Monty’s Kingdom – Enriching Your Cat’s Indoor Environment (DIY)

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.

Cat's arial indoor platform and walkway

Monty’s arial indoor platform and walkway. Photo by Ruth (Monty’s mom)

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.

Ruth (Monty’s mom)

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Monty’s Kingdom – Enriching Your Cat’s Indoor Environment (DIY) — 36 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this, Michael! I’ll add more pictures in the comments as I get this room cleaned up. We still have tools sitting around, including Jeff’s air compressor for his pneumatic nail gun.

    Tonight Jeff is bringing home more cable and clamps and we’re going to run cable under the edge of both sides of the bridges. This will be in addition to what is nailed into the sides of the boards. We’re adding some redundancy to the system, since now that Monty is comfortable up there he can be quite rambunctious.

    This morning one of the clamps on the short bridge came loose. My husband says this is because he did that side first and it was harder to tighten it down stabilizing it with his hand. Putting the other side on was easier, because the first side being connected already provided stability and resistance to tighten against. The long bridge had gotten retightened on that first side that went up because I pulled it down accidentally when we were installing carpet (big clumsy human) but Jeff forgot to tighten up the first side on the short bridge.

    Today Monty and I got a little rough with it. I was throwing his doggie up there and he was jumping off the bridge into the suspended box to throw doggie back down to me. I saw immediately when the cable popped out of the clamp nearest the door. I quickly got on the step stool and held the bridge up, because the cat I could barely coax up there last week wanted to do nothing but march back and forth across the bridge, now held by only one clamp on that side.

    I had my cell phone on me and called Jeff, still holding the bridge with one hand. Monty was sitting right above my head, sticking his little head over the edge of the bridge and peering at me upside down. I was wondering if I would be stuck there all day holding him up. But Jeff was nearby in his semi and had not taken lunch yet (he forgot his lunch) so he came by and tightened up that side, double checked everything else too, grabbed his sandwiches and was back on the road in fifteen minutes.

    Tonight we’ll install more cable and a type of clamp Jeff feels is more heavy duty. He thinks that what is up there would be more than adequate now that it’s all fully tightened, but redundancy in the system is always a good thing. Especially where Monty’s safety is concerned. He probably would have been ok even if the whole bridge had failed, but it would have scared him and then he’d never go up there again.

    I would say anyone DIYing this type of thing should probably just do that straight plank kind of bridges, because they are a lot less of a headache.

    • I think this is an excellent page. It is instructional and interesting and more cat caretakers should have a go at building these arial walkways and platforms. They satisfy a cat’s need to move vertically.

      Thank you very much for making the effort to record it and write about it.

      I think Jeff should now make a comment 😉 We need a full treatise on how he built it! Just kidding. A short comment might be nice to assist people who’d like to have a go themselves. Thanks Jeff for doing this. Great work.

        • Thanks Jeff. How do find joists!? By putting small holes in the ceiling or tapping it to see if it is solid or both? Perhaps you have a device to detect wood behind plaster.

            • Wow Ruth and Jeff – this is amazing – what a great job – you really have made something excellent for Monty – he seems to really like it! Well done! I feel like a total loser with no skyways or cat shelves. I better get cracking and build something.

  2. When it’s all done I’ll add some close up pictures of things like clamps and bolts and such to help others wanting to try this. I already had a FB friend say that he might like to try this for his cats. Jeff will help me know what to post and what advice to give to someone attempting this. Another option would be to hire someone with carpentry skills, tell them what you want, and pay them to install it. I have to say, this kind of thing looks easy when someone knows what he’s doing, but it’s not easy if you’re not used to handling tools and there are a lot of little things you can miss that could be disastrous. Even with all Jeff’s experience and knowledge we had a little mishap today, so I think people shouldn’t attempt this if it is their first DIY anything ever. You don’t need one of those boxes dropping out of the ceiling onto someone’s head or a shelf ripping out of the wall when the cat jumps on it. Jeff had to tighten one of Monty’s shelves because he had missed the stud, then redrilled without predrilling and the board had cracked a little with use. He noticed it (I never did) and made the necessary repairs. His experience with carpentry allowed him to notice a problem that I didn’t even see.

  3. That is awesome. You have a very lucky kitty and you are also lucky with a handy hubby. It is beautiful.

    I loved how Monty was tentative and ignored thecatnip but dived in on solid ground and feeling safe. Its great.

    • I love that crazy look in his eye when he’s got the catnip. It is scary being right up at eye level with that cat when he is on the nip.

  4. Wonderful! You have really set up a perfect world for Monty. Marc’s cat tree haven is a close second. I love watching Monty eat that fresh nip, oh my! You are lucky to have a man around who is willing to build things to your specs, for the reward of new tools! I’d like to see a photo of the steps up the wall. I was thinking about something like that for the cats. I’ve designed so much in my head. I’d like to see it realized!

    • I’ll post some more pictures soon, of more of it. I took some today, but it’s so bright outside with the snow that they turned out looking very dark inside, and all you see is the snow outside. Maybe this evening I can take some more.

      cat perched on a shelf

      • I told Monty that he can push toys off his steps onto the heads of people sitting on the futon below him. This seemed like something he will definitely look forward to doing.

      • Jeff built an area of the home designed for cats and people. I am very impressed. When you take a picture with bright windows try and keep them out of frame so the built in light meter is not thrown off.

        • That back room is mostly all windows, which makes it hard. I suppose I could close the curtain on the glass door. I’ll just take some more this evening. I’d like to get a photo of Jeff putting on the finishing touches, but he probably won’t let me do that.

          • Normally with cameras you can manually override the exposure to expose more when the window light fools the camera. I am not sure if a smart phone camera can do that. Probably can. It is a very important part of photography, the facility to override the camera’s auto-exposure.

  5. I’ve always wanted to build an uncarpeted cat tree. I don’t trust carpet because I believe illnesses like panleuk and calicivirus can live down in the fibers and be passed on to other cats. I want to see more pictures!

    • You could build the same type of thing uncarpeted, but straight plank bridges would be safer without carpet. A declawed cat would not be safe on what we built for Monty. He definitely holds on with his claws in the bridges. He likes to hook his claws into the carpet on the bridges and have a good scratch and stretch session up there.

  6. The hanging chair in the picture isn’t Monty furniture, it’s Jeff furniture, but I left it up because of Michael’s comment that the room is furnished for both cats and humans. We added an extra cable under each bridge, which is just a safety cable. It would keep the bridge from falling if a clamp failed. The cable itself is rated for much more stress than Monty will ever put on it. At issue were the clamps. Eventually we will replace them all with the kind you tighten with a ratchet as opposed to ones tightened with a phillips head screwdriver. (Jeff tightened them with a power drill with a phillips tip bit.)

    • Monty lives in the USA, in Wisconsin. His indoor playground gives him a substitute for going out to climb a tree or two when it’s just too cold out (like now) or just too hot and humid (almost every day in the summer.)

  7. I LOVE Monty’s new kingdom and it’s wonderful to see pictures and videos of him enjoying it. I’ve never seen anything like this here in England, it really is amazing!

    • I doubt anyone does this in England, which is a shame. It does look great. One reason could be because English houses are often relatively small compared to a lot of US homes and this sort of environmental enrichment works best in a larger home with high ceilings and spacious rooms. But that probably isn’t a major reason. It is probably more about awareness of how to build vertical spaces.

  8. That is absolutely brilliant, now that it’s carpeted you can see how much more confidant Monty is of walking on it and as you said Ruth (MM) it has taken some of the wobble away, that was the bit that I was worried about, thinking it was like a rope bridge. The modifications have made it perfect and I know for a fact that Walter and Jozef are green with envy and have started a “Visit Monty” piggybank so they can come and have a go, especially if there are pots of catnip waiting. I laughed out loud to see Monty tackle the catnip, roots and all, chomping it happily in his high rise accommodation. To do that here we’d need a big old fashioned solid house not these plasterboard boxes most of us live in, I bet if John was here he’d have been enthralled by this, he too could turn his hand to any carpentry and like your Jeff he had the imagination and skill to make such things real. Please keep posting the pics of Monty’s derring-do in the heights.

    • Thanks, Barbara! Jeff certainly is talented in so many things. He’s always helping with things at our church. He designed a system to hoist huge seasonal banners up behind the altar quickly and easily. When I quit playing organ at our previous church and we both left to become members at the new one, a woman from our old church said sadly, “We can find another organist, but we’ll never find another Jeff.”

      • I know just what they meant by ‘we’ll never find another Jeff’ he sounds a very special man, like Barbara’s John was, with ideas to help people and cats. John wanted to make a tree house for our cats at our last home, we had a lovely big strong tree in our second garden beyond the first garden wall, it would have been ideal. But those NFH we moved because of, complained about the tree so much it ended up being chopped down.
        The trees here are not ours, they are outside our back fence, but sadly John died anyway, so the cats never did get their tree house.

        • That is sad. John seems a lot like Jeff from how you have described him.
          Monty has been enjoying his new kingdom all morning! Usually he relaxes on the bed with me at this time, but he’s in the back room up high, enjoying the view. I think it is functioning as planned– a substitute for trees when he can’t get out to enjoy climbing a real one. It’s bitterly cold again so I’m keeping him in.

  9. Hi Ruth and Michael! I love this. My husband is from Milwaukee, but moved to live with me in Toronto, Canada. You should really make this and sell it online! Its amazing.

    I was wondering how you made the bridge? I can’t seem to wrap my head around the logistics of the boards and “rope” (cables). Did you notch out the boards on the side and just use stapes to hold it together? Or are the boards layered? Not sure how you would notch out such a small area.

    Thank you!

    • Hi April. If you want to contact Ruth, look for one of her comments on this page and rely to it in a comment. She’ll receive notification of your reply and hopefully respond herself. Thanks. What Ruth and her husband did is good. It is not often that cat owners enrich their cat’s environment with that sort of commitment.

  10. Okay, I think I figured it out but always good to confirm. Did you cut it like you would a tongue and groove using a table saw? Really wish I had a handy carpenter. 🙂

    Thanks!

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