Recessionista: Create a Cozy Cat Cave on a Budget


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

I’ve seen a lot of amazing — and amazingly expensive — cat beds. What are you supposed to do if you can’t afford one of those regal thrones? Well, the good news is that you can actually make a cat cave for just a few dollars and a little bit of effort.

But first, let’s start with the basics:

How many beds should you have?

You should have at least one per cat, and I prefer to have at least one per cat per room, if possible. If not, at least place beds in your cats’ favorite rooms.

A cat sleeps in a cat bed by Shutterstock

What kinds of beds should you have?

It depends on your cats’ preferences. Some cats like to have caves where they can retreat and watch the world from a small opening. Others prefer beds without covers so they can have an unobstructed view of their domain.

Where should you put them?

Again, consider your cats’ preferences. Are there particular places where cats hang out? If so, put beds there. Cats who like high places might appreciate a bed on a table or shelf, whereas “bush dwellers” who are more comfortable with their paws on the ground might prefer beds on the floor. If your cats have a favorite sunny spot, place beds there.

What materials should you use to make cat beds?

My cats’ favorite beds contain two primary materials: fleece and pillows. You can get inexpensive fleece throws at discount stores, or you can get them by the yard at your local fabric store. One advantage to fabric stores: They contain a lot more choices of color and design, so you can buy fleece that fits your design aesthetic, the nearest holiday, your favorite sports team, or even your sense of humor. Fabric stores often have sales and coupons, so check your local newspaper and online for bargains.

A cat sleeps on pillows by Shutterstock

You can also find inexpensive throw pillows in a variety of sizes, softness, and colors at lots of stores, including IKEA and your local dollar store. If you sew, look for polyfill at your local craft store, and make your own pillows out of your favorite fabric.

What if you want a heated cat bed?

If you have a senior kitty with creaky bones, add a slip-in electric warmer, available at most pet stores or online outlets. But be careful if you use a standard heating pad — use the lowest heat setting, and be sure it’s protected from cats’ claws. You can also use a microwaveable heating pack, which you can buy online or create by using a standard hot/cold pack, well-insulated with towels.

Now you’re ready to make your cat bed — in this case, a cat cave.


Make a no-sew cat cave

Don’t know how to sew? Have no fear. There are plenty of instructions online about how to make cat beds without sewing. Here’s an example.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 wire hangers
  • A t-shirt
  • Two pieces of cardboard, about 15 by 15 inches
  • Tape (I recommend packing tape because of its adhesive qualities, but electrical/gaffers tape or masking tape would work, too).
  • Nippers, pliers, or something to cut and bend the wire hangers
  • Safety pins

How to build it:

  1. Cut the curved ends off the wire hangers and bend them into a U shape.
  2. Tape the two pieces of cardboard together.
  3. Using the end of a hanger, poke a hole in each corner of the cardboard. Make sure this hole is not too big and at least half an inch away from the edge of the cardboard.
  4. Tape the two hangers together in an X formation.
  5. Poke the hanger ends through the cardboard and fold about an inch of the wire over, toward the center of the cardboard. Tape the folded hanger ends to the bottom of the box.
  6. Pull the T-shirt over the hanger and cardboard frame, and position it so the neck hole is in the center of one side of the frame and the bottom of the shirt is trailing behind the frame.
  7. Fold up the excess from the shirt, and tighten it up so the neck hole is taut across the front of the frame, then safety pin the excess under the card- board. Safety pin the sleeves under the cardboard as well.
  8. Put a small pillow or a yard of fleece, folded up to the dimensions of the bottom of the tent, and place in your cat’s favorite spot. add some catnip or treats to tempt your cat to check it out.

Find detailed instructions for this no-sew cat bed at Instructables.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline authors, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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