This is about a do-it-yourself project to build an indoor playground for our cat, Monty, with the intention of enriching his life when indoors.
Regular visitors to this site are already familiar with our efforts to create a unique overhead playground for our cat Monty. About a week ago I showed my husband pictures of some great cat furniture I found via a German company on the Internet. Although I’d seen aerial walkways for cats before, these were different.
Arial Walkway Without Carpet
Arial Walkway Partially Carpeted
The End Product and a Happy Monty
The walkways were like suspension bridges. Michael describes them as something out of the Indiana Jones movies! It probably would not be possible to buy that furniture here in the United States, and even if it were shipping costs would be quite high. But my husband was not deterred and asked me about what I would want for a playground for Monty. We decided to put it in our back room since we spend a lot of time there. My first thought was to put the bridges across the center of the room, but we did modify that, placing them more around the perimeter, but still out far enough from the wall that Monty can feel he is part of the action.
We decided on placement of three suspended boxes and bridges connecting them, but debated on how to get him up there. We watch Jackson Galaxy’s show now and then (“My Cat From Hell”) and Jackson is often suggesting shelves on the wall, which cats can use as steps to gain some height in a room. So we decided on steps going up from Monty’s existing window seat.
The window seat is bolted directly into the windowsill. Jeff had installed it quite securely—better than recommended on the directions. It would make a good solid base from which Monty could jump up onto his steps, into his first suspended box. From there a bridge takes him above the glass patio door to another suspended box. Another bridge exits that box at a right angle. Longer than the first bridge, it leads to a suspended box above our computer desk.
My husband has the carpentry skills to safely build just about anything I could imagine for Monty. He made sure that at least one support for the boxes was into a wooden stud or joist. The other side he used special bolts that expand, so that they cannot pull out through the drywall.
Everything he built more than accommodates the weight of our twelve pound cat. It was important to me that Jeff could create not only something fun and attractive, but also safe for Monty. He used cable instead of rope to connect the pine planks of the suspension bridge. He thought that rope might stretch over time, but the cable would be more permanent and stronger.
The cost of materials was about $200, but half of that cost was a new tool—a pneumatic staple gun. I was surprised at the enthusiasm with which my husband dove into the project, working all day on a Saturday to complete it. The finishing touches have taken a little bit longer, because after all the steps and boxes and bridges were complete, Monty didn’t like them. He wanted nothing to do with them. Uh oh.
My husband was not deterred, and stated that Monty would probably warm up to it all in time. After all, it took him quite awhile to use his window seat. After I bought it for him and was so excited to see him use it, Monty avoided it for weeks. I was saddened to think that it might be months before I’d actually see Monty enjoy his new aerial kingdom! Even catnip, though it could induce him to come up there briefly, was not going to be enough to get him comfortable up there. Especially on the bridges.
The German kitties on the website seemed to love them, but Monty was having none of it. He had taken to jumping over the bridge near the door. Jeff was impressed by his ability to do this, and although I was glad to see Monty enjoying his suspended boxes, I wanted to see him walk on the bridges. Monty is such an adventurous cat, it just seemed odd that he would not enjoy suspension bridges, which are such a symbol of adventure in my mind.
My husband thought of the idea to carpet the bridges. We began with carpeting inside the suspended boxes and carpeting the steps leading up there. The addition of carpet increased the time Monty spent in those areas, so we went back to Carpet Town for some more carpet squares. The carpeting we used was actually discarded carpet samples in small and large squares. The small squares were a dollar and the large squares cost us only two dollars each! I just found out today that the money raised from the sale of those discarded samples goes to the Humane Society, which is a nice touch. My sister’s cat Kobe even got a couple of squares to sit on. She’s informed me that Kobe likes sitting on them and had already barfed on one.
Using his new staple gun, which can be loaded with very small staples, my husband nailed carpeting to the suspension bridges by tacking it down on either side of the pine planks. The bouncing was reduced and now Monty could get a purchase into the surface of the bridge with his claws. He much preferred this. Last night he was dragging himself along the bridge over the door, scent marking every inch of it. He laid there for a long time relaxing, right on the bridge that had so frightened him before the addition of the carpet.
We are hoping that having the ability to get up high, out of reach, may allow Monty to stay with us in the living room more when guests are about. Having a high place from which to watch the action might give him confidence around strangers, which he sometimes still lacks, being an ex-feral cat.
We decided not to shorten the long bridge. At first we thought Monty would never go on the longer bridge even with the carpet, but once it was carpeted, he had no problems with it. So instead of shortening the bridge by adding another suspended box, we just carpeted the whole thing. There was a short time during which the center of the bridge was still bare planks and Monty would just jump over these. Today we added the last bit of carpeting and Monty enjoyed sitting in the middle of the bridge, staring down at me as I typed at the computer!
As I type this he sits in the first suspended box, the picture of contentment. My husband had already built a fourth box, so we are debating where to place it. It could go in Monty’s room next to the existing tall cat tree, giving Monty extra height in there. We could add another short bridge and install it in the back room. Or perhaps it could be placed next to his first box, giving a little larger platform there—an extra perch from which to view the activity down below.
Being a great big clumsy human, I live down below. Monty, the agile little feline has a new kingdom above me. It is his domain, his world alone, and he knows it. He has spent much of the day exploring it, scent marking it, playing on it, and observing me from it. It is his new place to engage in his favorite activity: watching humans do stuff. Before the advent of his kingdom, Monty had to jump on top of the computer desk to watch me type. There was hardly room for him to sit up there and he couldn’t get down without help. Now he can watch me from a suspended box above me, or from the bridge that hangs over the desk where I type this.
Last night I glanced up to see him there, peeking down at me. He feels less neglected as I work on the computer if I can make eye contact with him now and then. It is how our worlds connect, and yet his suspended kingdom is still all his: a world I cannot enter. I have to admit I’m a little jealous of him.