Friday, September 10, 2010

Kitty Playland


This DIY project is a little different from the previous posts on this blog. Being a cat owner, I have to be mindful of the occasional couch or carpet scratching. Obviously we don't want our furniture turned into expensive scratching posts. Like other cat owners I have bought cheaper scratching posts that don't really satisfy the need to scratch for the cats and quickly end up being ignored. I have also walked the isles of my local Pet Shop and seen the expensive cat playland's thinking it would be great if it weren't so expensive, some of them running up to $300.

Credit for this design is shared by a friend (Brandon) and myself. We realized that we could build our own super-sized playland for a fraction of the price, especially if we were resourceful. The model built here is about the 5th or 6th one I have built, the design always changes depending on different requirements but the construction principles remain the same. Feel free to modify the dimensions to your own taste. Below is a more accurate drawing of what is built below:


This project involves the use of power tools and sharp objects (screws and staples). Power tools are fun and awesome but if used incorrectly you can cause plenty of bodily harm to yourself as well as others. If you are using power tools that you are not familiar with, get someone with experience to show you how to safely operate them. Make sure you use appropriate safety equipment to protect your eyes and ears.

So Here Goes

What you will need:

: I used a table saw, chop saw, radial arm saw, 18V drill, jigsaw and an electric staple gun. The reason I used so many saws was simply because they were available to me, honestly you could get away with less, but it's dependent on the raw materials you have.

You will also benefit from a tape measure, drill bits, wood glue, clamps, right angle tools, and perhaps some sand paper [80-100 grit].

: The whole motivation here is to save money. For the build here, you will need enough 2x4 to glue together and make three legs, plywood for the shelves, about 2ft of 1x2, carpet scraps, hemp rope, 4" screws, 1.5" screws, wood glue and marking pens. Hopefully you have some of these items lying around. The most I have ever spent making this type of Kitty playland was about $75, the cheapest build was $40 [for the rope only].

If you can find scrap 2x4's, perhaps at a friend or relatives house, or a building site, you can ask if you can have them. For the shelves, I prefer to use 1" ply, but 3/4" plywood will also work. Carpet off-cuts can be had at many places for free, although I noticed more places are charging to make as much money as possible in the tough economy. Choose plush carpet over loop as claws can get caught in loop pile. Screw choice is up to you, I will list what I used here, but there are so many options, if you are unsure, ask someone who might know.

The overall dimensions for this playland are below as well as the dimensions for the individual pieces:

Overall [HxWxD]: 36 x 58 x 18
Legs: 34”
Shelves: 36 x 18
Shelf support: ~ 2 x 3.5

Optional: You can make it bigger, smaller, taller, wider, more or less shelves... well you get the idea an I trust you ca design the add-ons yourselves.

Sawing, Gluing and Screwing:

Start with a plan. I drew mine on paper and it took me about 5 minutes. It allowed me to think about specific cuts I needed to make and visualize what I pieces I was going to need. You’ll note the image below is not the same, as I had to modify my design before I got started.

Next, I glued my uncut 2x4’s together with wood glue and some screws to keep everything in place while the glue dried. Once screwed together you can then use a chop saw to cut them to length. Remember, if you don’t know how to use it, ask someone. These saws can take limbs off in seconds.

I used a piece of 1x2 and a clamp as a stop so that all my legs were 34” long. Check to make sure your saw blade isn’t going to hit a screw. 3 cuts later and I had my legs ready.

Next thing is to cut the shelves and the base. I used 1” ply. Using a table saw I set the guard at the desired width of 18” and cut 3 identical pieces.

Now, to mark and cut out the wood where the shelf is going to sit on the leg use a tape measure to find the centre of one side and place the leg on the shelf. Then trace around the leg. I also like to use a speed square to make sure my cuts are square. Since I use scrap wood, which is often bowed a little, I leave 1/8th to ¼ of an inch clearance for later.

Use a jigsaw or even a reciprocating saw to cut out the inserts. Once done you can screw the legs onto the base piece. I like to clamp the base and the middle shelf together, then while insert the legs into the holes you just cut. This is better illustrated by the image above / below. You will want to use a square to keep things at right angles, unless you like that wonky-look to your projects. 3 long screws will do the job.

Once the legs are attached to the base plate, we will want to then mount the middle shelf. To do this, I used 1x2 and cut them with a miter saw. Again, this is a wonderful tool for removing appendages so exercise caution. I cut 7 pieces as outlined below. These pieces can then be attached to the legs to act as a base for the middle shelf to rest on. Use 2” screws.

Before securing the middle shelf down, practice-fit the opt shelf to make sure that everything is fitting together nicely. If it doesn’t, you will need to make some adjustments. If all is good, I would go ahead and secure the top shelf with more of those 3-4” screws used on the bottom shelf.

When done, you will also want to run a few screws from the top-side of the middle shelf to secure it down. That should be it for the frame. Now it is time to cut out the holes that the cat’s can climb through. Really you only need to do the top shelf as most cat’s will ignore your carefully cut hole in the middle shelf and jump straight to the middle or top shelf. Use a square and measure your hole. You will want it to clear the legs by at least an inch.

Drill a pilot hole or two and have at it with your favorite handheld saw of destruction. Your work should leave you with something looking like this:

It’s now time to get to covering. I find it is easier to roughly cut a piece of carpet to the size you want it, then start stapling down. Once it is secure at one side, pull hard and staple on the opposite side. Then use the knife to trim up. There is nothing hard about it, it just takes time and patience.

The second to last step is to put some kind of covering over the legs. I have used carpet, but I have found that cheap hemp rope from your local hardware store offers durability and scratchability for the cats. I used 6 rolls on this one. After making several of these I finally found a quick way that doesn’t leave your hands raw. Take the rope and loosely wrap as much of it around a leg as you can. Then use both hands to tighten several strands at a time. Think of it as holding a basketball and then twisting at your wrists. You will get several strands tightened in one movement and cut down on handling.

Finally you can bring your creation in for your cats to enjoy. My cat’s just about wet themselves with excitement when they saw what I had. They recognized it (they’ve had 2 before) and couldn’t wait to get on it. As you can see below my cat actually couldn’t wait any longer and got on it before I had even moved it to it’s location.

So there you have it. It’s a cheap and easy project that will save you some money and your cat’s will actually love it and use it, as opposed to so many expensive store bought pieces of cat-furniture.