cat-tree-13While in Oklahoma, Oscar had a small cat tree where he spent a large portion of his time. So much time in fact, that the structural integrity was destroyed by his constant jumping, bouncing, and swinging.

Our first attempt to replace the cat tree with a hardier, taller model proved to be out of our price range, with models starting at $250 going upwards of $500. So Nathan made me a deal. He would build a cat tree/condo when he got his workshop up and running and was able to buy a table saw. So 2 ½ years later, here’s the process:

The Design:

I started by browsing through websites that sell cat trees and condos. From these designs, we came up with several key elements that the tree should include:

  1. Height. An interior decorator had recently helped us finish off our family room. On the left side of the mantle she had place a 7 foot high silk plant. To maintain balance in the room, we decided to build a 7 foot cat tree on the right side of the mantle.
  2. Tail Chasing. Oscar loves to chase his own tail by hanging off ledges. So several ledges were included.
  3. Hiding. Like most cats, Oscar likes to fit into small places, where he feels safe and warm. When he is a little unsure of things, he likes to climb to a spot as high as possible, allowing him to keep an eye on things. Right now, that spot is the cabinets above the fridge. We would like to go back to that point of blissful ignorance when he doesn’t walk around on the kitchen counters.


After several trips to Menards for ideas, we came up with the following list of materials:

  • 12 inch concrete form
  • 3 2 foot x 6 foot 3/4inch plywood boards
  • 16 ½ feet of junk 2x4s (already had from previous homeowners)
  • 16 ½ feet of 8 inch PVC pipes
  • 4 packages of sisal rope
  • 60 feet of carpet (from remnant carpet section)
  • 5 Long lag bolts (with end cut off to make double ended screws)
  • 6 Lag bolts with large torx head
  • 1 foot of fabric for cat hammock
  • Lots of glue sticks and staplescat-tree-01

The Build:

Nathan did most of this section.

  1. Columns: Nathan cut the PVC pipe into 4 sizes: 3 – 2 feet, 2 – 2.5 feet, 1 – 3.5 feet, 2 – 1 foot. He then fitted the 2×4 pieces inside the PVC pipes and screwed them in. Then he drilled holes for the bolts. I wrapped each pole with either carpet or cat-tree-08sisal rope which was attached with high temperature glue.
  2. Platforms: Nathan cut the platforms into several shapes. Base platform – 2 ftx2 ft. Level 1 – 2 ft x 2 ft with one corner cut off. Level 2 and Level 3 – 2 ft x 1 ft. Level 4 – 1 ft x 1ft. Level 4 was originally going to be a concrete form cut in half and placed on the side like a half moon shape but due to stability issues this top level was transformed into a platform. Nathan predrilled holes into the boards.
  3. Concrete form:cat-tree-06 Nathan used a protractor to trace a circle on the outside of the form. He also traced and cut two more circles out of wood to wedge into the top and bottom of the form. The inside floor and the outside of the form were covered in carpet.

Finished Product:

Oscar LOVES his new cat tree. He spends a great deal of time chasing his tail on the ledges. He sleeps inside the concrete form and play with the toys hanging off the ledges.


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6 Responses to “How to Build a Cat Tree from Scratch”  

  1. 1 CodyAnne

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I think I’m going to use these plans to build a cat tree for my two kittens.

  2. 2 Oscar

    When I first read the title, I thought: seriously? we need an article on how to build a cat tree from scratch… Then I read it and I’m actually impressed with the step by step directions and measurments, with all the great pictures to illustrate. Way to go, this is actually pretty cool. Oh yeah, and your cat has one of the coolest names in the planet.

  3. 3 Terra

    I’m making a cat tree for 4-H, and this one looks like a fun idea, and my cat would love it! Thanks for posting!

  4. 4 Jason

    Nice design. A few notes as I am in the process of building this myself. The PVC pipe is 2 inches in diameter, not 8 inches in diameter. The 2 x 4′s need to be cut square or just shy of square at 1 and 1/2 inches x 1 and 1/2 inches to fit inside the 2 inch PVC piping, so you only need 8 feet of 2 x 4 as you will be cutting them in half. (2 x 4 actually measures 1 and 1/2 inches x 3 and 1/2 inches so there will be a 1/2 inch left over after it is cut to size.) The holes for the bolts are drilled 6 inches by 6 inches from the sides, there will be 6 inches from the bolt hole to the 2 closest sides. Thanks for the design and I hope this helps anyone who is trying to build this like me.

  5. 5 Sharon

    Jason, did you use the concrete?

  6. 6 Lizzard

    @Jason: So instead of using a 2×4 and having to cut them down, why not get your hands on 2×2 furring strips and circumvent the hassle of having to rip all those 2x4s? Its even cheaper too!

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