If you're a cat guardian, you know that creating a stylish and functional home with cats can be challenging. Cat shelves can provide your cat with the enrichment and stimulation they need to be happy and less destructive. In this post, I'll share my process for designing cat shelf layouts for clients, using my home office and Catastrophic Creations floating shelves as an example. I’ll show you how it’s possible to create a cat-friendly home with cat shelves that you and your cat will both enjoy.
This post is in collaboration with Catastrophic Creations, for which I received compensation for the design and creation of this content. In this article, I'll be sharing my process of creating a cat-friendly space using their products.
My office is where all my ideas are created. It’s also where my cats are always close by for moral support. I spend roughly 80% of my time here and so do my cats. My T-shaped desk area gives me ample space to work. However, the cat shelves we originally installed in here are not meeting our cats’ needs.
As I later learned, the way I originally laid the shelves out didn’t work well for my two cats. The main reason being that they only have one path up and down. This led to cat fights anytime both cats tried to get on it at the same time, because inevitably one would block the other and corner them without a way down.
To address these issues, I wanted to do the following with my new layout design:
- Add shelves to all walls so that the cats could navigate the room without having to touch the ground.
- Provide multiple on and off ramps as well as different levels to give the cats more options for avoiding each other.
- Incorporate various types of wall shelves such as scratchers and different types of lounging areas.
The cats are an important consideration in this process since they’ll use them the most. Additionally, it is my goal to consider our needs as people as well by finding that balance where both our needs and our cat’s meet. With that in mind, this was my wishlist for the space as well:
Match my decorating style
My home features a blend of mid-century and vintage decor, and I wanted the wall furniture for the cats to seamlessly blend in, so it's not immediately obvious that they are designed for the cats.
Create a functional design
I wanted the shelves to be functional and actually used by my cats. By adding more shelves and updating the layout, the cats would have the spaces they need to exercise and lounge without getting in each other’s way, ultimately resulting in fewer cat fights.
The Design Plan
When designing a space, creating a moodboard is essential for the final space to feel cohesive. You can keep your inspiration wherever you prefer, whether that be Pinterest, a printed vision board, or collaged together on a tool like Canva. The key is to keep it simple and easily accessible.
Once I have gathered photos that inspire me, I study them to understand what I like about a room. It's equally important to note what you don't like. In this office space, I drew inspiration from mid-century modern shelving.
Choosing Cat Shelves
You may be wondering at what point do you choose your cat shelves? What are the best shelves and where do I start? These are valid questions, as choosing products for your space can be daunting. That’s why it’s so important to have a vision with your moodboard. Considering how your cat will use the products is an important step in choosing shelves that work for your cat. I‘ve written a blog post here that provides more detail about the different types of cats, their lounging preferences, and which shelves work best for each type.
Why I Chose Catastrophic Creations Cat Shelves
Catastrophic Creations approaches design in a way that compliments the needs of both people and cats. This principle aligns with what I do at Cat Therapy as well, which is why this collaboration is such a fantastic match and one of the reasons I chose to work with them.
They have been making cat wall furniture since 2013, and are always innovating and improving their products. These are some features that stand out to me about their products:
Installation is easier and more secure than most cat shelves on the market.
Most floating shelves are not very secure or easy to install — not the case here. These shelves are designed at the ideal length of 16” or 24” so that they align and secure into wall studs vs drywall, which is better for long term use.
They’re highly customizable
The wood comes in 3 different colors to match your home decor. Additionally, they have a variety of fabric colors.
Craftsmanship and quality
These shelves are made of real wood and not short on details, such as the beveled edges of the wood.
The shelves are designed with cats in mind
They're not just aesthetically pleasing, they shelves are designed with cats in mind — from the hatches to the cozy hammocks. I’ve researched a lot of cat shelf brands and it's clear to me that this brand has a genuine love for cats and has them constantly testing their products to see what works.
Considering the Arrangement
Easy Tricks for Planning the Layout
After finalizing my moodboard and selecting the shelves, it was time to plan the layout. Here are some tips to make planning the layout easier, along with considerations for where to start and how traffic flow plays a crucial role.
If you’re not familiar with traffic flow when it comes to cat shelves, essentially it’s how your cat or cats move along the cat wall and interact with it when there are obstacles. Similar to navigating a road with a car, these wall shelves are a cat’s highway. I’ve written a post here about considering traffic flow when you have multiple cats.
Measuring and Finding Wall Studs
Two critical initial steps in planning a cat wall are measuring your room and finding the studs. I use a stud finder, a pencil and some tape to mark the approximate location of each stud on the wall.
Catastrophic Creations’ shelves are designed to be 16” or 24” apart to align with standard wall stud placement, as wall studs are more secure for hanging your shelves than drywall. It is preferred you install into studs where possible.
Knowing your measurements and where your studs are make up the framework for where you should place your shelves in the design. Once these elements are in place, it's a matter of finalizing the arrangement, and I have some tips below to simplify that process.
The Tape Trick, Sketching and 3D Renders
I personally take all my measurements and create a 3D mockup of my room in SketchUp. However, you can achieve similar results with paper, pen, and tape. On your paper, roughly draw out a couple paths up and down the cat wall using your stud placement as a guide.
Don't worry about perfection at this stage as you can make adjustments as you go along. Next take your sketch and tape out roughly the length of your shelves on the wall. The tape allows for easy repositioning, so play with the layout until you’re happy with it.
While I use SketchUp for my design work, I always start with an initial sketch and use tape to visualize it in the actual space. For my clients, it's a valuable tool for visualizing the final product and serves as a guide during installation.
Catastrophic Creations recommends securing their shelves in studs only, but in my case, my studs weren’t evenly spaced. As a result, I had to use drywall screws in some areas. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it's crucial to regularly check that the shelf isn't pulling out of the wall.
Your Tool Kit
To install you'll need a drill, a level, and a pencil. Catastrophic Creations provides the necessary hardware, drill bits and even a small level. I also recommend adding self-drilling drywall anchors to your toolkit, just in case you encounter situations where studs aren't where the stud finder indicates, or there's an obstruction like an air vent or pipe.
Addressing Concerns and Making Adjustments
Hiccups are inevitable in this process, however don’t stress or put it off for this reason. Speaking from experience, nothing is irreparable. Walls can be patched and painted and you don’t have to stick to your original design plan. For me, even with detailed 3D planning, I had to make layout adjustments during installation. It's all part of the process. If this particular section isn't within your expertise, consider hiring a handyman. In my case, I enlisted the help of my husband, who is a builder. He served as my installer and taught me along the way. Stay tuned for another blog post detailing that learning process. In the meantime, here is a tip to get you started:
The first shelf to install should be the lower corner shelf in your layout, find your first stud, and work your way up. Once that one is installed, use it as a template for the others. You can even use your level to draw a pencil line across the wall (which can be erased or painted over later) to guide the placement of the next one.
Here is a video of us installing the shelves. Due to the scale of the project, this took us 3 days to install all the shelves.
Tips for Introducing Cats to Their New Space
Adjusting to the new shelves may take time for your cats. Allow them to explore the shelves at their own pace, and don't force them. Their curiosity and confidence will grow over time. You'll learn what they like and dislike, and where you can make improvements.
A cat may instantly gravitate to certain shelves while other more challenging shelves may take time for them to navigate. For example, Leon was immediately drawn to the canvas hammocks, while Luna was focused on climbing as high as possible before settling on the faux fur of the Nest bed. In total, it took Luna and Leon about a week before they truly felt comfortable on all the shelves. Keep in mind that the adjustment period may vary for different cats.
The After: Cat-Approved Home Makeover
I hope this post has not only provided you with inspiration, but also showed you that the steps to installing cat shelves that look great and function well for you and your cat can be easier than you might think.
If you are feeling stuck in the process and need assistance, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer consulting services to address any challenges you might be having and help you figure out what will work best for you and your cat. And with that here is the final result.
Shop the Walls
The Right Wall
The Left Wall
The Back Wall