When I first got cats, I swore that I was not going to get any hideous, carpet-covered cat trees for my abode.
Then I realized that my cats had no way to see out the upstairs windows. What kind of cruel owner was I? I might as well put them in jail.
So I looked for cat tree plans online (warning: the link is full of advertisements, but also has decent instructions). Then I adjusted them for the supplies I had on hand: scrap lumber from a flooring project, plywood from the curb, pieces of carpet a neighbor had just thrown out, and sundry bits of hardware and fabric.
I washed the carpet scraps in the machine – which is a good method in that it removes a lot of the backing that makes the carpet stiff and hard to work with, but a terrible method in that it can clog the heck out of your laundry hose. After I washed the rug scraps, water could no longer drain out during the spin cycle. I thought that my machine was totally broken until I removed the hose from the back of the machine and found gobs and gobs of white carpet backing plugging it up. Fortunately, machine was back to working like new after I removed all the goop.
I cut the carpet scraps to the right size using a utility knife.
The vertical beams are two pieces of approximately 1″ x 4″ pine flooring glued together and then sawed and sanded as one piece.
The crosspieces are single pieces of flooring with the tongues and grooves sawed and sanded off. I attached them to the platforms and/or vertical posts with wood screws. The crosspieces that run lengthwise under the top two platforms each have a piece of scrap wood baseboard that acts as a shim.
After building the tree, I finished the supports with Tried & True Danish Oil, also left over from the flooring project. I love Tried & True because it contains no solvents and is non-toxic, so it doesn’t set off migraines and I don’t need to worry about it making the cats sick. (You could even eat it if you wanted to, but it doesn’t taste that great.)
The base is two 2′ x 2′ pieces of 3/4″ plywood, flat sides glued together. Before gluing them together, I carved out holes in the top piece for accepting the bases of the vertical supports, which I attached by wood screws and miscellaneous L-brackets I had in my hardware collection. (I put the carpet on the base after screwing all the wood pieces together.)
Covering the base and platforms with carpet was probably the hardest part. Knowing what I know now, I would recommend using an electric staple gun to attach the carpet. Not having the benefit of experience, I used a manual staple gun, hammer and nails.
To keep the edges of the carpet pieces from fraying (and also to keep them out of sight because they were unattractive), I covered them with the folded edges of fabric I’d sewn together from denim scraps. The denim was stapled in place, with nails added where the carpet-fabric combination was too thick to accept staples.
The cats really like the top two platforms. My old cat sometimes used the stabilizing platform (the second from the bottom) as a little hiding place. None of the three cats I’ve had since making this cat tree have used the lowest platform – not even as a springboard for jumping to the higher ones. If I were ever to make another cat tree like this, I would probably double the height of the lowest platform and raise the stabilizing platform as well.
Otherwise, I’m pretty pleased with this cat tree. It’s not the most sophisticated, but it coordinates with my flooring, was basically free, and gets plenty of use.