How to Make Your Own Custom Cat Tree

Lead Image for How to Make Your Own Custom Cat Tree
What You'll Need
Corner brackets
Wood screws
Plywood sheet(s)
2 X 4s
Carpet pieces
Razor knife
Staple gun

Cat trees are available from pet stores and other retailers in a number of styles, sizes, and designs. But these feline jungle gyms can be expensive! Save yourself some money while giving your kitty a custom play place by making your own cat tree. Even with minimal tools and just a little bit of DIY skill, anyone can build something their fur babies will enjoy for years to come.

Step 1 - The Base

Like all DIY projects, a good cat tree starts with a strong foundation. You have options for designing the base of your cat tree. You can begin with a flat, rectangular, circle, or square-shaped piece of wood, or by building a box out of plywood. The advantage of building a box is that kitty will have an interior space at the bottom of the cat palace. the advantage of a flat base is more space for other features.

Nail two or three sheets of plywood together to form a sturdy, strong foundation. Pre-drill holes in this base for the posts that will become the "trunks" of your cat tree.

To build a box, cut a sheet of plywood into four equal pieces. Use brackets to bring the corners together, and secure with wood screws in all four corners. Cut a large hole in one of the pieces of plywood to give you access to the interior of the box. This will also create an opening for cats to go in and out. When you cover the tree with carpet later, you will need to cover this interior space as well.

cat playing with ball on cat tree

Step 2 - The Trunk

Next, build the trunk of the cat three with 2X4s. Use at least two in order to support the first platform of the cat tree—you can add as many posts as you want to build multiple levels. The first two posts you add should be the same height. Use brackets to secure the posts to the base of the cat tree, either the plywood foundation or the top of the box you built. Flip the tower over and use nails or screws to further secure these posts attached to the base.

Test each post to be sure it's securely attached. Now, you can add your first platform. This is a plywood sheet that has been cut to size with a saw. Make it large enough so that it will rest across the top of both posts. This platform does not have to be square or rectangular in shape, though this is common. Feel free to get creative and cut your plywood into a circle, an L-shape, or whatever else you can imagine.

Add more posts and platforms of varying heights if desired. Otherwise, you can move on and start building the top of your cat tree.

Step 3 - The Branches

Once your base and trunk are in place, you can build up the rest of your cat tower. What you can make is limited only by your creativity and DIY ability. Some crafty builders use actual tree limbs to give kitty a place to climb, but you can stick to 2x4s to attach posts. You should attach posts only on top of the posts you already placed when you were building the trunk of the tree. Otherwise, your overall structure will be unstable.

Add platforms to the top of your posts. Whenever possible, attach platforms that extend over two or more posts to make your cat tree even more stable and secure. Every time you add another element to the tree, test the overall sturdiness of the structure. Remember that cats will be jumping and climbing all over the tree, so you want it to be very solid.

Use your corner brackets and wood screws to secure every post and platform of the tree as you work your way up.

cat on cat tree

Step 4 - Finishing Touches

Once the tree is assembled and you're satisfied that it is sturdy, you can begin finishing your tree. Cut carpet pieces to size with a razor knife and cover every platform, top and bottom, so that no part of the plywood is exposed. Place glue all over the plywood before you place the carpet, which should be pressed firmly down everywhere. Secure the carpet with a staple gun. Cats will be scratching the carpet, so you want to make sure it’s holding tight.

The posts can also be covered in carpet, but leave a few inches of a couple of posts or one whole post free of carpet. Any open areas of posts can be wrapped with twine. Cats love clawing at twine. Wrap the twine very tightly around and around the post until you get to the top. This can also be secured with glue and the staple gun.

Want to add more to your cat tower? You can use screw hooks to attach hanging cat toys or feathers to the tree and make it even more fun for kitty, or intertwine ropes to give them more places to climb on or lounge.

Once your cat tree is built and finished, you can present it to your cats. They will love having a new place to play, and you’ll love the fact that they have a place to scratch, claw, and climb that may keep them from doing the same to your furniture.