Cyrus studying the cat tree

The Cat Room: How to Create a Sanctuary for Your Cats that Won’t Break the Bank, Part 2

Guest Post By Maggie Greene, a former Frankfort, KY resident and self-proclaimed "crazy cat lady."
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It doesn’t take a genius or a millionaire to create a challenging, stimulating, and healthy play environment for your cat – right inside your own home or apartment!

1. Consider the space.

Even though I own my home (read: I am one year into a 30-year mortgage loan), it was important to avoid inflicting any permanent damage. Life happens, and you never know when repurposing a room will become a matter of urgency.

Whether your cats and dogs are amicable or not, cats need their own space. If you don’t have an extra room, you can incorporate ideas from The Cat Room into the rest of your place. Even if you rent, there will be no damage any worse than holes the size of standard deck screws. Fill ‘em, patch ‘em, and paint over ‘em – that’s all there is to it.

2. Define your budget.

DON’T overdo it. If you’re a decent cat owner, I already know what you’re paying for litter and decent grain-free food. Take your time, do it in stages if that’s easier on your wallet.

3. Define your requirements.

Do you have multiple cats? Use top-entry litter boxes! Cats like privacy when they’re doing business. Storage totes are GREAT for trapping litter, giving privacy, and are super easy to clean.

What is feeding time like? Do your cats eat the same food? Do they eat together? With multiple cats on multiple regimens, designating separate eating spaces is helpful. They learn where to go and when, if they’re really hungry, it becomes a routine.

Are your cats climbers or crawlers or both? Make sure you plan for safe scratching and hiding spots for each of them, too. They’ll claim their respective spots, but they’ll also trade off. The point is that everyone has a go-to corner/pouch/basket/cubby when they feel threatened. Cats are paranoid by nature.

4. Gather materials as necessary: recycle, reuse, repeat.

Working out the concept is the first step – what do you already have? What can you get pretty easily? Take full inventory and consider it all with a critical eye for design and engineering. In other words, if it were the same but in a different form, what could be possible? If you could take it apart and put it back together, what might you discover?

TIP: Look in your shed, attic, and garage. In your closets, everywhere. Whatever’s in there may or may not bring you joy, but repurposed in the right way – it can change your cat’s life! See also: Craigslist "FREE STUFF" section or local trading groups like Freecycle.

Here’s what I had to work with:

Found/repurposed materials:
  • Collapsible microfiber storage box
  • Large pressboard desk w/detached 2-drawer file cabinet – Note: I completely disassembled and reassembled it into other modules throughout the room. See if you can spot them all in the pictures!
Purchased items:
  • Standard wooden closet dowel rod, cut to fit
  • Carpet remnant (Lowe's)
  • Rugs (Big Lots)
  • Standard 2x4 cut into various sizes 
  • Various hardware (Lowe's, Kmart)
  • Cat tree (eBay)
  • Kitty "cabana" (Big Lots)
  • Ostrich feather duster (WalMart)
  • Rubbermaid totes (various)
  • Toys: dangles, jingles, leather, 
  • Pet-safe succulent plant (Lowe's)
  • Cotton fleece fabric remnant (Jo-Ann Fabrics)
5. Mark all your wall studs and get creative! Here are just a few examples from my Cat Room:
  • Instead of mounting the scratching pole directly to the hardwood floor, I created tension with a large screw at the top (using the face of the smaller file drawer front as a buffer between it and the ceiling) and secured the pole to a 2x4x4 block covered in carpet scraps. For extra measure, I affixed felt pads to the bottom of the block at each corner. No holes or scratches in the floor!
  • With the leftover 2x4 pieces I created a ramp from Cyrus’s feeding station to the top shelf of the closet-turned-litter area. By using a hinge, it’s secure but is also easy to adjust for cleaning.
  • Technically, I’m storing the leftover roll of carpet to cover the bottom 2.5 feet of every flat surface in the room. But as it turns out, the cats LOVE it behind the couch for scratching and running on!
  • You can make just about any surface cat-friendly by stapling carpet or hot-gluing sisal rope to it.

The photos below and the one above right of Cyrus and Norman near the Cat Tree, were taken in the Cat Room. All photos are Copyright Maggie Greene. Used With Permission.

Cabana side view
A view of the cabana from the side.

Cyrus eating at his feeding station.
Cyrus eating at his feeding station.

Norman poses on the desk.
Norman poses on the desk.

Top entry litter box
The blue top-entry litter box.

View from the pole
A view from the pole area.

Norman plays
Norman playing.

Be sure to read Part I.

Healthy Pets