Cat bed or perch on the radiator?
October 7, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

DIY cat bed on the radiator. Is it safe to build a platform on top of the cast-iron steam radiator for my cat to sit/lie on? If so, what materials, methods, etc should I use?

I'm looking for a solution that's safe for the cat and safe for the building -- and if possible, cheap and reasonably energy-efficient. Winter is coming here, but we haven't turned the heat on yet.

These are squat, floor-mounted cast-iron steam radiators from the 1920s (similar to the ones pictured here) of various sizes but most have a top surface 5"-8" deep and 14"-20" wide.

-How can I secure it so it doesn't fall off? Cat is 10+ pounds and a jumper, squirmer, etc.
-Anything I can do to make it warm but not too-hot for him?
-Can I make the perch bigger than the top of the radiator (i.e., have an overhang on 3 sides) safely?
-Wood or MDF or something else?
-Cover the bottom of the perch with tinfoil to reflect some heat down?
-Cover the top of the perch with carpet or sisal or what? Ok to staple-gun it?

Should be compatible with energetic and not especially graceful cat. (No pic of cat himself, but he looks like this guy.)
posted by LobsterMitten to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've put a number of things on top of my radiators over the years, and they've all been fine. I had wooden boards on a couple of them to provide extra counter space. The cat would sometimes jump up there in the winter and stretch out, so I finally just popped his kitty bed up there, and it was fine. He'd climb down if he got too hot, and with the soft bed there was no damage if he knocked it off, although that was rare.
posted by MsMolly at 1:17 PM on October 7, 2010

We had those radiators in the house I grew up in, but they have metal covers on them. After googling, I see that apparently we were really weird, because I can't find a picture anywhere. Basically it was some kind of metal that covered the top and the front and sides, leaving the back open. When the radiator was barely on, it was the perfect place to sit. When it was full raging hot, we'd just throw an afghan over it. That way when the heat kicked off, the afghan would hold the heat. No experience with cats in particular, but here's what I'd say:

Unless your radiator is really narrow, then I'd just put something flat on top of it. Thin wood, metal, whatever. Cover it with something thick and fleecy. Even if you lose some of the direct heat from the radiator through the bedding, you'll still be getting the hot air rising around the bed. You should be able to extend the top a few inches in each direction without any major stability issues. If your radiator has openings in the segments, maybe you could wire the platform down to prevent it from tipping if kitty steps on the edge of the board?
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2010

I have a house now with the metal covers, three sides and no back, and are removable. They are perforated on the sides for decoration. I had to have them sand blasted since the idiots who lived here before me glued orange shag carpet on all of them.

My radiators are hot water though, and get really warm but not hot enough to burn. My cat sleeps on these all winter long, and sometimes even people sit on them to warm up. They are thin metal. Nthing specialagentwebb.
posted by chocolatetiara at 2:03 PM on October 7, 2010

We have folded towels on top of the radiators that our cat sleeps on, and he had no trouble at all last winter. They were warm, but not scalding.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:19 PM on October 7, 2010

Cats like to be warmer than we do. My cats slept on the metal screen for the radiator in our old place, which was thinner than a cookie sheet. It looked something like this, although we didn't build it, and ours was wider, and it had a metal top... you get the point.
posted by desjardins at 3:11 PM on October 7, 2010

Just a word of warning: Make sure whatever you put on top of there won't slip off or leave the top of the radiator exposed. My old apartment had large radiators that my cat liked to sit on, and he broke a couple of his toes when he got a paw stuck in the radiator.
posted by TrialByMedia at 3:31 PM on October 7, 2010

I've never made one of these, but if I were going to try, I think I'd make the platform out of thin plywood or pegboard (so heat will still go through it), larger than the top of the radiator, and attach to the underside a sort of wooden skirt that would fit snugly around the top of the radiator. To keep the platform edges from sagging, you could put a couple of small L-brackets on each side, their faces touching the skirt and the underside of the platform. Then attach a cat bed to the top side, or cover with carpet.
posted by lakeroon at 5:56 PM on October 7, 2010

I've seen lots of radiator covers like the one desjardins linked to being built on home improvement shows. They're usually made of MDF and you can buy the decorative pierced part of the covers as well (Home Depot and similar stores should have them). Put a cushion on the top and you have a cat lounge.

Googling "building radiator covers" brings up lots of hits (including desjardins' link).
posted by deborah at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2010

I used to have a big piece of marble on top of a radiator. Didn't seem to get too hot, it was too heavy to move, and the cats liked to sit on it.
posted by FlyByDay at 8:04 PM on October 7, 2010

Yes, it's safe. Use wood. Not difficult. DIY how to video.

Window seat radiator cover combo. Like this. Snazzy. $73.40. $83.30. Mission style. Before and after. More variety with affordable prices.
posted by nickyskye at 8:27 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank you all! Somehow I had come up empty when googling this, probably was limiting my searches too much to cat-specific radiator solutions, so thanks for posting the results of better searches. Still happy to hear more if anyone has more.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:08 PM on October 7, 2010

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