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DIY Cat Tree Using a Real Tree

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This post shares my DIY cat tree using a real tree! Learn how to make a cat tree from a natural branch…yes, that I drug out from the woods.

I have wanted to make a cat tree with real branches for a long time. It’s one of those projects that’s been bubbling up on my dream project wish list for a while. I am ecstatic with the finished tree!

Make a cat tree using real branches. See how I made this beauty for about $75!

DIY Cat Tree Using a Real Tree

One day while we were at my parents’ house, my dad and I went out into the woods behind their house and emerged with two branches. This is the cat tree before photo:

How to Strip and Finish Branches for Decor

I had a big vision for these branches! But first I had to let them dry out indoors, so while I was doing that, I started browsing some inspiration for realistic-looking cat trees.

Some of my favorites are at Pet Tree Houses. They do some really stunning work. Here are some of my favorites. Definitely check them out if you’re in the market for a cat tree but don’t have the time to put in to doing one from scratch! (Image removed)

Since I’m not a professional woodworker and many of these trees were made by professionals, I tempered my expectations and decided to take bits and pieces from each design to incorporate in to something that I could realistically make.

I sketched out a super advanced design with a pencil and paper. Sit back and enjoy my skills:

Make a cat tree using real branches. See how I made this beauty for about $75!

So I actually didn’t end up being too far off from what I wanted. So with these fool-proof plans ready to go, I started gathering supplies.

SUPPLY LIST:

(This post contains affiliate links. You can read more about that here. Thank you!)

Branches & support pieces:

  • A big branch and a small branch. My small one is about 3′ tall, and my big one is about 5.5′ tall
  • A paint scraper—like this one here
  • Minwax Stain in Natural and Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin
  • Small hand-held saw
  • Sisal for scratching post portions
  • Faux vines—mine are old from Jo-Ann (Note: don’t use faux plants if your cats like to eat them. My cats don’t touch them, but would eat and throw up real plants.)
  • 2″ x 48″ dowel, cut in two pieces for the scratchers (here)
  • 2.5″ wood screws

Base & platforms:

  • One piece of 3/4″ plywood cut to 2′ wide by 3′ long
  • 2 pieces of 1″ x 3″ x 8′ pine for the base’s ledge
  • Rust-Oleum Wood Stain in Kona and Minwax Polyurethane in Semi-Gloss
  • Decorative rocks—browse them on Amazon here
  • Stepping stones from Lowe’s—here
  • Pine scrap pieces in various sizes for the platforms
  • Brown faux fur fabric—reused

Miscellaneous tools & supplies:

And here are the DIY cat tree plans!

(Remember to wear a mask and eye protection while sanding and working with wood, and wear an appropriate mask while working with paints, stains, and finishes. Follow the directions and warnings from your particular brand. Do not use any tools without proper training, precautions, and supervision from a professional. Read my full terms of use here.)

Make a cat tree using real branches.

Step 1: Scrape, sand, and finish the branches.

The first step for my DIY cat tree using a real tree was…to find a real tree and prep the branches! Once our branches were sufficiently dry, we stripped the bark off and then finished and sealed them. 

This is actually a lot of work, so I broke those steps out in to their own detailed post about how I stripped, stained, and sealed my branches! You can see my full post on how to finish branches for decor here. 

But here’s a glimpse at the very messy and very frustrating but very rewarding process:

Scraping and finishing a real tree branch

After we stripped the bark off, we leveled the branches as best we could. Some people recommend a laser level, and while I’m sure that would have been 1000000% times easier, we leveled the tops and bottoms of the branches by eyeballing and then sawing off very small portions at a time.

sales graphic for the pet owner's houseplant guide

Step 2: Attach the branches to the base and finish the base.

First, we pre-drilled holes in the branches. Our branches had a few cracks from drying, so we made sure to avoid those areas when drilling. We positioned and attached the branches to the main base piece, the plywood, by screwing 2.5″ screws up through the bottom of the plywood and into the branches. We also added Liquid Nails on the bottom of each branch before screwing them on.

Next, we built out and finished the base. We built a raised edge all the way around using 1″ x 3″ pine pieces cut to length. This serves two purposes: it covered the rough edge of the plywood while also creating a space for rocks to make the tree bottom heavy. I stained the entire base in Kona and finished it with two coats of semi-gloss polyurethane.

In the workshop working on the tree

Step 3: Create and install the scratching posts.

Once the base was finished and the two branches were attached, we worked on the scratching posts. We made the posts using a 2″ x 48″ wooden dowel cut in to two pieces. I stained and finished these in Kona and semi-gloss poly to match the base and glued sisal rope around them.

To get the sisal rope to stay while the glue dries, we shot in a few staples with a hand-held staple gun. (We removed to protect our cats’ claws when the glue dried.) Then we dabbed some Liquid Nails on the bottom of each post and screwed them in to the base just as we did the tree branches.

Wrapping sisal to make a scratching post

Step 4: Create the platforms.

I grabbed four scrap pieces of pine to use for the platforms. I loved being able to use these little pieces that had just been sitting around! The back scratching post platform is very small—more like a step stool for the little girl—while the front scratching post platform is a bit bigger.

The two higher platforms are about the same size—big enough for King Henry to max out. We also build out a tiny little ledge around the highest platform to coordinate with the base.

I decided to do a mix of stained (Kona) and finished (semi-gloss poly) platforms to match the base and platforms upholstered with faux-fur fabric. They had the same faux fur on their old cat condo, and they loved it, so I just reused that.

Staining and finishing wood for the platforms

Step 5: Install the platforms.

We used a combination of Liquid Nails, screws, and a nail gun to secure each platform in place. Here’s my dad looking adorable while we were attaching the platforms!

In the workshop working on the tree

Step 6: Add finishing touches!

Yay, almost done! Time for the finishing touches. I put a few cheap stepping stones and big rocks in the base to keep the tree bottom heavy. The rocks are big enough so that neither cat will understandably mistake the base for a litter pan and Henry won’t eat them (he is an asshole and eats lots of things he shouldn’t).

The stepping stones allow them to walk around the base and helped me keep costs down since they were so much cheaper than the rocks. I also picked up some faux vines to wrap around the branches. I would not have used these if our cats were into eat fake plants, though. They ignore them.

And here it is—Our DIY cat tree using a real tree in its home:

Make a cat tree using real branches. See how I made this beauty for about $75!
Make a cat tree using real branches. See how I made this beauty for about $75!
DIY cat tree plants
Make a cat tree using real branches. See how I made this beauty for about $75!
Closeup of the details including the scratching post
Make a cat tree using real branches.
DIY cat tree using real branches
DIY cat tree using real branches
DIY cat tree using real branches
DIY cat tree using real branches

You’re going to love my total cost for this project. The tree I really loved was $800 (and used fake branches!). For my tree, I spent…

$75.12!

Here’s the breakdown of what I paid (I did use coupons for a lot of this):

Everything else? It was found, foraged, already owned, or borrowed with the help of my sweet dad!

I published an update post two years later to let you all know how the cat tree is holding up. Check out the updated cat tree post.

If you loved this, definitely check out my raised cat feeder DIY, my easy DIY catnip toys, my cat house side table build plans, and this roundup of DIYs your pets will love!

Make a DIY cat tree using real branches // DIY cat tree plans #diy #cats

Yield: 1 DIY Cat Tree

DIY Cat Tree Using a Real Branch

DIY cat tree using real branches

CAT LOVERS! I'm sharing the whole process for my DIY cat tree using a real tree. This natural-looking cat tree made from a natural branch looks beautiful!

Materials

Branches and Support Pieces

Base & Platforms

Miscellaneous Tools & Supplies

Instructions

    1. Scrape, sand, and finish the branches. For a detailed tutorial on how to do this read this post.
    2. Level the tops and bottoms of the branches by eyeballing and then sawing off very small portions at a time.
    3. Pre-drilled holes in the branches.
    4. Attach the branches to the main base piece, the plywood, by screwing 2.5" screws up through the bottom of the plywood and into the branches.
    5. Add Liquid Nails on the bottom of each branch before screwing them on.
    6. Build out and finish the base.
    7. Build a raised edge all the way around using 1" x 3" pine pieces cut to length.
    8. Stain the entire base in Kona and finished it with two coats of semi-gloss polyurethane.
    9. Make the scratching posts using a 2" x 48" wooden dowel cut in to two pieces.
    10. Stain and finished the scratching posts in Kona and semi-gloss poly to match the base, then glue sisal rope around them.
    11. Dab some Liquid Nails on the bottom of each post and screw them in to the base just like you did the tree branches.
    12. Create the platforms and cover with faux fur.
    13. Use a combination of Liquid Nails, screws, and a nail gun to secure each platform in place.
    14. Put a few cheap stepping stones and big rocks in the base to keep the tree bottom heavy.
    15. And you're done!

Notes

Note: don't use faux plants if your cats like to eat them.




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jmuhj

Monday 15th of January 2018

This is one of the most beautiful cat trees I've ever seen, for a price far lower than average trees in stores, and I'm sure it's a lot of fun to make, too!

sanghwa Joen

Monday 28th of August 2017

I'm making CATTREE for my family cats. Your detailed explanation was greatly helpful. Thank you very much. Far away from Korea

Tina

Thursday 10th of August 2017

This is genius! Thank you so much for sharing!

Luciferbui

Monday 17th of April 2017

Love this design. I would like to make infographic of all step in this article. Can you help me? I have sample here and have the plan to make infographic of all DIY product for pets Love your blog

Suzanne

Wednesday 22nd of March 2017

Hi---I love this--I have 10---yes, 10 cats...all rescues!! I do TNR for a local Animal rescue organization in Erie, PA. Can I ask, Why did you strip and stain the branches?? Could they just be left natural, with the bark on--?? Thank you Suzanne

Brittany Goldwyn

Wednesday 22nd of March 2017

Hi Suzanne, thank you! I wish we could have 10 cats! I decided to strip and finish the branches because the bark will eventually fall off, and I just wanted to give the branches a clean and finished look. :)

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