Corner Shelves Cat Tower Contraption

12 Materials
$285
2 Weeks
Medium

Firstly, a brief background is required. We live with two rescue cats.


  • One is large and an overeater; hereon referred to as 'Big'.
  • The other is rather small and is a grazer; hereon referred to as 'Small'.


Years ago, when my roommate moved in with the two cats, Big weighed in at 20lbs. Through a jointed effort, we put Big on a diet and over the course of 1 year he lost 7.5 lbs. At that point, an automatic feeder was purchased to administer Big's daily calorie allotment at 3.5 hour intervals. Unfortunately, Big is still an over-eater. If given the chance, he will eat until he vomits. So, Small's food is kept out of Big's physical reach.


We recently moved into a new place and the usual solution of putting food on a wall shelf was not working out. You see, Big finally discovered that he could jump much higher without the extra weight. Since Big is also a very large cat without the extra weight, we had to change our strategy to restrict his access to Small's food based on the size of his head and shoulders. So, the idea of the corner shelf cat tower was born.

An outline of needs and wants for the unit was created:


  • It had to have areas for both cats to eat.
  • It had to have a small footprint.
  • It had to be easy to disassemble and move to a new home.
  • It had to be made as cheaply as possible.
  • It had to be sturdy.
  • It should incorporate some areas for the cats to lounge/sleep/observe etc.
  • It should be doable with our limited tools and the lack of a shop or garage for building.
  • It should fit both in a corner or freestanding.
  • It should look halfway decent...please...


After many drawings on paper, followed by many paper models, a rough design was approved.


The foundation began with repurposing two old doors. Both were the same height, but one was slightly wider then the space it needed to fit. So, the edges were trimmed on both sides using a circular saw.

The wood for shelving was found for free on Craig's and consisted of thin strips of hardwood cutoffs from a cabinet maker. These needed to be glued together to form 5 shelves. Each shelf was laid out at roughly the same width and length and then glued and clamped together. Once the glue set, the edges were cut even with a circular saw. The tops were then sanded level with a belt sander. The bottoms were lightly sanded to take a finish, but left uneven...it's cat furniture...

The doors then came inside to begin the build. We have no garage/basement/large shed, so construction was done in the middle of our living space. The plans were to construct the entire unit first, then take it apart and finish each piece outside as weather permitted.


In order to make the unit sturdy and easy to disassemble, steel brackets and bolts were used to join the doors and support the shelves. Reclaimed steel brackets were purchased from CsonkasCustomRustics.com.


We started with 3 small brackets to connect the two doors. Because each bracket is hand formed and the holes are hand drilled by the supplier, they are all unique. So, we had to mark and drill each bolt hole, in each bracket, one at a time.


The brackets shown below on the right side are all L brackets. The brackets on the left are hook brackets and extend past the width of the shelves. More on that below.

There are 5 levels to the tower. Big's feeder and a shared water bottle would go on the 1st floor level.


On the 2nd level would be Small's enclosed feeding station. This would consist of a sliding wall panel that could easily be removed for cleaning and transport, along with incorporating a small doorway that only Small could fit through. Additionally, we wanted to be able see inside the enclosure from across the room.


So, using cutoffs from the other shelves and any remaining single pieces of wood, a grate was glued together to form the walls of the restricted feeding station. This wall panel slides between the edge of the shelves and the extra length on the 2nd and 3rd level hook brackets.

It was decided to make a small door at the front of the station using any undamaged, usable hardware that came with the doors. Most had 4-6 coats of paint on them, so it wasn't until the paint was boiled off that you could see what metal each one was.


The hardware proved to be a mix of steel, bronze and one small brass piece. I decided that the bronze hinges were to be left rustic and used on the small door of the feeder station.

It was time to invite the cats to start using the unit, so we could test the openings on the feeder station. Adjustments were then made to the placement of the small opening at the back of the panel, along with the width and height based on Small's ability to move easily in and out.


Another small shelf or step, not shown here, was added to allow easier access by Big to the 3rd level. Additionally, during testing Big would reach through the grate and flip over the food bowl. So, a small booth was made to surround the bowl. The booth has a shim that wedges into the space between the shelf and the recess of the door panel to prevent him from pulling it over.

Meanwhile, on the 3rd level is a tent like area that will have a cloth wall stretched along most of the shelf. The remaining steel door hinges were used to suspend steel rods on the upper and lower shelves that would hold the tent material. A small marble was glued to a nut and then glued to the rough edge left from cutting the rods.


The 4th level is just an open shelf for lounging and provides access to the 5th level. The 5th level will be a hammock supported by two large bolts.

At this point, all was in place and fitted with the exception of sewing the tent and hammock, which would be done last. So, it was time to disassemble the contraption and start the prep and finish work.


All the raw wood was sanded again, sealed with 6 coats of clear poly and set aside to cure. The doors were patched, sanded and a 2 1/2" hole was bored in the bottom of one door to accommodate an electrical outlet for the automatic feeder.


The doors were a rescue from a 100+ year old farmhouse and were in bad shape. They had at least 6 coats of peeling paint and the last paint layer was applied after a skin had formed on the top of the paint; i.e. full of globs and strings from the skin. They also had large gouges and dog chewed areas. The doors clearly required special treatment and I had the perfect solution.


Another HomeTalk project in which a combination of paint layers had unexpectedly produced a crackle effect would be perfect to hide any imperfections left after sanding. You can find out more about this by either searching HomeTalk for 'How Frustration and an Accident Ended' or by checking out my other projects to see the tests I did while learning to recreate this effect.


So, starting with one coat of brown paint, followed by one coat of white and we have nicely crackled doors. These were left to cure for a good week, after which, 2 coats of poly were applied and then left to cure a few more days.


In the lower right of the photo below, you can see the dog damaged area. The paint effect does a nice job hiding it. Please excuse the blueness of the photos. These were taken outside at sunrise.




In the meantime, all new pieces of shiny hardware were treated with citric acid to remove the shiny coating and then spray painted black with Rustoleum Rust Reformer. Lastly, the bolt holes on the doors and shelves were re-bored to remove any dripping from the paint and poly applications.


We were now ready to assemble the finished pieces. With the exception of a small bag of hardware, below is what it looks like in pieces. How easy is that to move? If you've ever watched movers pack a truck, they always look for items to fit between mattresses to stabilize them. So, doors go in between the mattress and the shelves will easily slip into narrow gaps. Perfect. Another box ticked.


At this point, we added furniture bumpers to the bottoms of the doors and then connected the doors. A chest handle was added to the back of each door, so the unit could be gripped from behind to move. The unit now glides across the floor with minimal effort! So cool...

Because the brackets are custom made and each shelf is unique in size, each piece's position was labeled in a discreet area when taken apart. This made putting the unit back together a breeze. Working at a comfortable pace, it took about an hour to assemble; much faster then flat pack furniture. Plus, everything fit together perfectly. Yes, there are a lot of bolts, but a socket and ratchet wrench made quick work of assembly.


More of the original hardware was added to the feeder station; a small door plate for decoration and then a door knob spindle and pieces from the door lock assembly were glued to the door and side panel to make a sliding lock.

At this point, I took a 4-5 month break to work with outdoor projects. Spring had arrived and various plantings and landscape projects needed to done.


So, much later...it was time to make the tent and hammock. I used an old cotton canvas laundry bag that used to be my father's. Additionally, a rag bath towel was folded and then slipped into a rag pillow case for bedding inside the tent. I'll sew up the side at a later date. But, super easy to clean, right!. The hammock and tent also slip easily off and on for cleaning.

Note: a small shelf off of the feeding station which was to serve as a step for Big proved to be too small for him to use. So, this was replaced with a hinged board that flips up to access the floor feeder. This was painted with the crackle finish used on the doors.

We like it. The cats like it.

Even though it took me months to finish, I think you could do it in a week, plus another week cure time on finishes.


Hopefully, I'm done and no more modifications are needed!

Clearly, this is highly customized. However, anyone can do something similar and add features that fit their needs, not just for cats.

Suggested materials:

  • Doors - $20   (Craig's List)
  • Wood Cutoffs - Free   (Craig's List)
  • Behr Alkyd in Barn Brown Semi Gloss ( 1 gal ) - $35.98   (Home Depot)
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  • Jen Jen on Nov 09, 2019

    This is so cool!

  • Joanne Anderson Joanne Anderson on Dec 10, 2020

    This is amazing - you guys put so much thought into this project and your description is very thorough. I love it. I am sure my cats would too! I just don't have an appropriate corner - however, I like the elements in your cat tower I may try to figure something out. Happy Holidays.

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