Catification without drilling?
May 23, 2020 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I would like to install some floating "cat shelves" for my guys, James and Rory to enjoy. However, I live in an apartment with old fashioned plaster and lath walls, and my lease expressly forbids the use of screws, although it specifies that nails are acceptable. Is there a way to do this?

I'm picturing a setup like this.

We successfully hung a curtain rod using Command picture hanging strips, which was a method suggested by the Internet. However, my cats, particularly James, are much heavier than weight limit of any of the Command products.

Any suggestions, cat people of Metafilter?
posted by easy, lucky, free to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cat person who has done a fair amount of construction.

Don’t do this. There’s no method of mounting a wall shelf capable of supporting a bouncy cat without using screws, anchors, etc.

Get furniture instead.
posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 9:15 PM on May 23 [16 favorites]

I have made and installed cat furniture that supports bouncy cats without using screws, anchors, or cetera. They're not floating though. It's a big post (wrapped in sisal rope) with carpeted shelves sticking off it, and the way it stays in place is it's squooshed up against the ceiling (where it has a pad with a grippy surface) by some leveling mounts screwed into tee-nuts on the bottom.

It looks like this . A couple times since building it 5 years ago I've needed to tighten the feet. It gets climbed on, sometimes very vigorously, a lot and bumped by a Roomba on a nearly daily basis (I give the Roomba weekends off).
posted by aubilenon at 9:34 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]

I don't mean to threadsit, but I do want to note that we have cat furniture, including a 72 inch cat tree and multiple scratching surfaces. I just think they'd really have fun with some shelves.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:42 PM on May 23

My friend has cat shelves that attach to his windows with suction cups.
Like this one
posted by gt2 at 10:58 PM on May 23

Cat shelves need to not only support the weight of the cat but the force of cat+velocity of cat-jump. In this case I'd opt for attaching the shelves to solid furniture, like the side of a bookcase. It has the bonus of making the top of the furniture cat-accessible as a high perch.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:15 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]

I would consider this stuff. Late night TV. Alien tape.. But that is expensive compared to other Nano-Grip Technology tape. Look for that term on Amazon. Can probably get one roll for around $5 on Amazon.
posted by AugustWest at 1:32 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

No adhesive product will solve this for you, because no matter how well you stick something to the painted wall, you’re still depending on the paint and plaster to hold together... which it definitely won’t. Floating shelves are a challenging structural proposition even WITH screws. Hardware-free floating cat shelves are not going to work.
posted by jon1270 at 4:05 AM on May 24 [13 favorites]

Also, be careful with nails on lath and plaster. It’s always best to drill the nail hole first. Otherwise, the nail can push/bend the lath and break off the “key” of plaster that holds it to the wall.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:30 AM on May 24 [2 favorites]

Something like this floor to ceiling compression thing may be an option.
posted by rockindata at 6:35 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

Yes, some variation of abilenon's pole shelving would be best. The weight goes to the floor, not to the wall.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:38 AM on May 24

Agreed that pole shelving is the best way forward. If you insist, I suppose you could get a sheet of 3/4" birch plywood, nail that to the wall (ideally in to at least one or two studs) , paint it wall color, then screw your shelves to the sheet of plywood using screws not long enough to penetrate all the way through the plywood. But, this seems like kind of a "rules lawyering" workaround to get around the no screws in to the wall restriction and your landlord might not be happy. I suppose you could ask your landlord 1st.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 8:51 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

A great scofflaw option is to just use screws (Into studs) and patch and paint the holes before you move out. Screwing into lath isn’t effective and plastic drywall anchors aren’t either but if you can’t reach two studs you can use like toggle anchors and those should be fine.
posted by aubilenon at 9:37 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this could be an opportunity to build/install an elaborate bookshelf system, supported by verticals that go almost to the ceiling, and open on the sides. You could, for example, put some supports around your couch but not put any horizontal shelves below 5-6'.

Then, you can alternate shelf heights to the left and right of a support, so that the cats can use it as a kind of staircase. Use some shelves for your stuff, but leave a (complex) pathway for the cats to climb... I've done this with old Skandia modular shelving system, and it works! You could do it with lumber.

Probably not what you're looking for, but a similar effect.
posted by amtho at 11:06 AM on May 24

My feline masters enjoy ladders, so that type setup may be worth considering. You can even install a bridge between ladders and all kinds of interesting cantilevered shelves. Just be sure to provide a wide and stable base for attaching ladders' feet so they don't tip over.
posted by mightshould at 2:24 PM on May 24

This seems pretty unanimous. Thanks, Metafilter!

aubilenon, we did actually try to drill while installing the curtains I mentioned in my original post. However, there's something extremely hard behind the lath, and after reading a bunch of internet horror stories about the stuff that could be lurking back there, I'm no longer comfortable trying to drill into the walls. I LOVE your post, though, and I'm going to DM you with some specific questions.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:00 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]

Just to be clear: the shelves that OP link to are not floating. They are on L brackets and photographed from above.

I know you want floating shelves, OP, but that’s not what you are looking at there.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:01 AM on May 26

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