How can I build a unique cat tree?
October 7, 2006 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I have one free wall in my tiny apartment for a cat tree. It's in my kitchen, and I would like it to look like a unique piece of sculpture -- not the traditional wood and carpet cat trees that everyone has. I want something at least six feet tall, and under $100, so it needs to be a DIY project.

I really like the look of these corrugated cardboard pieces, and also these, and I know my cats would love something made out of that material. How can I construct something like that? It doesn't even have to be rounded -- I'm really aiming for a tall, interlocking rectangular climbing structure that they could climb on, scratch and perch from. But how do I get my hands on that sort of cardboard? What equipment/facilities are construct to design pieces like that?
posted by bchaplin to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Corrugated cardboard is available sheets and rolls from commercial packing supply places. Large sheets are often available for free from appliance stores in the form of boxes for white goods.

Once you have the pieces cut out you can assemble them with either latex roll on contact cement or spray adhesive.
posted by Mitheral at 7:47 AM on October 7, 2006

Wouldn't the cats just shred the cardboard? Are you looking to make a new one of these every few months and clean up the chunks of cardboard in the meantime? We had a cardboard scratching platform for our cats when I was younger and it made a huge mess. Maybe these are more durable, but it might be a concern.

That said: I did something like this for an art project, and you probably want to make a stencil for any curved bits that you can move gradually along each piece that you cut. I used contact cement for my piece.
posted by amber_dale at 8:08 AM on October 7, 2006

Why not an actual piece of a tree? This would require that you had access to a woods but could be quite cool if you live in a city. You could mount platforms in the branches. There is a reason so many cat trees use carpet- cats love it. Wrapping parts of the tree in sisal rope could evoke a "tree in bondage" theme for that edge and provide a satisfying surface to scratch.
posted by pointilist at 8:32 AM on October 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know that you said you wanted a DIY project, but these cat trees from are under $90, get delivered unbelievably fast, and are of great quality. I honestly think that unless you make less than minimum wage, the cost of materials and labor will be more expensive than if you make it yourself. I have one and the value is really incredible for the cost. I am not affiliated with them, just a happy customer.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:34 AM on October 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

Er, that should be "the cost of materials and labor will be more expensive if you make it yourself."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:35 AM on October 7, 2006

Why not an actual piece of a tree?

Be careful with this. We brought a log into the living room for the cat to scratch. (Our intention was to mount it on the wall horizontally so the cat could reach up and scratch with his claws perpendicular to the pattern of the bark.) It must have had either living bugs hiding inside it or eggs on it, because we had a mini-infestation after that.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:42 AM on October 7, 2006

Best answer: I think these are cool and can all be built pretty easily.
posted by dobbs at 9:30 AM on October 7, 2006 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments so far. amber_dale: The kittypod I referenced is really heavy-duty; it seems to last much longer than the type used in cardboard boxes. So that is the material I'm looking for.

For those that suggested real logs: cool idea but I was looking for something that would blend into the kitchen (the only free space I have) better. Also, bugs could be an issue!

Regarding the economics: If I had to take a day off of work to do this, of course I'd have to calculate in the cost of labor. But I don't get paid by the hour, and do have enough free time to do this project myself. I'm not sure the amarkat type of tree is what I am looking for, but I'll check them out.
posted by bchaplin at 10:35 AM on October 7, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, and dobbs, I like the Cat Tower link. I'll think about that. The shelves idea is fantastic, too, but I don't want to attach anything to my walls (it's a rental).
posted by bchaplin at 10:38 AM on October 7, 2006

Great timing on the question, I've been making a cat tree too. My goal is to make a cat tree that a) isn't a carpeted eyesore b) is taller than most that I've seen commercially c) can be easily moved from location to location.

I'm using a 12' cardboard tube (super-heavy duty cardboard about 5" in diameter, free for the asking from a carpeting store) and a floor-to-ceiling heavy duty tension rod (Broder from IKEA, ~$35). I'm fiddling around with some blank CD spindles (the middle part that's left over after you burn 100 CDs) to center and hold the rod inside the tube but if that doesn't work, I'll jig a center out of plywood.

I'm building some shallow ledges (shaped sorta like this auger blade) out of strips of scrap cardboard glued in layers around the circumference of the tube. The key to keeping it strong seems to be to place the ridges of the corrugated cardboard parallel to the tube (i.e., the cut ends face up/down, not perpendicular to the tube).

I had planned to cover it with a mix of sisal rope and upholstery fabric or heavy canvas remnants over foam carpet padding (trimmings scavenged from the carpet store dumpster) but I like the second link that dobbs posted and might just do that surface treatment instead.

Doh on the no-walls attachment because otherwise this one sounds perfect for you.
posted by jamaro at 12:30 PM on October 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

jamaro, maybe you'd be better off using a length of large diameter PVC pipe and gluing "T" couplings in it a various heights. You could then use the open ends of the "T"s to secure shelves. More expensive than your current solution, but also much stronger.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:35 PM on October 7, 2006

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