Once, a long time ago, there existed small shops owned and
run by one small entrepreneur.  There were book shops,
dress and hat shops, toy shops, gift shops and shops for
pretty much everything. Such stores lined the main streets
of every town in our country.  You don't see them much
anymore.  They couldn't compete once the large chain box
stores came into being.
 
In that long ago time when I was growing up, we had pet
shops run by people who actually knew and loved animals.  
It was in such a shop that I first saw a hand made
multi-tiered kitty condo built by a local handyman and where
I got the inspiration for this one.  He used tree limbs as
support columns instead of the more usual and easily
procurable 2 x 4s or 4 x 4s.  As a result his end product was
much more interesting and had a sculptural quality and less
of the institutional feel often present when precut lumber
is used.  
The cat house that forms the lowest level of my condo was
built from vegetable crates I salvaged from the trash
behind a Chinese restaurant I passed regularly  when
walking to the drugstore.  Both have since closed so I
suppose I would have to resort to buying 1/4 to 1/2 inch
plywood or fiberboard if I were to set about making
another condo. The length of the crate slats dictated the
size of the cat house. I wonder if restaurants or farmer
markets still get vegetables in wooden crates anymore?  I
could not find a picture of a crate that looked exactly like
the ones I used. My crates had 1 x 1 inch square support
frames which provided me not only with the slat wood but
wood to build a frame as well.
 It took quite a bit of time to
break those crates down and remove all the nails to
reclaim all usable material but I've made a lot of things
from the wood of those crates.  While this reclamation
process may not be possible for everyone, it is an option
for those who have more time than money.
Alas, while I loved this man's condos and was certain my cat
would love any one of them, they were priced way outside
my budget.  Besides the money issue, the condo did not
meet the needs of the old cat I had at that time.  The
handyman's condos were made very vertically with each
unit on top of or in line with the next.  Climbing it would
have required much more agility than my old cat had.  My
dear little man had also been de-clawed by his previous
owner which didn't help his climbing abilities.  So, I thought,
I shall solve all such problems by making one for myself.  I
admit I was 30 years younger when I made this decision and
executed this project with the youthful audacity that makes
all things seem possible.  While such a project may seem a
bit more challenging than most you will find on this site, I
promise you can do it.  After all, I recently took the whole
thing apart to recover all tiers even though much of my
youthful vim is long gone.
The first thing I did when I first constructed this condo was
to gather the components and materials.  I had the one
level or 1 story kitty condo on hand. Good thing too, for in
doing a quick on-line search I found that they are still
readily available but now cost  $25 - $30.  If I were going to
do this project again knowing that I would be covering all
levels with my own carpet, I would make my own one story
unit from a concrete tube form.  This is a fiberboard or
compressed fiber tube (thick cardboard) made for molding
concrete that can be purchased at your local home
improvement or building supply store.
  For your
information the mass manufactured condos are made of
very similar fiberboard tubes.  
The next thing I found was an old nail barrel that had been
made into a stool by a brother of mine when he was in
Indian Guides.  Once the condo was put together and
placed near my large living room window, a cat could sit for
hours on it or crouch in it to watch the bird and squirrel
activities on the porch.  While you may not have a wooden
barrel sitting around, if you purchased a concrete form to
make your one story condo level, you will have plenty left
over since they are generally sold in 48" lengths.  You
could use it as a tube or cut it in half to make an open
curved shelf.
 
Most tinkerers are pack rats and natural recyclers.  In
planning any project they will use whatever they have on
hand, can salvage, beg, or, when absolutely necessary,
buy materials, but only at a rock bottom price.  In that spirit
I encourage you to look around your house to see what
you might be able to use in making your kitty condo.  In my
searching, I found a wooden bucket which I assume was
bought by someone at some point for a planter.
 After I
covered it and made a little cushion for the bottom and
incorporated it into this unit, it turned out to be a favorite
sitting and sleeping spot for every cat I've owned since
building the condo.  Cats love to curl up into a tight ball
and the sides of the bucket were high enough to keep
them out of any drafts.  
To connect all the pieces together I used fat (approx. 3/8"
thick) 2 1/2 inch hex head lag screws in holes I had
pre-drilled.  First I connected the base board to the support
poles.  After deciding where the limbs needed to be, I traced
around them on the board and marked the center of the
tracing and the center on the bottom of branch.  I drilled the
pilot hole through the bottom base board and then turned it
over, drilled it through from the bottom up and then
counterbored the hole on the bottom.  This means that I
drilled a 1/4 to 3/8" deep bigger hole around the screw hole
with a spade bit using the screw hole as a guide so that the
hex head bolt would be recessed into to the bottom of the
board.  (See diagram) I did this to keep the board flat on the
floor for stability and to keep the screw heads from snagging
the carpet when I moved the unit.  
Collecting the limbs for support posts was done easily
enough since my apartment complex is partially surrounded
by woods.  There was quite a selection of fallen tree limbs
to choose from since straightness is not an issue. You may
wish to use branches with even more twists or offshoots
which would give the piece a more rustic look.  Make sure
though, you don't reach for art at the expense of safety.   
I want to say a word here about covering your various units.
When this condo was first put together it was not the lovely
fully upholstered piece of furniture you see today.  The cat
house was covered in a remnant of grass green shag carpet
which, I am horrified to say, matched the green shag carpet
throughout my apartment until just recently.  The barrel had
been painted white and had a piece of the same shag carpet
covering the top half and another small piece tacked inside
the barrel for whoever wished to crouch in it. The bucket
was unfinished and had a green insert or lining I had made
from some old cloth.  It functioned to cover the rough sides
and allowed for easy removal when washing was necessary.  
I made a matching green foam filled cushion to put on the
bottom of the bucket for extra kitty comfort.  The one story
condo at the top was covered in chocolate brown carpet.  If
my original creation sounds like a mismatched, ugly
monstrosity, it surely was.  As you can see from the pictures
here my cats never minded.  They still loved it and used it
regularly but it looked just awful.  
My design goal was to arrange the levels in a zig-zag
fashion so that an old cat with no claws would have no more
than one to two feet to jump to reach any level.  When my
design met my goals, then it was just a matter of attaching
the support limbs to the base board and the units to the
poles.  I'd like to tell you that I left the extra foot of base
board for some significant purpose and it did, as it turned
out, make the condo more stable.  The excess base wood
also served well as a level place to set house plants which
integrated the piece into my decor nicely.  The truth is
though, I didn't cut the excess board off because the base
board is an inch thick and 22 inches wide and I simply
couldn't cut that by hand.
When I had all the necessary components gathered I began
to design.  There are many kitty condos and condo plans on
the Internet for you to look at to help you in designing one
to fit your and your cat's needs.  Please remember that the
only power tool I had at the time I made this condo was my
drill.  You too should keep your available tools in mind
when you are designing your condo.  As Clint Eastwood
said, "A man has got to know his limitations."  

Besides my drill all the rest of the tools I used were manual
hand type. That means all sawing had to be done by hand
with a dull old saw.  I can assure you sawing was the
hardest part of this project.  Getting a level cut with a hand
saw is difficult enough when you are working with a square
piece of lumber but sawing crooked branches that had to
sit flat on the base and provide a flat surface for a
component was impossible.  I squared the bucket branch
with a lot of filing and sanding and never did get the 1 story
condo to sit straight until I shimmed it.  I sawed all wood for
the cat house with either my hand saw of a little coping saw.
I doubt I would have been able to build the cat house if I
had to make it of plywood.  After all these years of doing all
my projects with hand tools I finally got a little hand jigsaw.  
Now I can't believe I lived so long without one.  Having one
surely would have made this project a lot faster and easier.
The reason I am talking about reupholstering is that it is
desirable to have all screw heads hidden under the carpet
for both the appearance of your end product and the safety
and comfort of your kitty.  I have provided a diagram here
showing the connection points as near as I could place the
red screw indicators.  The four screws on the bottom go up
through the base board and up into the center of the four
support posts.  The 3 screws used in the barrel unit are all
covered by a curved piece of carpet that makes almost 3/4
of a tube.  The 2 screws used to connect the bucket are
both covered.  The screw that connects the bucket to the
post it sits on was covered with a carpet circle that fits in
the bottom.  To the left is a diagram of the carpet piece I
cut to cover the bucket. The bucket was the hardest
component to cover because of the tapered sides which I
compensated for by cutting a series of wedged flaps.  The
covering seam is at the point where I attached the bucket
to its back support pole and the screw head was then
covered when I brought the flaps down to cover the inside
of the bucket.  

I found it difficult to use my staple gun to attach carpet.  It
was too thick and stiff for the staples.  3/4" tacks did the
job nicely.  Separate the carpet pile and stick your tack into
the weave of the backing.  After hammering in the tack the
pile falls back and hides the tack heads.  
About a year and a half ago my landlord redecorated my
apartment and put in all new carpet.  I begged for extra and
recovered the whole condo and what a difference it made.  
I now feel  the cat condo is the nicest looking piece of
furniture I own.  Funny thing though.  I haven't had a cat
since recovering it so it sits in its pristine condition waiting
expectantly.
The upper condo does have two screws that are exposed.  
I did not carpet the inside of the one story condo because
the compartment was small to begin with and I did not wish
to decrease that already cramped space by another inch.    

If you will notice in the diagram there is a circle.  That circle
indicates a toggle bolt that fastens the entire unit to the
wall.  I cannot emphasize enough the need for stability in
your end product.  Cats do not like things that wobble and
will not use the condo if it does.  If you have more than one
cat using your unit, the need for stability becomes even
more of an issue.  If two ten to twelve pound adult cats get
to rough housing on your finished condo, disaster will
certainly ensue if it is not anchored securely.  No on wants  
large pieces of furniture falling over, therefore the wall
connection is the most important fastener in the whole
project.  
Height 67" (5' 7") Base board 37" x 22"
I hope you will agree that if such a condo can be made from
pure salvage and a few tool it is well worth the endeavor.  I
can tell you that the years of enjoyment your cat will get
from  you efforts are priceless.  
For all the work and time I spent building and covering the
cat house, which I thought would be a wonderful little
compartment that any cat would enjoy, it was the least used
part of the whole condo.  My condo has gone through four
cats so far and none wanted to be inside the cat house and
I could never figure out why.  I suppose that when given a
choice, which this condo certainly did, a cat will choose to
be up high rather than at ground level.  While they may not
have used the inside of the cat house, they sat or played
on the top of it and used it as the first or last step for every
ascent and descent. In that regard it was an integral part of
the unit.  Also, if you will note, it is wedged between all
poles providing support and stability.  So when my cats
didn't use the interior I would use it to store their toys,
brushes and paraphernalia but their aversion to it will
remain a mystery to me.  
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Counterbored Hole
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