How to Make a Cat Tree


If you have a cat, you know that our purpose in life is to serve them. Keep the food coming and litter box clean and they will allow us to remain in our homes. It’s a fair trade. In keeping with this arrangement I decided to make a cat tree for her royal highness, Princess Meow-Meow. It’s a Kitty Royaltree!

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How to make a cat tree

This project takes very little lumber to build, just a few 1x4s and since the platforms are wrapped in carpet, this is a good opportunity to use cheap, construction grade plywood. The carpet comes from two inexpensive bath rugs I picked up at a local discount store for $12 each. I prefer them to area rugs, because they have rubber backings, making them easy to cut with scissors and wrap into shape.

I began with the most difficult part of the whole project: cutting the angled, half-lap joints that connect the legs at their tops. Or really, it was figuring out the geometry and how to cut them that challenged me. The actual cutting procedure is pretty easy.

Using a miter gauge on your table say, start by cutting 15° angles on one end of each of the four leg boards. Don’t bother cutting the boards to their final lengths just yet.


Next, install a stack of dado blades in your table saw. This will speed up the cutting process by removing a lot of material quickly, but if you don’t have a dado stack you can just use your regular saw blade. Raise them up half the thickness of your boards. Since I was using 3/4″ (20mm) lumber I raised them to 3/8″ (10mm).


Now tilt your miter gauge to a 30° angle.


Holding the board tightly against the miter fence and keeping you fingers well away from the blades, make a series of passes through the wood. It’s fine to cut away a little more than necessary.


Half-lap joints!


Here you can see that I cut away a little more on one of these boards than the other and they don’t meet flush at the tops. No problem: it’s a lot easier to cut or sand these flush once the they are assembled, rather than trying to cut all the half-laps perfectly.


Now I adjusted my miter gauge back to 15° and cut the legs to length, making sure this angle is parallel to the top angle.


I glued and clamped these together.



After an hour of drying, I sanded those uneven tops flush.


With the miter still set to 15°, I cut two boards to fit into the bottom of each of the leg assemblies and drilled pocket holes using my Kreg Jig. Then I screwed them in place creating two triangle shapes.




To join the two leg assemblies together I cut eight cross pieces, all the same size. I created bevels along their edges by tilting my saw blade to 15°.



I cut a scrap of plywood to use as a spacer to help me line up the cross braces. I glued and screwed these into place using pocket screws.



Then I screwed the opposite side in place.


I screwed in four cleats, one along the inside bottom edge of each side to act as a ledge to hold the bottom panel.


I screwed plywood boards into three sides and the bottom to create the kitty enclosure at the bottom of the tree.




I cut the rugs slightly larger than each of the 1/2″ (12mm) plywood platforms and wrapped them around the boards, securing them with carpet tape and staples.


I cut a rug for the enclosure and just taped it in place.


Finally, I screwed the platforms to the cross braces.


Free Plans


  1. How to make a cat tree…
    1) grab cat
    2) throw cat in tree

    This is a much easier build and the bonus is you get rid of a cat.

  2. I love your cat tree design – simple and elegant. And Princess Meow Meow seems to approve, although she seems to enjoy all of your projects, so she might be prejudiced.

    Being someone who has no luck with gardening, I have a question, though. How do you know when it’s time to harvest the cats from the tree? Do you pick them while they’re sill slightly green or let them grow to full ripeness on the tree?

    I guess I could slip over to Home and Garden for Mere Mortals to see if they have any advice.

    All kidding aside, that was a great little project. We lost our little cat a few years ago. I have some work to do on our house including replacing the floor in the living room / dining room. After that major disruption, we’ll probably adopt another cat or two. And then I’ll be digging out these plans to make my own cat tree.

    BTW, does Princess Meow Meow have a preference between the cat tree and the under-sink extension drawer you built for your bathroom vanity? She seems to enjoy that, too.




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