of cardboard and twine but even the most boring looking, basic scratching post is thirty bucks. I even shopped around to no avail. It was time to scavenge for supplies around the house and see what I could put together myself. 

Materials

Cat tree twine installation

I combed through Pinterest for inspiration and realized that it needed a base, some kind of toy to make it fun, and a platform or hammock to chill on. All flat surfaces should be carpeted and any posts or walls should be covered with twine or cardboard for maximum scratchiness. I didn’t want it to be too big and take up a lot of space, but I also wanted it to be something fun for him to play on. So, after getting a pretty good idea of what I would need, I ransacked the house for supplies.

Like any crafter worth her salt, I had plenty of hot glue, screws, and staples. I also had some extra shelf brackets laying around. I took apart an old cabinet for lumber and gathered some small spools I hadn’t found another use for. Cardboard is never a problem because there are always about fifty boxes on my back porch. We had recently removed some old carpet in my library and I had saved some of it for just such an occasion.

The Build

Glue gun shenanigans

With a small trash pile amassed, I began working on creating an indoor feline play area. I used a utility knife to cut the carpet to size and stapled it onto the base, the shelf, and the top of one of the spools. This process was a nightmare. Carpet is more rigid and annoying than you might think. It took some creative folding, cuss words, offerings to the craft gods, and roughly 100,000 staples to birth these sort of lumpy but serviceable surfaces.

Next, I stacked the spools and screwed them together to make a small tower and attached it to the base. I had what I thought was a ton of twine in my craft room. After I hot glued it to the tower, I realized that it was not, in fact, a ton of twine. It was more like nowhere near enough twine for what the heck I was doing. There was enough to cover one section of the spool tower, so I decided to glue cardboard on the other two sections and call it good.

For the toy, I took a scrap piece of furring strip, drilled a hole in it, attached a Christmas bell to it using zip ties, and screwed it onto the tower. I wasn’t sure how well this would work, but it has been the only dangling toy he hasn’t destroyed. Then, I took the carpeted platform board and bracketed it to the wall above the tower. I don’t have pictures of the whole setup because it is in my son’s bedroom and he doesn’t want me to take pics in there.

The different cat tree textures

Finished Product

Honestly, this cat tree isn’t the prettiest thing I have built. It certainly isn’t the prettiest one I’ve seen. However, Luigi thinks it is the best thing ever. He seems to love having his own space and furniture. He lounges on his cat shelf all of the time and seems to enjoy sharpening his nails on all of the different textures. 

I call this a win because 

  • The cat loves it.
  • It cost me nothing.
  • It used a lot of crap that was taking up space in my house and porch.
  • I finished it (listen, that is a BIG deal with my attention span).
  • I completed the project with only two minor breakdowns, three minor burns from the glue gun, and the staple gun only pinched my hand once.

Reflections

If visual appeal, simplicity, and time were the only considerations when deciding on how to obtain a cat tree, purchasing one would have been a much better idea. It was a pain in the neck to put together and took a while to assemble. However, cost and functionality were my main concerns. The cat loves it and it has the added bonus of using up some of the junk I had laying around. More room for activities! Yay!

Almost finished

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