Recessionista: Make Your Cat Feel Rich, Even If You’re Not


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

When I see beautiful designer cat furniture, I often wonder who can afford these gorgeous pieces, because it certainly isn’t me. Don’t get me wrong: I love to have a beautiful home, and I’d love my cat beds and trees to fit my aesthetic, but I need to build my cat palace on a budget. Here are some simple and inexpensive tricks to help your cat live a life of luxury without the luxury price tag.

1. Build a multi-level environment with what you’ve got

Cats need vertical space as much as they need horizontal space, especially if you live in a small place. Use your existing furniture to create “steps” to high places.

Cat in mid-jump
Jumping cat by Shutterstock

For example, I have a chair set next to a 5-foot-high curio cabinet, which is next to a 7-foot-high bookshelf. My cats can jump from the chair to the top of the cabinet to the top of the bookshelf, where they can survey their domain.

2. Thrift stores and yard sales are your friends

You might be surprised at the potential cat beds you can find on the cheap. Large baskets make excellent beds when lined with pillows and fleece blankets. Old wooden peach crates or milk crates also make great beds — with a little cleaning and painting, they can be made to fit any décor.

Old suitcases make great cat beds. Cat in suitcase by Shutterstock
Old suitcases make great cat beds. Cat in suitcase by Shutterstock

3. The fabric store is your friend, too

Even if you don’t sew, you can find some great deals at your local fabric store. Fleece by the yard is super-cheap, and cats love fleece more than just about any other fabric. You can purchase fleece in any color or pattern you can imagine. If you do sew, make fleece or fabric covers for the baskets and boxes you found at the thrift store.

Even just a few fabric scraps can liven up your home. Cat at fabric stall in Morocco by Shutterstock
Even just a few fabric scraps can liven up your home. Cat at fabric stall in Morocco by Shutterstock

4. Build it yourself

There are lots of websites with instructions on how to build cat furniture quickly and inexpensively. Assemble-it-yourself furniture can be rearranged into items from beds to litter box cabinets to floor-to-ceiling cat towers. A trip to your local hardware store can get you all the things you need to build and decorate cat shelves, scratching posts, and other cat delights.

One of the DIY "catification" projects shared by Jackson Galaxy.
One of the DIY “catification” projects shared by Jackson Galaxy.

5. Make spaces in unexpected places

Do you have an end table or two? Why not turn them into cat caves? A simple pillow or throw blanket on the floor can turn an empty space into a designer feline nest. If you really feel crafty, add a curtain for an extra cave-like feel.

DIY sites for cat lovers on a budget

  • DIY Network has a huge how-to section, including a guide for turning old furniture into new cat beds, along with other crafty pet tutorials.
  • Jackson Galaxy’s website hosts photos from Jackson’s fans of DIY cat projects that have helped to improve their furry friends’ quality of life, along with brief instructions on how they built and decorated their projects.
  • Lax Cat Creations provides a two-part how-to guide for building the purrfect cat tree … out
    of a tree! Check out the twisted juniper cat tree.
  • IKEA Hackers has a whole section dedicated to pet furniture. You can have designer cat furniture that requires only a screwdriver and an allen wrench to assemble, for a fraction of the cost of the pieces you see online.
  • Cat Tree Plans provides a booklet containing complete plans for 10 different cat condos and trees for $14.95.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter 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 bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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