When we first adopted Luna I went a little bit crazy trying to find as many ways as I could to catify our apartment. As renters, that really doesn’t leave a lot of options, since we aren’t permitted to fix anything to the walls or ceilings. Boo.
One thing I did see all over Pinterest, however, was the IKEA-hacked STOLMEN Cat Tower. So. Freaking. Cool.
The concept uses the IKEA STOLMEN post from their modular storage range, and then has cat-mad DIYers making platforms to attach to the post for their cats to climb all over. The post itself is designed to stand floor to ceiling, and can be screwed to the ceiling or – most crucially – just held in place by tension.
A little prior planning occurred, but admittedly zero pricing of parts. The STOLMEN post alone is a less-than-modest $80, but having a happy, active cat would be worth it.
The hard part was the platforms. I’d seen some hand-cut ones around the internet that looked… well, hand cut. If this thing was going to stand in our lounge-area, I wanted it to look good. I had my heart set on certain shapes of platforms, painted white to match the pole and walls, and a nice grey matting on top for grip and comfort.
Enter Dave. In our relationship I am certainly both the bodger, and the perfectionist. I’ll rush into something without much prep, and then whinge about the mistakes I made on the final product.
Dave on the other hand, is the kind of guy that insists on doing it the right way, but is happy to tolerate dodgy results. I know – we’re arse about face.
Dave’s solution to my quality worries was to build himself a router table. I’m actually going to get him to blog about what/how that is all about, so for now, let’s just say we were ¼ through our budget, and it was weeks later, and we just about had the tools ready.
To cut the platforms using a router required a template. I drew out the shapes I wanted on paper to check for sizing, transferred them to a thin, 6 mm MDF board, and roughly cut around them with the jigsaw. I love jigsaws.
But then things got fussy. Dave had this big orange rubber guide thing that you are supposed to attach to your template material, bend into the desired shape, and then push up against the router bit to ensure an accurate cut. We struggled with this bloody rubber thing to contort it into the right curves, but eventually I had two MDF templates – one for the small platforms and one for the large platforms.
These templates then took over from the annoying rubber bendy thing, and allowed Dave to cut six beautiful platforms from 12 mm MDF.
Next I painted the bloody things. I used a semi-gloss, off-white paint which took far too many coats. I didn’t want brush strokes (perfectionist!) but instead of painting and sanding every coat, I just used a giant sponge and stippled the paint on (bodger!).
Then I had the wise idea that I wanted chamfered, unpainted edges. So out came the shaped router bits. Dave went around the edge of each platform – top and bottom – creating a smooth curved edge, and removing the paint. The result was really nice.
The platforms are attached to the post using the STOLMEN suspension fittings. We assembled the STOLMEN post as per the instructions, remembering to attach the platforms in the order we wanted them. Position wasn’t too important at this stage, as they are really easy to reposition once the post is upright.
Installing the post is a two-person job, especially with the added weight of the platforms. The idea is that you extend the post between the floor and ceiling, and then adjust at the bottom of the post using the tightening tool. It’s important to have someone taking the weight of the pole while you do this, and they will probably also need to keep an eye on the spirit level so you don’t have wonky cats.
This was the point where we decided that the design required a little modification. Without attaching the post to your ceiling, you are really relying on the tension in the post to hold it in place. Unfortunately the gap between sufficient tension to stop the post tilting, and sufficient tension to put a hole in your ceiling is very narrow. So we devised a modification which would limit the amount the post could tilt at all, using a ceiling plate.
“Plate” is very apt. I just drew around a dinner plate onto the remaining MDF, jigsaw cut it out (not a bad circle for a hand-cut!) and painted it white to match. When dry, we screwed the post to it as if it were the ceiling, added a layer of high-grip matting, and put the post back up between floor and ceiling. By widening the top the whole thing becomes more secure. Really, in hindsight, we could have done the same on the bottom too. But we didn’t think of that.
The other things we added was a grub screw into the post at the join, and into the top fitting to prevent rotation, and a bowl of cat grass to entice the kitty. And then we waited.
And put the cat on it, just to watch her jump off it.
And put treats all over it which just got ignored.
And used it as furniture.
And gave up.
Luna is not a tree cat. Luna is a ground cat, with an interest in vertical exploration only to couch-height. We did it all for nothing.
After a couple of months of denial we finally accepted that the cat tower was never going to get used, we took it down, and I listed it on eBay to see if anyone else wanted it. Thankfully they did. A lovely woman from not too far away bid enough to probably cover our materials, came and collected the kit, and even sent me a photo later that day of one of her cats near the top of the tower. She actually fosters cats, so many kitties will get to play on the tower in the future.
So a happy ending after all. Yay!