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How to Build a Custom Cat Tower out of Recycled Materials

Updated: Feb 14


Milo and Oliver

We got two little Maine Coon kittens recently and they have begun to want to climb and scratch. In order to fill that desire, we have designed and created a cat tower for the most robust of cats. We were able to create it out of all recycled materials. (Except the rope.) It turned out so adorable. I am pleased to be able to share my custom cat tower plans with you.

Cat Tower

Cat Tower Materials:

  • 1/4 inch manila rope – 100 feet

  • 1/2 inch manila rope – 100 feet

  • 12 x 15-inch rectangle basket

  • 8 inch PVC pipe – 14.5-inch length cut in half plus 1 inch on each side for the hammock (Predrill holes for the rope in the corners 1 inch from the top and side edges.), 1.5-inch length ring for the toy (Predrill one hole for rope in the center of the top.) (Spray paint brown if you are worried about the color showing through the rope wrapping.)

  • 3-5 feathers

  • 6 inches twine

  • 3.5 inch PVC pipe – 10 inches long with a 1/2 inch notch on one side (make 2) (Spray paint brown if you are worried about the color showing through the rope wrapping.)

PVC pipe and plug with notches

Carpet remnants – 18 x 23 inches for the base (Use a permanent marker to mark where the base will be on the back to the carpet.), 14.5 x 30 inches for the hammock (This will be trimmed down when you attach it. I cut mine to the exact size and it worked out but it could have gone the other way.)


Fleece (or carpet, blanket, etc.) – 12 x 15 inches for in the basket, 22 x 17 inches for the top, 9 x 9 inch square for the platform


Foam – 12 x 15 inch for in the basket


3/4 inch plywood – 11 x 11 inch square for the platform (Cut off the corners to form an octagon.), 15 x 20-inch base, 17 x 22 inch top, 1.5 inch trim pieces 17 inches long (make 2) and 23.5 inches long (make 2), Plugs for your small PVC pipe mine was 2 3/4 inch in diameter (make 2 with a diagonal 1/2 inch notch and make 2 without a notch)

cut boards

4 x 6 inch boards – 40 inches long for the main posts (make 4), 14 inches long for the platform

4 eye screws

Ebony stain

Polyurethane

Gloves

Old rags

Drop cloth

3-inch screws

1 5/8 inch screws

Electric screwdriver

Drill

Staple gun

wood glue

glue gun (with plenty of glue sticks)

clamps

razor blade


Building Instructions:

Wood Preparation

Begin by cutting all your pieces to the correct size as listed above. Then, lightly sand them but be sure to leave a little of their texture to them. If you can find old boards they will have more character to them.

stain plywood

polyurethane the posts

Next, stain the plywood and polyurethane the 4 x 6 ‘s.

polyurethane plywood

Then, go back and polyurethane the plywood as well. While you are waiting for the wood to dry go on to the next step.


Cat Tower Attachment Preparations

cut out holes for posts in carpet

Take your base carpet and add markings for where your 4 x 6 posts will go. Be sure these are going in the right direction or the basket won’t fit. I have the 6-inch side of the posts on the 18-inch side of the base. The posts will go in the exact corners of the base. Cut out the 4 x 6 rectangles for the posts with a razor blade and set it aside.

glue carpet to hammock

Next, glue the 14.5-inch strip of carpet to the 8-inch cut hammock. Starting at the back, use a mixture of a strip of wood glue and a strip of hot glue around the entire piece.

glue carpet edges together

Trim off the excess carpet and use hot glue to glue the carpet together at the ends and edges to hide the PVC pipe. Next, use a razor blade to cut the rope holes through the carpet and then run the drill through it carefully to help clean out the carpet fibers so you will be able to place your rope through the holes.

wrap handle with rope

The basket is an easy item to prep in theory but it does take a little time. The most time-consuming piece is wrapping the handle in rope. Using the 1/4 inch rope wrap the handle starting at the base on one side and continuing to the base on the other side. Use wood glue, hot glue, and clamps to attach it on. This will require passing the entire length of rope through the basket multiple times. If you can keep the rope from tangling it will save you time in the long run. After the rope is applied and dried add in the foam for padding and the 12 x 15-inch fleece for softness.

add rope and feathers to the toy hoop

The cat toy is such a cute addition to the tower. Preparing it begins with knotting a small section of 1/4 inch rope and feeding it through the hole at the top of the PVC ring. Cut it to stop about halfway through the ring and hot glue the feathers to the end. Wrap a small length of twine around the top of the feathers and attach it with hot glue.

add rope to ring

Using more 1/4-inch rope, wrap the entire ring using wood glue, hot glue, and clamps.


Cat Tower Construction:

screw base to posts

When your wood is dry you can begin your construction. This starts with the base. I place my 4 tall posts in the approximate position I want them and place the bottom board on top. I then make sure the posts are exactly on the corners with the 6-inch side of the posts on the 15-inch side of the bottom and screw them in with four 3-inch screws each. Turn the tower right side up and begin the next step.

push the carpet over the posts and down to the base.

Before you put on the top piece you will want to place your carpet. This will not only provide padding for the cats but will also protect the floor from the wood. Finally, take your precut carpet and work it down over the posts until it is on the base.

staple around the posts

Next, staple around the posts and then flip it upside down again.

staple front and back sections and trim corners

Attach the carpet along the front and back of the base folding it over and stapling it on the bottom. For the two ends, you want to first trim the carpet with a razor so it fits perfectly next to the carpet that is already attached. If you don’t trim it you will get double thicknesses of carpet and make your entire piece unstable.

staple the sides

After it is trimmed, staple the sides up. Use a glue gun to glue the fringe together at the seams so they are hidden and then turn it back right-side up.

wrap base of posts with rope as transition to carpet

Now you will want to take a length of 1/4 inch rope and attach it to the base of the posts to act as a transition from the carpet to the post. I used hot glue and staples to attach it.

Measure 1-inch from the edges for post placement to the top

attach the top with screws

Place the top board (22 x 17-inch plywood) on the posts. Position the posts so they are 1 inch in on both outside edges and attach with four 3 inch screws each.

attach small post to top

Place the small post on the top board right at the front left corner and screw it in with four 3 inch screws going up from the bottom.

attach octagon

Center the octagon on the small post and attach it with four 3 inch screws as well.

attach the trim

Use finishing nails to attach the trim pieces around the top platform. First, attach the 17-inch side pieces and then the 23.5-inch front and back.


Adding Cat Tower Attachments:

place plug in the pipe

Now it is time to work on the cat ladder. Begin by placing the round plywood plug without the notch in the unnotched side of the 3.5 inch PVC pipe. Use a small drill bit to form 3 pilot holes and screw in three 1 5/8 inch screws around the edge.

attach notched plugs

Then, attach the notched plugs to the center of the back right post at 12 and 32 inches from the ground using two 3 inch screws. Be sure the notch is facing out and toward the ground.

place rope in the pipe end

Place 2-3 inches of 1/2 inch rope in the pipe and place it over the plug matching up the notches.

attach the pipe to the plugs

Drill 3 more pilot holes and use three more 1 5/8 inch screws to attach them to the plug.

attach rope to pipes

Wrap the rope around the pipe using wood glue, hot glue, and clamps to attach it.

staple rope to wood plug

When you get to the end, use staples to hold the end to the wood plug. Repeat the process with the other pipe.

screw ring to post

Now is a good time to add the cat toy ring. Place it halfway up the front, right post with the toy to the top. Use two 3 inch screws angling one slightly up and one slightly down to attach it.

make pilot holes for the eye screws

Mark a spot on the inside of the posts 7 inches down and 1 inch in from the outside edge. Use a drill to make 4 small pilot holes for the eye screws. This is where we will attach the hammock. After you make the pilot holes, place the eye screws with the eye facing up and down.

Hang the hammock

Now cut four 1 foot sections of 1/4 inch rope, wrap the ends with tape, and feed them through the holes in the hammock. Make a knot on the inside ends. Feed the other end of the rope through the eye screw and create another knot. Be sure it is level. Tighten the knots well and trim off any long ends. Your hammock is now fully installed.

wrap the small post in rope

Using hot glue, wood glue, clamps, and staples wrap the remaining 1/4 inch rope around the small post starting from next to the octagon platform and continuing down. When working on the posts I staple it much more because I know the cats will be scratching on these sections more. For this part, I stapled it all along the back side of the post. If you have any excess wood glue be sure to wash it off well before it has a chance to dry.


Take the remaining 1/2 inch rope and divide it into thirds. Set two of the sections aside and divide the last section in half.

wrap rope between the steps

Take the first half and attach it to the back right post in the middle of the two steps using wood glue, hot glue, clamps, and staples. Because it is so much thicker, I staple it on both sides of the post.

wrap rope above and below toy

Take the remaining half of the rope and cut it in half again. Place these two sections of rope above and below the cat toy on the front right posts.

wrap rope around the two remaining posts

The remaining two 1/3 sections of rope will be attached to the center of the left posts.

staple fleece to the top

Take the 22 x 17-inch fleece and cut out the 3.5 x 5.5-inch rectangle (5.5 inch on the 22-inch side) in the front left corner to make room for the small post. Staple the fleece around all the edges and a few times in the center.

staple fleece to the tower

Using the 9 x 9-inch fleece, staple it to the top of the cat tower folding the corners over the edge and stapling them as well. The front and sides of the octagon will stick out of the fleece.

trim fur

If you have any funky bits of fur you may want to trim them.

add basket

Add the basket to the bottom. You could glue it to the carpet but I decided to leave it removable just in case I wanted to switch it out later.


Conclusion:

kittens on the cat tower

I think it is so great that we were able to repurpose so many items into this great cat tower that our kittens can enjoy. I hope this helped spark your imagination on things that you can do to keep your cats happy as well.

kitten enjoying the tower

I made it so you can print out the materials list and instructions. If you have any questions along the way let me know.



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