Yall, the word “easy” in this title is not just for clicks and giggles. This is a SUPER easy project, and it’s great for beginners or just cat-obsessed-never-before-DIYers, because it’s so forgiving.
You might choose to change the steps to modify your own, or follow exactly what I did to get a similar cat climbing system.
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DIY Cat Wall Tools and Supplies
Need more details on the best tools & supplies for your projects? Check my Incomplete List of the Best Tools & Supplies for DIYers. It includes ONLY tools & supplies that I’ve personally used and recommend, plus some honest notes about each product and what you really need (and don’t need).
- Plywood or wooden boards (cut to the size you want)
- Wooden crate
- L-brackets and screws
- Wood glue
- Screws: I used a combination of structural screws and drywall anchors, but you could also use wood screws
- Bath mats
- Drill (I finally got this impact driver and it’s life changing!)
- Stud finder
- Xacto knife
- Staple gun + staples (I used both ¼ inch and ½ inch staples)
- Multi-tool OR jigsaw (for cutting hole in the crate)
- Optional: Kreg jig + kreg jig screws
This project can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. I engineered a way to do this where the only thing I had to buy for this project was the bath mats–I had everything else on hand. If you want to create your cat shelves totally differently, go for it! Hopefully this gives you some inspiration.
If you’d prefer to watch a quick video showing the process, click the photo to go to my Instagram:
Step 1: Plan Your Cat Climbing Wall
- Measuring your wall
- Finding and marking the studs
- Calculating how far and high your cats can jump
- Deciding what type of shelf to build
To help you visualize and plan, use painter’s tape. Outline where each shelf will go–it’s much easier to start with a plan. Trust me, as the CEO of doing things the hard way. 😉
Important tip: Plan to drill into studs at every possible opportunity.
You will most likely not have studs placed perfectly where you want your shelf to go, and that’s okay. Drywall screws and anchors can hold a lot of weight, BUT I would not recommend building any of the cat shelves without attaching them to at least one stud.
Options for Type of Cat Shelves
This is the point when you should decide what kind of shelves you want to use or build.
As a weirdo with a little bit of an obsession with shelves, I can tell you that there are almost an endless number of options for shelves. You can have shelves with pretty brackets, shelves with hidden brackets, or floating shelves.
You could even buy floating shelves instead of making your own and use the hardware that comes with it. That would simplify this process even more.
Just make sure it’s the right size for your cats and can hold their weight.
The most sturdy type of shelf is probably a floating shelf like this. However, that will massively complicate this project and require more time, effort, and money–and may not be necessary.
The method I used is similar to my fake floating shelves. If you’re not familiar with this plan, click over to that post real quick.
…Howeeeeeever, in this rare case, my ADHD came in real handy.
I just happened to have three pre-made shelves sitting in my garage. They were from a different project that I never finished–I mean I don’t recommend adopting a lifestyle of accumulating too many project ideas and never finishing them, but hey. I’ll take it.
Step 2: Get and Cut Plywood to Size
Since I *weirdly* had most of my shelves already built, I didn’t actually do this step alongside this project. But here are the instructions to build your L-shaped kitty shelves.
You can use either a wooden board or a full sheet of plywood to cut your wood to the size you want. I used a sheet of ¾ inch plywood and cut the pieces to 10 x 17 inches (the horizontal piece), and 5 x 17 inches (the vertical pieces attached to the wall).
For my top shelf, I had a 1 inch board that measured 47 inches leftover from another project. I didn’t have to cut this at all, but I did add a ledge to it as you’ll read below.
With your measurements, you can get any wood cut in the hardware store. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot do it for free. I mean, why not just outsource the job and the mess? However, you can also follow my tutorial to cut a perfectly straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw.
If you use a wooden crate like I did as one of the cat climbing shelves, now would be a good time to cut a square out of the side. You can use a multi-tool or a jig saw to do this pretty easily.
Step 3: Assemble Cat Shelves
Now it’s time to put your cat shelves together! And start envisioning all of the added entertainment these will bring to your life 🙂
Here’s why this part is particularly beginner-friendly. If you cover your shelves with any sort of fabric or bath mat, you’ll also cover up your mistakes.
You don’t have to worry about uneven cuts or ugly exposed screws…. It’s all going to be hidden in the end.
Now there are two ways to connect your shelf pieces; using a kreg jig and pocket holes, or using a horizontal screw.
How to Build the Shelf with Pocket Holes
If you’ve never used pocket holes or a kreg jig, it’s not nearly as weird or confusing as it may sound.
Pocket holes essentially create diagonal places for you to add screws, which is much sturdier than adding horizontal screws. And a kreg jig is just a tool that makes it easy.
I still have the smallest, simplest form of the kreg jig, which is only $20. All you do is clamp the jig onto one of your wood pieces and drill a pilot hole.
Then, you use a screw to drill through the hole.
How to Build the Shelf without Pocket Holes
If you don’t have a kreg jig and don’t want to buy one, you can connect your shelves with a few screws and wood glue.
Just make sure you drill your screws so they are flush with the wood, and make sure you use wood glue to make this as sturdy as possible.
Optional Step: Add a Ledge to Your Cat Climbing Shelves
My top shelf started as just a simple board. I covered it with fabric and installed it pretty quickly.
Then, we noticed that cats didn’t really relax up there. They only went up there briefly, when they were play-fighting like cats love to do.
Even though I doubt the cats were actually scared, I decided to add ledges to the board to make it more comfortable for them.
But I realized that a side benefit of adding these ledges is that it makes the shelf look much thicker than it actually is.
And again, if you’re covering this with a thick fabric, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
You’ll just need wood that is the same length as your board and about 2-3 inches wide. I used scrap wood pieces, and then screwed them in horizontally with drywall screws, but wood screws would be ideal.
EASY, right? Now let’s get these cat shelves on the wall!
Step 4: Install Cat Shelves onto Wall
**You can cover your cat shelves with fabric before installing them on the wall, so these two steps could be interchangeable.**
If you’ve thoroughly planned out the space, you already know where the studs are. So if you are *somehow* following my steps exactly, all you need to do now is either a) screw your shelf into a stud, OR b) screw the shelf into an L-bracket.
Since my top shelf was a simple board, I used an L-bracket to attach it to the wall.
With L-shaped brackets, use wood screws or structural screws to drill them directly into a stud.
Make sure you use a level as you install them to make sure all brackets are even.
Then, put your shelf on the L-brackets and drill drywall screws into the shelf from the bottom. You can even drill right through fabric.
Step 5: Cover Cat Shelves with Bath Mats
Like I said above, you could do this step before installing the shelves. You do you boo.
I covered the top shelf before installing it since it was too high off the ground. However, I covered all the other shelves after so I could completely cover all the screws.
All you need for this is an X-acto knife, a staple gun, and bath mats. Having two different size staples is really handy, but may not be necessary.
This was my first time using an X-acto knife, and I fell IN LOVE. This is a $6 purchase you won’t regret.
Important tip: Make sure you stay aware of where your screws are, and don’t try to staple over them.
Step 6: Paint and Disguise Brackets or Wood
This step is totally optional, but absolutely makes the whole cat wall look better.
But you can actually cover any of your L-brackets or screws that are visible. The magic of paint!
Now, this is not going to be a perfect, HGTV-worthy result. The brackets are steel, so technically you’d need to sand, prime, and paint multiple coats to cover them fully.
But if you use bath mats, dabbing on some paint is going to do the job. It’s okay. Punch perfectionism in the face, my friend.
I also chose to paint my wooden crate to match the mat color. It took about 20 minutes and made me love the cat wall a million times more.
End Result: DIY Cat Climbing Wall
And your cat wall is done!
Put some treats or catnip along the shelves so the kitties get used to it. You can also play with a laser or cat toys to start showing them how they can jump and move and climb all around.
Don’t be disappointed if they don’t immediately claim the territory. Give them a few weeks to investigate the space on their own.
Eventually they’ll feel the freedom to use their new climbing wall to be as rowdy as ever. Like these guys. 😉
PS, here’s a fun game. Spot the cats:
(Don’t look too close at the rest of the very unfinished room though!)
I have plans to add on to this wall, and there are so many ways to can customize it to whatever you think your cats prefer. You could include a scratching post or extend it taller or wider.
I LOVE when people send me their pictures through email, Instagram, or Pinterest, and I will especially love seeing any cats in their new space.