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I’m so excited to share this DIY Cat Tree with you today! We’ve had this DIY project on our to do list for a few years. When we first toured our house we saw this little nook behind the bedroom door and immediately thought “cat tree”.
So what took us so long to build our DIY Cat Tree?? Well to be honest it just wasn’t a “priority”. We felt like the stove, toilet, and AC were more important than the cat tree….crazy I know!! But we finally had some free time and got to work on a new home for our little babies!!
There are several different DIY cat tree ideas available online. We did a ton of research and tried to come up with an easy, sturdy, and aesthetically pleasing cat tree. Here are the materials and equipment you’ll need for your DIY Cat Tree:
- Table Saw or Circular Saw (optional…you could just stick with the jigsaw)
- Contour Gauge (optional)
- Electric Handheld Sander (optional…you could do it by hand)
- Large Branch (you could just use a 4×4 post if you don’t have a large branch laying around)
- Sand Paper
- 10 inch Lag Screw (2 for each branch you’re screwing into the base)
- Long Drill Bit for your Lag Screw
- Socket to fit over your Lag Screw
- Torque Wrench
- 3/4 inch wooden screws
- MDF Board (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)
- Stain and sealer
- Staple Gun
Step One: Cut Tree Down
Well this may seem like an odd step but luckily we had a dying tree/shrub in our front yard. We were cutting it down with the chainsaw, when we realized it would be perfect for our cat tree. If you don’t have a dying tree to cut down, then check out Facebook Marketplace to see if anyone has any old branches they’re trying to get rid of.
Step Two: Let the Tree Dry Out
We live in Texas so we let our tree “dry out” in our driveway for a few months. Why does it need to “dry out”? Well before you cut the tree down, it was alive and full of water on the inside. So if you decide to stand a branch/log upright in your house without drying it out, then you could potentially end up with a puddle of water on your floor. Definitely not ideal!! So be patient and let it dry out.
Step Three: Remove Bark
Okay so we didn’t do this step. It’s a pain to remove bark!! The bark on our tree doesn’t really chip (since it’s technically a shrub) but if the bark on your tree chips off easily then you’ll want to remove the bark.
Step Four: Design Your Cat Tree
Designing the cat tree can be the hardest part. Start by measuring the available space. Use the available space measurements to determine the cuts on your branch/log. For example, our branch was originally 12 feet tall and about 5 feet wide. We clearly didn’t have that much space in our house for a cat tree. So we measured and brainstormed and eventually decided where we wanted to cut the branches to make them fit in our available space. Again, we used the chainsaw to make the big cuts to our branch/tree.
Step Five: Build the Base
For right now you’re just going to cut two pieces of MDF for the bottom of your base (same exact size). We used the table saw but if you don’t have a table saw, then you could always just use a jigsaw. Be sure to leave enough space for the sides/walls of the base (take good measurements). Screw the two pieces together using your drill and 3/4 inch wooden screws (depending on the width of your MDF board).
Step Six: Attach Branches to Base
Determine where you want to attach your tree/branch to the base. It might be centered or off to the side like ours. Once you’ve determined where you want to attach it, then prop the branch up and get everything in place. Drill some pilot holes through the base and into the branch.
Next comes the hard part, use the rachet to screw the lag screws into the base and branch. It takes quite a bit of muscle, but luckily my hubby stepped up to the challenge. You’ll need to drill at least two lag screws into each branch. If your branch is big enough and you have enough strength, then drill some more.
Step Seven: Finish the Base
Cut the mdf board to create the walls of the base. Our walls were 6 inches tall, perfect height for the rocks (you’ll add these at the very end). Once you have the walls of the base cut, screw them to the base using 3/4 wooden screws and you’re done.
Step Eight: Build the Ledges
Move the tree into your house, where it will be located once you’re done. This will help you envision everything and get the appropriate measurements for the ledges. Once it’s in place, determine the first ledge (from the ground up). Once you have the first ledge screwed into the branch/wall, then move on to the second ledge. Take it one ledge/step at a time. Here are some tips for your ledges:
- Your ledges should be 12-18 inches apart, otherwise it won’t be as “inviting” for the cat to jump around on. We made our first ledge a little higher up, but I think it just depends on your cats and the size of the ledge.
- You can add branches to your tree to create extra ledges. Use a leftover/scrap branch and screw it into your tree.
- If you’d like for your ledges to go around the branches, then use a contour gauge to help you make the cuts.
- We built braces along the wall and then screwed the ledges onto the braces. So each ledge was screwed into the braces and then resting on the tree branch for extra support. It’s hard to explain why we choose this method, but basically it’s super stable and allows for slight movement while the cats are jumping around. If you’ve ever watched your cats jump on their cat tree, you’ll notice that it moves ever so slightly. So you want it to move slightly, but only slightly!!
- If you have an old cat tree laying around, take off some of the pieces and use it on your new cat tree. We were trying to figure out how to build a hammock, when we decided to just remove the hammock from their old cat tree. We just screwed it into a branch and done! Easy! We also took a house off of their old tree and attached it to one of the ledges.
Step Nine: Sand, Stain, and Seal
Sand, stain, and seal your cat tree. If you removed the bark, then you’ll want to do the entire tree. If you didn’t remove the bark, then you just need to do the base and ledges.
Step Ten: Add Twine
Add twine as scratching posts and for aesthetics (we used the twine to cover up the added branches so they look natural and a part of the original tree). We made a small knot at the end of the twine and attached it to the branch using a staple gun. We wrapped the twine around and continued to staple it to the branch every few so often.
Step Eleven: Add Rock
Add rock to the base for extra support. This thing is going to be sssooo sturdy, it’ll never knock over!! Seriously our cat tree probably weighs 100 lbs!! Weigh it down!!
Step Twelve: Get Your Cats to Like their New Cat Tree
If your cats are anything like our cats, then this will be the hardest step!! They’re just sssooo picky!!! Put their favorite blankets on the ledges, put their food on the ledges, put some catnip on the twine. Give it a week and if they still don’t like it, then consider making some adjustments (add more steps, make larger ledges, etc).
I hope you enjoy this DIY project!! Oh…and welcome to the crazy cat lady club!! How do I know you’re a crazy cat lady?? Well that’s easy… only a crazy cat lady would be interested in building a DIY Cat Tree for their little furballs!! Hahaha