Making a Sisal Rope Cat Tree - Tips from a Cat Man

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Making a Sisal Rope Cat Tree - Tips from a Cat Man
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( For those shopping for a fully assembled, ready-to-occupy cat tree, please navigate to my sister website. Just Google" flerper dreams" & you'll get there.

For all of you DO-IT-YOURSELF-ERS, this is for you:
I can't think of a nicer thing to do for your cat than to design and build him a cat tree. At my website, FelineDesign ( just Google that name ), I SELL GENUINE BULK 3/8" SISAL ROPE ,  It will have a much greater life and will look better longer, as compared to an all carpet cat tree. So here are some general guidelines to making a stylish and sturdy cat tree for your feline friend.

I will break this down into two categories: 1) materials and 2) little tricks of the trade. This is not meant to be a complete guide, but if you apply some of this useful information to your project, you'll have a better finished product.

1) Materials

-round wood or paper core tube-

If you are using wood, I suggest that you do not use pressure treated lumber. Usually, these timbers are damp, and will invite mold (or already contain it!) Also, you should use a round post, as opposed to 2x4's and other rectangular boards. It is much easier to get a good, tight wrap in a round surface. As for outside dimension, you should go for at least 3-4 inches. A cat really has no use for a skinny wrapped post. I've always presented a serious girth to my customers, and most agree that girth is more satisfying for their critter. If you are going to use a core, commonly known as a fiber core, find one that is at least 3/8" in wall thickness. It is too easy to mess up a sisal post when you are well into your project if you have a lightweight core.

-1/2 to 3/4 inch OSB/waferboard or plywood-

These materials are commonly used to create bases, beds, and platforms.

Depending on the complexity and weight if your design, you would guage which thickness of panel you want to use. The higher the tree, the larger and heavier the base should be.

-2/4 and/or 2x6 board (SPF - meaning spruce pine or fir) -

for plugs in the tube ends.

-at least 200 continuous ft. of  Genuine 3/8" SISAL ROPE  ( for sale at Feline Design )-

Get 3/8" rather than 1/4" simply because it will last longer. This is easy enough to find online. From my experience, you'll find plenty of sources if you Google the following term: "sisal rope 1200 ft coil" (including links to my own company, Feline Design ). You'll find many lengths being sold, as well. My prices aren't better than some others you'll find, but you can buy the same rope used on our own cat trees if you find your way to my website & purchase there. And you'll receive excellent service, some cordial communications ( in English that you can understand, BTW ) as well as my appreciation for putting a little food on our table here in the forest in Pennsylvania!
NOTE: Manila rope is not suitable for this purpose. It is heavily oiled, and it stinks to high heaven. Man does this rope smell bad. Take my advice and just go with genuine 3/8" sisal rope, and your nose will thank you.

-nails, bolts and screws-

You can fasten the rope ends with small nails, and you can use drywall screws to attach things to your post. To secure your post to the base, I would recommend lag screws and appropriate washers.

-carpet -

You can find small rolls of carpet at any good retail carpet merchant. The thicker and denser it is, the happier you'll be with your tree. Although very thick carpet can be a little hard on the hands when you are applying it to the platforms.


Use a good staple gun that can fire a staple flush with the surface of  the post. Personally, I prefer pneumatic or electric staplers, but you might get a hand powered stapler to do this. 3/4" legs on the staples are going to work fine. The crown should be narrow. like 1/4" or so.


A hot melt glue is very useful, and when fastening the carpet to the platforms, it can allow the carpet to lie flush with the surface of the panel. Also, this type of glue can hold carpet in place while you're applying staples. There are reasonably cheap glue guns which can handle this.

-sturdy, sharp scissors-

These are used mainly in the finishing process, to clip away loose ends of rope and carpet.

-A carpet cutting knife of some sort with a razor blade -

There are many tools which can be used for this. The main thing is to have plenty of good, sharp blades ready. Cutting carpet and rope is a breeze with a new, sharp blade. These blades are very dangerous, and you can inflict a world of hurt on yourself is you are not paying attention. So, take it slow, and don't watch TV while you are cutting. This is advice I learned the hard way.

2) Tricks of the trade:

I will give you a handful of very useful tricks here. Listen up.

Wrap your rope very tightly. Use a hammer to bang each row of rope. This is hard, and you will be sore after it. But in this instance, I can tell you without hesitation: "No Pain, No Gain!"


TIME OUT: [By the way, if you see a scratching post at the right ( that little "traffic cone" jobby ) ---------------->>> with a 5 year warranty, what good is that warranty if your cat will never use it?  This is a Chinese-made product, which is very well designed to stack, package, and ship. But very little thought has been given to the real purpose: scratching. In fact, at least 85-90 percent of the cat furniture on eBay is MADE IN CHINA. Buy your cat something made in the US, and save yourself a lot of headaches. If you're on the fence about what post to buy, read my guide on choosing a quality scratching post . That'll provide you with some points to look at when shopping. If you want to devote the time and money, you can make something suitable for your cat. But if you should decide you can better spend your time doing something else, I'm happy to sell you one of my rugged U.S. made sisal posts. This commercial message was brought to you by a U.S. owned, operated & staffed company called Feline Design Cat Furniture - just Google us.]


(we now return you to your regularly scheduled guide)

Make sure you have enough rope that you can wrap the entire length of tube or post. Like I said before, 200 ft. of genuine 3/8" sisal rope is a minimum. It is more than enough to wrap a round post with a diameter of 4 inches and a length of 5 feet..  Splicing rope is really not fun, and it can also detract from the finished product's appearance. If you are working from a coil of rope, draw your rope from the INSIDE of the coil. It should go smoothly. If it still kinks up, simply, flip the coil over, and draw your rope from the opposite opening. Read those last 2 sentences again. This may come in useful. I sell this rope in several different lengths at my company website ( just Google Feline Design ).

You can experiment with various 2x4 or 2x6 sections to see what is the snuggest fit for your tube ends. When you are going to attach the tube to the base, make sure that you carefully pre-drill a pilot hole in your plug.

Always cut a circle of carpet out where you plan to attach a tube. You want the tube end to fit flush against the panel without any carpet between the two. Otherwise you will soon have a wobbly tree, and your cat will disown you and move in with your neighbor. At the very least, he will snub your fantastic offering, and go scratch on your favorite easy chair. One cat bit me squarely on the lip when I made the mistake of giving him a tree that was wobbly, so a word to the wise is sufficient.

USE a LEVEL at all times to make sure that things are straight. After a while, we all get a little careless and bleary-eyed (well, I do. so i check my work with levels and stuff. maybe you are one of those very exacting people who doesn't need a level, who knows?).

Before you go to the trouble of applying carpet and rope to your creation, you would be wise to assemble all or some of the bare structure to evaluate the stability of your design. If you are going very tall - like 5 to seven feet - it is best to have a large, heavy base. And it is better yet to have a way to secure your tree at the top or even screw it into the floor (if you have a floor that is screwed already). This may or may not be practical, but it is worth some consideration.

Consider the placement of your tree before you finalize your design. Will it go near a window? Will you position it in a corner (not bad for added stability)? Is there anything that would break or be otherwise damaged in the event of a tipping mishap? Will your tree be exposed to moisture? This is not recommended for many reasons, not the least of which is mold developing on your sisal rope. Will you be wanting your cat to sleep on this near or next to your bed? Are there any floors that might get scratched by the bottom of your tree? If so, make sure that you take the carpet all of the way under the base. This will make the tree a little less secure, just so you know. Is there a dog or another cat that you want to exclude from certain levels of your cat tree? This can be a nice way for your intended user to get a little peace when he is putting in his 16 hours of sleep.

So, without telling you HOW to make your tree, I have shared with you some things here that you can use in planning and executing your well-considered design. Sadly, I will not be able to reply to your questions concerning your cat tree project, but I want to wish you success and all the best things life has to offer (and having a kitty cat makes things even nicer!).

And may I ask that if you've found this article useful, please take a moment & vote for it.

-Many thanks from Tommy Catman (flerper)

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