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Monday, December 17, 2012

Pressure fit custom cat tree

Merry Christmas Ranger and Mercy
Cat tree for Ranger and Mercy

Putting a cat tree in a home is an environmental enrichment - something to make the inside more exciting for your cat.   Many clients agree it is a good idea, but won't do it.  Why?????   Most of the objections that  I hear are - they are ugly - too big - I don't want to put any screws in the walls - they clash with my decor.  I saw an idea or a pressure fit cat tree on website and thought that would be a great addition to our waiting room for Mercy and Ranger.  It would also serve as a demonstration of a cat tree that would answer a lot of those client objections. 

here is the sketch following the website ideas
 I thought I would enlist the help of my husband Tom Wold.  He is really good at scrutinizing the details of a project and constructing unusual things.  After a few lively discussions, he understood that I wanted absolutely no brackets or screws to be put in the walls, floor or ceiling. He was concerned that a very active Ranger would knock the tree loose.  I doubted that would happen, and  I needed a solution for the clients who refuse to have anything mar a wall.  Some of the other important features were  a cubbie off the floor with a bunny hole for a cat to go from the floor into the cubbie then out the top.  This would provide an  escape hatch from a big dog or other threat.   Spacing the shelves to make it easy for Mercy with her bad hip to navigate was also important.  I knew fleece was the way to go for covering the shelves.  Cats love fleece and it is easy to clean.   Working out the details on paper before starting  made the whole process easier.

Supplies needed :
1 Stoleman pole - IKEA  online   (or store)   it will extend up to 129 inches!

1- 2 boxes of Stoleman pole brackets - there are 4 sets  to a box and one set per shelf  is needed 
carriage bolts, washers and nuts

2 inch long carriage bolts  you will need 2 per bracket installed

4 washers per bolt on the brackets -

1 7/8 inch hole saw  - this size worked

drill and bit for carriage bolt holes

jig saw. sawz all, or hand saw -

shelves -  1 X 10 inch shelving  2 - 20 inches long  2 - 24 inches long 
1   24 X 24 inch plywood ( base of cubbie) - this made it like an end table too
1 12 X 24 inch plywood ( top of cubbie)
2 12 X 15 inch plywood ( sides of cubbie)
recycled wood from the old cabinet - free!
             I reused  the  wood we saved from an old cabinet we took apart years ago

1 yard fleece fabric  54 inches wide - all fleece is this wide -

Rubbermaid shelf liner 

The cubbie end table replaced the function of the table that used to be in the corner  The bottom of the cubbie was the 24 inch square cabinet door, and the top another 12 by 24 inch door.  Luckily the edges were already rabbited so the plywood sides were easy to install.  Tom used a jig saw to cut the bunny hole.  You could use other kinds of saws - just be sure to smooth out the edges.  We made the hole 7 inches by 7 inches on the top and bottom.

marking the placement of the hole saw and bolts
Tom drew out a template for placing the drill holes for the pole and the bolts.  This made the placement very exact and consistent.  He drilled the pole hole 5 inches from the end of all the boards 

washers in place with brackets installed loose
finished boards
The pole hole and bolt holes were cut then the brackets installed.

First Tom extended the pole to fit the  ceiling height including the ceiling board.  Then we took it down to the floor for assembling the shelves.  

sliding the first shelf/cubbie on
This is the awkward part - not too bad really
measuring the distance desired between shelves - then tighten
Now  slide the shelves onto the pole with the plastic sleeves in place, then tighten using the wrenches supplied.  This was the fiddly part that frustrated Tom the most.  It really was not that hard, just a bit awkward so be patient with it.  Figuring out the distance between shelves and the way we wanted them to point was a big help when putting the pole together.  All Tom had to do was install the first shelf, then measure up and put the next one and rotate it into position and so on.

pole is now set to go up
Time to put up the pole.    The base plate was in  position  and ceiling board was nearby. 
 In one motion,  Tom hoisted the pole up like a Christmas tree and slipped the board on the ceiling.  I just held the center of the pole to keep it in position as he adjusted the base to fit the pole snug against the ceiling.  Hooray!  The pole and shelves were up and almost ready.  The whole process to install was quick and easy.

Painting the shelves would come later - I wanted to get the fleece up so Ranger and Mercy could start to investigate the cat pole and enjoy it.
measuring wall distance for plumb
cutting the rubber shelf mat to fit
The actual laying/perching area of the shelf is about 14 inches long, so I cut 12 inch wide strips from the width of the fleece, then folded that about 4 times to make a thick soft cover.  Cats really love fleece - better than carpet and it would be easy to wash.  The Rubbermaid shelf line was cut to fit the surface and this prevents the fleece from slipping on the shelf.

little cups for finding food
  Ranger can be a little slow figuring things out at times, so I got some small dishes at Pier one and put some of his food in them.  Putting the dishes up on the shelves rewarded him for climbing the pole and is also a way to encourage your cat to "hunt" their food.  We also re oriented some of the shelves after it was up.  All we had to do was loosen the brackets a little, rotate the shelf the tighten.

As you can see, Ranger likes the pole.  Even Mercy has enjoyed the cat tree.  There are at least 4 more perching places available in the clinic for the cats  expanding their space. .  There is also the cubbie for times when Mercy wants to hide out.  It has held up well and we are showing it off  to clients to encourage them to understand what their cat needs.

Merry Christmas Ranger!
 You could decorate this any way you like to have it work with your home. Shelves could be made of fine wood that is stained, the  pole can be painted or even wrap fabric around it to beautify it.  Wrapping the pole with jute rope would make a great scratching area for cats too.  Our pole was finished just in time for Christmas so Rachael wound greenery around ours.
Add a custom cat tree to your house.  Your cats will love you for it! 



nancy snook said...

I have seen your tree at the clinic and I think it is great !!! I wonder though if you could give a rough estimate of cost or if Tom would like to start a side business ??!! I am sure many elderly cat lovers would like one but don't have the tools or DIY skills to do it themselves.

Dr. Sally J. Foote DVM said...

The costs were as follows:
pole and brackets with shipping $50

fleece $12 from walmart

shelves - free since there were old shelves salvaged from home. One could go to habitat or buy shelving which vary according to the type you buy.

Anonymous said...

We made the same cat tree after seeing so many hacks for it. Problem is, although we tightened it to the ceiling with screws and extended it as far as possible, it keeps spinning around. My husband tried to fasten the larger pole to the small one with a screw, it still spins :-/

So now we are left with a gorgeous tree that the cats won't use as they feel unsafe! It spins when they jump on an off!

Any suggestions? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Dr. Sally J. Foote DVM said...

This was based on the pole from IKEA and using the plastic liner collars is essential for the connection of brackets and poles. If yours still spins, call Ikea and see if they have a liner collar, or what.

Perhaps a strip of the rubbermaid shelf liner as a collar would give some grip at the connection point.
Worth a try.

Unknown said...

Great idea! If you live in a city (like chicago) every month or so somebody doing a kitchen rehab.Always ask you landord or maintenance man if they recycle cabinet doors.Sit them out in the cold to ensure they are free of unwanted bug guests. Nancy Foote'