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How to Build a Cat Climber
Designing Your Cat Climber
It is important to plan what your cat climber will look like before you begin. This enables you to gather the proper materials and design a cat climber that fits into the space you have available. Measure the area where you will build the cat climber and be sure your design is smaller than that. Vertical designs make the best use of space and cats like climbing high anyway. They can be functional or artistic like the tree design below. Free cat climber design ideas can be found at Amby.com.
Choosing a Cat Climber Floor Plan
Pick a cat climber design that appeals to your pet's personality. Is your cat a climber? Is he a lounger? Is she a hider? There are various cat tree accessories that you can add and subtract from designs to customize the floor plan for your cat. Cat climber accessories include:
- shelves and perches
- scratching posts and supports
- rope with toys
- cat caves
Building the Cat Climber
Which ever cat climber design you choose, it must have a stable base. Cat climbers can be very heavy and an unstable design can topple over when a cat jumps off the top. Concentrate the weight on the bottom and make the base as wide and flat as possible. It is best to use two layers of 3/4 inch plywood. Cut them to the same size, glue one on top of the other, then screw them together for strength.
Shelves and Perches
Cats love to hang out and sleep on high platforms. Offer them a selection of napping spots on the cat climber. Cut 1/2 inch plywood into square or rectangle shapes. Cut strips of the plywood and nail them around the edges of the perch. This creates a guard rail for your cats so they don't roll off while sleeping.
Make ramps out of lengths of plywood. Nail 2 inch wide strips of wood across the top of the ramp at 6 inch intervals. This gives the cats steps to walk up. Cats are very good climbers, so the ramps can be placed at fairly steep angles. 60 degrees works well.
Scratching Posts and Supports
Different levels of the cat climber can be supported by sturdy PVC pipe or two by fours. These can double as scratching posts. Drill a screw into the top of each support through a thick 3/8 inch sisel rope. Wrap the rope tightly around the support all the way to the bottom then cut it off and drill the end to the bottom of the support. Cats can use their claws to climb right up the sisel rope supports.
Ropes with Toys
Use extra lengths of sisel rope to make toys for the cats. Attach a toy or a cork to one end. Drill a screw through the other end to an overhanging portion of the cat climber. Placing it just out of reach of the cats makes it more interesting, challenging and fun for them.
Tunnels and Cat Caves
These are essentially boxes with holes in them. The holes can be circles or doorways. Draw the openings on a piece of 1/2 inch plywood. They should be 6 inches across unless the cats using it are especially large. For circles, use a compass and draw the outline of the opening with a 3 inch radius. Doorways start with a circle. Straight lines are then drawn from the widest points on the circle down to the bottom of the side of the cave. Cut out the openings with a jig saw. Sand around the openings until smooth. Caves should have an opening on one side. Tunnels have openings on both sides. Glue the box together then reinforce with nails on every side.
Carpet the Cat Climber
Cover all the outside surfaces of the cat climber with carpet. It is best to get sturdy, tightly woven carpet that can withstand repeated cat scratching. You can buy cheap carpet fragments from carpet stores. Some will even give it to you for free. Use a power stapler to secure the carpet to the cat climber. Do this over the openings. Feel for the center of the openings and pierce the center with a carpet knife. Cut from the center to the edge of the opening. Make six cuts at 60 degree angles so there are six pie shaped carpet wedges. Fold these inward then glue and staple them to the inside of the opening. This leaves a carpeted rim around the opening.
Put It All Together
Once all the pieces are built and carpeted, it is time to put it all together. Use long nails or screws to attach the wooden pieces. For PVC pipe, glue wooden dowels inside each end. You can then drill or nail through them to secure the PVC pipes to the cat climber. Be sure that the nails and screws are all inside the wood. If one erupts inside the structure it can scratch your cat.
Pad the Inside
Fill the inside of cat caves and tunnels with softer fabric. Anything that attracts the cat will work. It can be a patch of shaggy carpet, an old stuffed animal or an old t-shirt.
Entice the Cats to Try the Cat Climber
You do not want to expend a great deal of effort building a cat climber only to have your cats ignore it. The cats must discover it and claim it as their own. Constantly placing cats on a cat climber can make them resent it. When first introducing your cats to their new cat climber, merely let them into the room. Cats are naturally curious but tentative. They may take a few minutes to sniff it out before jumping on. You can speed up this process by placing some cat treats or their favorite toys high on the cat climber. They will eventually go up there to get them and may end up staying for a while.
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