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How to Make a Window Cat Shelf: Step by Step Instructions

Updated on April 11, 2014

Kitten Testing the Window Shelf

On this wire shelf, note the plexiglass making the surface solid.
On this wire shelf, note the plexiglass making the surface solid. | Source

This plan uses material found in many big box home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. When there are easy variations, I will describe them.

The photographs show the shelf I built with these personal goals: Obviously, we cat owners know that our indoor feline friends adore gazing out windows, checking for birds and other critters in the wild. I wanted a shelf which will not block light or cast large shadows. Furthermore, I wanted it to be midway up a tall window. In my house, furniture placement makes it impossible to place a cat shelf at the bottom sill.

Warming Beds for Cats

Tools Needed






some of the tools and supplies for installing a window cat shelf.
some of the tools and supplies for installing a window cat shelf. | Source

Supplies Needed

Pre-cut shelf

My photos show a plastic-coated wire “closet organizer” shelf that is commonly seen in bedroom closets and laundry rooms. For the more conventional among you, the home improvement stores offer many styles of wood and fake wood shelves. They also have lumber which can be custom cut at the store or by you at home.

Shelf brackets

Again, I used the sort of brackets designed for the wire shelf. You can use fancy Victorian wood brackets, wrought iron, or whatever floats your boat. I do NOT recommend relying on small L-shaped corner braces. All the ready-made cat shelves I have seen advertised have large sturdy brackets. Picture your precious Fluffy bounding up to land on the window shelf. It must be able to handle the cat’s weight plus the force of the landing. You know that if the apparatus feels the least bit unsteady, your cat will not use it. That would be a great waste of your time and energy.

Possible needed materials: scrap wood, nails, wall anchors, screws, plastic sheeting (plexiglass), carpet


If at all possible, get another person to help. ->

This is very important if you are doing a moderately heavy or extra-long (such as mine) shelf. However, in all cases it is rather difficult to hold a shelf in position, keep the level from taking a nose-dive, and putting pencil marks on the wall all by yourself.

Follow the instructions, if any, that come with your pre-made shelf for placement of supports. For example, my shelf came with instructions that the end supports be within 3-4 inches from each end. Hold the shelf in what you think is the desired spot and place the level on it. You will place the level 2 different ways. First, insure that the left-right orientation is straight – completely parallel to the floor. Then, turn the level 90 degrees to make sure that your proposed position is neither leaning towards the floor from back to front, or the opposite tilt. (Now do you understand why a second person is helpful?) Put small pencil marks on the wall where the top and bottom of the shelf will “touch.” Do this at every spot where a bracket will be.

Set the shelf aside for the moment and attach the brackets to the wall in the way they go. In my photos, I needed to drill a hole for a wall anchor at the bottom of the brackets.

Scrap wood – if you are doing my sort of shelf, you see that it rests past the window’s frame. Therefore, I needed to attach a small block of wood to the wall to create a surface for the top fastener to be applied. My mistake: the blocks I made are too small. Sometimes, I try to be too decorative at the expense of function. I needed to go back and redo one side due to this.

The Great Thing about DIY

One aspect of DIY which I value is that one can customize to have exactly what one wants. Length, width, color and other features are completely under your control. Please let me know how your window cat shelf turns out.

Comfort and Feeling Secure

After making the cat shelf, I noticed that my cats avoided it for quite a while. I think they did not like the feel of the wire "rungs" under their paws and the air in-between those rungs. So, i went to a home improvement stores which will custom cut transparent plexiglass sheets. I had sheets cut to cover the shelf and drilled two small holes in the sheets (very easy) in order to fasten them to the original shelf with white garbage bag ties. Problem solved! Now, the cats hop right up.

Photos and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Kent, I am so glad that this article made your cat and you happy!

    • Kent Lofgren profile image

      Kent Lofgren 5 years ago from Umeå, Sweden

      Excellent! I bought a what is it called in English? window plank? You know, the flat board where you put pots and flowers ;) And I bought a small one, and put it under one of our small windows - just for our cat. He loves it!

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Amerben, we will find out.

    • profile image

      amerben 5 years ago

      Love your creativity and warnings. Is one shelf big enough & strong enough for 2 cats?