Skip to main content

You can build amazing DIY cat trees all by yourself (Yes, really)

Cat trees provide your cat with valuable exercise and entertainment. They can help to satisfy your cat’s instinctual needs to be up high, to climb, and to sharpen his claws. They give your cat a chance to exercise and play, which is extremely important for indoor-only cats. Cat trees with perches and platforms even double as sleeping spots for your cat, helping him to feel secure. But cat trees can be expensive, which is why we’ve included the following DIY cat tree options. When you understand how to build a cat tree, you can custom-build a special tree just for your cat and even save money in the process.

Cat sleeping on its back in the hammock of a cat tree
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Build a traditional cat tree

Building a traditional cat tree will require some basic carpentry skills, but it doesn’t have to be a super overwhelming or detailed project. You’ll need some simple materials like plywood, a 2″ x 4″ piece of lumber, some carpet, rope, and wood glue. You’ll cut the lumber to the height you want and mount it to the plywood. Then, you’ll wrap and glue the rope around the lumber to make posts that are easy for your cat to climb. You’ll also need to glue carpeting to the plywood base and platform, creating areas for your cat to sit and nap.

To complete this project, you’ll need some tools including a hammer and a circular saw. One of the perks of this project is that the cat tree has a pretty simple design, so you can modify it to make it larger or smaller. You can make the cat tree as complex as you’d like and can also add special touches like hanging toys and extra platforms and cushions.

This video provides some great instructions that can guide you through the process:

Build a cat tree from a real tree

A cat tree doesn’t necessarily need to rely on fabric and rope to make it enticing. Instead, you can make a cat tree out of old tree limbs that you find.

For this project, you’ll need a large piece of plywood to act as your base. Then, take a trip out to the woods to unearth some limbs. The limbs should be large and strong enough to easily support your cat’s weight. Inspect for areas of rot or cracks, and avoid limbs that are weakened by these flaws.

It’s important to make sure that any limbs you bring home are free of bugs. Dry them out thoroughly in a garage or shed before bringing them into your house.

Mount those limbs tightly to your base with long screws. Then, you can add platforms to the limbs or hang toys from them to encourage your cat to climb and play with the limbs themselves.

Cat sleeping on the platform of a cat tree made with natural wood branches
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Build a cactus cat tree

You can also build a cat tree that resembles a cactus fairly easily. You’ll need a plywood base, as well as several 2″ x 4″ wood pieces. Nail or screw the pieces together to resemble a basic cactus shape, and attach that to your base with long screws.

Next, wrap green sisal rope around the cactus shape and glue it down with wood glue as you go. Wrap the rope tightly, so you create a surface that’s enticing to your cat and perfect for scratching his claws.

Strategies to save money on your cat tree

Building a cat tree can help you to save money over the cost of a store-bought tree, but you’ll still need to purchase supplies. To make this project really cost-effective, ask your local hardware store if they have any lumber that’s bent or full of wood knots that they would be willing to sell at a discount. You can use these pieces as poles for your cat to play with, and they don’t have to be perfectly straight.

If you plan on using carpeting, ask a flooring store if they have any scraps that they’ll be discarding. You may be able to get these scraps cheaply, or perhaps even for free.

DIY is easier than you think

You could put a lot of effort into making a cat tree, only to have your cat ignore it. If that happens, don’t panic. Many cats will take days, weeks, or even months before they warm up to a new piece of furniture, and the cat tree that you’ve made might have different smells on it that your cat is uncertain about. To encourage your cat to use the tree, consider rubbing it with catnip and adding some of his favorite toys to it. You can also feed your cat near the tree or on the base to get him used to it and to help it start to smell more familiar. With a little time, chances are your cat will think the tree is pretty awesome and will start to play with it.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Lap time, nap time: Why your cat chooses to sit on you
Find out the real reasons your cat lies in your lap
Cat sitting in a lap

As a pet parent, nothing is better than when your cat decides to curl up for a nap on your lap. Sometimes it can be slightly irritating when you need to get some work done, attempt to move your fur baby, and they look at you like you've not only offended them, but also the entire domestic cat species. But it's impossible to say no to their adorable noses and whiskers, so you let them stay. Have you ever wondered why so many of our feline family members become lap cats? We'll tell you everything you need to know about why cats love to sit on you.
Reasons your cat loves to sit on you
Wonder why your lap is your cat's favorite place to sleep? Here are some of the most common reasons.
Cats sit on you because they seek connection and attention
Despite their reputation for being aloof, most cats crave attention, especially from their favorite people. Cats get lonely when you’re not around and will beg for attention when you are. One way they do this is by sitting on your lap; it’s hard to ignore them when they’re right on top of you! They also come to you for connection and love. Usually, a cat on the lap gets affection, so your cat may come to you when they want to be petted and feel loved.
Cats get on your lap because you’re warm
Whether it’s by the radiator or in a sunbeam, kitties love napping in warm spots. One of the coziest places in your home happens to be wherever you are because of the heat your body emits! This could be why your cat likes sitting with you. They may choose to sit on your lap because they want to soak up all your body heat. Luckily, it’s not a one-way street; your cat’s body heat and fur can help keep you warm, too. With your lap cat, you’ll both stay nice and cozy.
Cats sit on you because they trust you
Sitting on top of you is a cat's ultimate sign of trust. Cats only sit in the laps of people they really feel safe with. This is especially true if they nap on you. Your cat is essentially saying they trust you to protect them from any predators while they're napping. To build even more trust with your pet, make sure you’re not forcing them to sit on your lap, and you’re giving them the option to walk away when they want. By acknowledging their freedom and leaving your lap open to your kitty, you're encouraging them to trust you even more.
Cats like the way you smell and sound
Your body is like a white-noise machine for cats. They find the noises human beings naturally make, like breathing and heartbeats, to be very soothing. It helps them relax into an easy slumber. Your cat may also be attracted to your unique scent. Smelling you may make your cat feel safer, making it easier for them to fall asleep. This can also explain why your cat always seems to love sleeping on your clothes, bed, and other possessions.

Your clothes feel nice to a cat
Have you noticed that your cat sleeps on your lap only when you’re wearing certain things? Cats love to nap in warm, comfy spots. They’re also sensitive to certain textures, favoring soft, fuzzy materials over scratchy ones. If you’re wearing a fluffy fleece sweatshirt or a soft bathrobe, your cat may be more likely to cozy up to you. But if you’re wearing a vinyl raincoat, they may not be as interested.
Of course, your cat likes you
In addition to trusting you and wanting your attention, a cat sitting on your lap usually means that they like you! Lots of cats choose a favorite human. Cats have many ways of showing their affection, like purring, nudging you, and sitting in your lap. It’s high praise coming from a cat. They’re more likely to rest next to their favorite person than anyone else in the room.
Your cat is marking their territory
Many cats naturally feel the need to claim their territory, which might include you and your bed. Cats rub their heads and leave behind pheromones on whatever they feel is theirs. Then, when other cats come along, they can smell those pheromones and will recognize that they’re in another cat’s territory.

Read more
Can cats have autism? Here’s what to know about unusual behavior in cats
Learn about special needs and autism in cats
Cat with blue eyes staring into the distance

Can cats have autism? This is a question that might have crossed your mind as you try to decipher your cat's behavior patterns. Even though the diagnosis is centered on human behavior, many pet lovers and experts have discovered similarities between special-needs cats and people with autism. Still, cats are typically only labeled as special needs if they have a diagnosed physical or mental disability.

There are several behaviors in cats that are similar to those found in humans on the autism spectrum. These include:

Read more
Do’s and don’ts: How to trim cat nails safely and successfully
Not sure how to trim cat nails properly? We've got everything you need to know
Person holding a black and white cat for a nail trim

It's not always a pleasant experience, but trimming your cat's nails is an essential element of caring for your furry friend. There are a ton of benefits to trimming down those claws -- both for you and for your kitty. For example, trims help prevent nails from curling inward and digging into your cat's sensitive paw pads and prevent them from getting snagged on items.

A good trim can also, admittedly, help protect your furniture, rugs, and clothes, too. We're going to walk through how to trim cat nails in a safe and effective way, and we'll offer you some quick do's and don'ts while we're at it. With our tips, you can make the process easier, safer, and less stressful for both you and your cat. Soon, you'll be able to trim your cat's nails like a pro.
Let's start with the basics of how to trim cat nails

Read more