DIY Cat Shelves

Updated: Mar 17

June 10, 2016


Author: Odessa, veterinary assistant


Cats prefer to stand high above us. They want to survey their territory and hide from predators by claiming the best spot in the house for a deadly ambush. For many, myself included, buying a cat tree or set of premade shelves that run in the hundreds of dollars is not an option, so I endeavored to make my own.

Disclosure: before this project, I had no carpentry experience. I think I put together an Ikea coffee table, once, but that’s it. However, I wanted to relieve my kitty Whisper’s down-on-the-floor blues, so I decided to make my own cat shelves. Here’s how I did it:

First, take into consideration how big your cat is and how much space they occupy when they are relaxed on the floor. For my 13 pounder, I decided that I wanted the shelves to be 16 inches long, 12 inches deep, and 1 inch thick.

Next, calculate the estimated force with which your cat will land on the board when jumping. I believe the correct formula is…. I’m kidding. However, you will need wall brackets that can withstand at least 100 pounds. The last thing you want is the entire shelf collapsing when kitty lands on it.

Lastly, screws with anchors (for the wall) and without anchors. Make sure the screws that go into the board (the ones without the anchors) are shorter than the wood’s thickness.

If you are not lucky enough to have your own table saw, Lowe’s and Home Depot will cut your boards for free. To mount them, you’ll need a drill, a pencil, a level, and patience. Map out where you are going to put the shelves before installing them. Organizing them as steps is popular, but you can check out the internet for more ideas. DO NOT mount a shelf above your bed unless you want what is essentially a bowling ball to drop on your stomach at 2am.

To spruce the shelves up, you can sand and stain them, paint them, or do what I did – put carpet on it! At Lowe’s or Home Depot ask if they have any scraps of carpet from the end of a roll, and cut it to size. I nailed the carpet on, but you can glue or staple it (carpentry stapler, not an office stapler).

Grab your kitty’s favorite toy to chase and guide them up the wall. The ceiling’s the limit!

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