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How to Make a Window Cat Shelf: Step by Step Instructions

Rogue cat lover. I rescued 2 kittens and learn by my teeny mistakes. Fortunately, they guide me with compassion for my human limitations.

Kitten Tests The Shelf

This is a closet style wire shelf with transparent plastic.

This is a closet style wire shelf with transparent plastic.

A Win-WIn For My Cats And Me

This shelf is built with material found in many big box home improvement stores and independent hardware stores. When there are easy variations, I will describe them.

I wanted shelf that met these personal goals: Obviously, we cat owners know that our indoor feline friends adore gazing out windows, checking for birds and other critters in the wild. So, the first goal was a shelf large enough and sturdy enough for two active cats. Second, I wanted a shelf which would not block light coming through the window or cast large shadows. Furthermore, I wanted it to be midway up a tall window. This was because furniture placement made it impossible to place a cat shelf at the window's bottom sill.

Tools Needed

  • Drill
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammer

Supplies Needed

  • Pre-cut shelf (closet organizer wire type)
  • Shelf brackets
  • Scrap wood
  • Nails
  • Wall anchors
  • Screws
  • Plastic sheeting (Plexiglass is one brand name)

My photos show a plastic-coated wire “closet organizer” shelf that is commonly seen in bedroom closets and laundry rooms. For the more conventional among you, the home improvement stores offer many styles of wood and fake wood shelves. Another option is to choose have lumber which can be custom cut at the store or cut by you at home.

Again, I used the sort of brackets designed for the wire shelf. You can use fancy Victorian wood brackets, wrought iron, or whatever floats your boat. I do NOT recommend relying on small L-shaped corner braces. Large sturdy brackets are a must! Picture your precious cat bounding up to land on the window shelf. It must be able to handle the cat’s weight plus the force of the landing. You know that if the apparatus feels the least bit unsteady, your cat will not use it. That would be a great waste of your time and energy.

Some Tools And Supplies Used

Some of the tools and supplies for installing a window cat shelf.

Some of the tools and supplies for installing a window cat shelf.

The Process

If at all possible, get another person to help. This is very important if you are doing a moderately heavy or extra-long (such as mine) shelf. However, in all cases it is rather difficult to hold a shelf in position, keep the level from taking a nose-dive, and putting pencil marks on the wall all by yourself.

Follow the instructions, if any, that come with your pre-made shelf for placement of supports. For example, my shelf came with instructions that the end supports be within 3-4 inches from each end. Hold the shelf in what you think is the desired spot and place the level on it. You will place the level 2 different ways. First, insure that the left-right orientation is straight – completely parallel to the floor. Then, turn the level 90 degrees to make sure that your proposed position is neither leaning towards the floor from back to front, or the opposite tilt. (Now do you understand why a second person is helpful?) Put small pencil marks on the wall where the top and bottom of the shelf will “touch.” Do this at every spot where a bracket will be.

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Set the shelf aside for the moment and attach the brackets to the wall in the way they go. For my shelf, I needed to drill a hole for a wall anchor at the bottom of the brackets.

Scrap wood – if you are doing my sort of shelf, you see that it rests past the window’s frame. Therefore, I needed to attach a small block of wood to the wall to create a surface for the top fastener to be applied. My mistake: the blocks I made are too small. Sometimes, I try to be too decorative at the expense of function. I needed to go back and redo one side because of this.

Comfort and Security

I originally made this cat shelf without the transparent plastic top layer. After making that version of the cat shelf, I noticed that my cats avoided it. I think they did not like the feel of the wire "rungs" under their paws and the air in-between those rungs. So, I admitted my design error and went to a home improvement store which custom cuts transparent plexiglass sheets. I had two sheets cut to cover the shelf and drilled small holes in their corners (very easy) in order to fasten them to the original shelf with white garbage bag ties. Problem solved! Now, the cats hop right up.

The Great Thing About Do-It-Yourself Projects

One aspect of DIY which I value is that one can customize to have exactly what one wants. Length, width, color and other features are completely under your control. If you make a window cat shelf along these ideas, please let me know how yours turns out.

© 2012 Maren Elizabeth Morgan


Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on September 27, 2012:

Kent, I am so glad that this article made your cat and you happy!

Kent Lofgren from Umeå, Sweden on September 27, 2012:

Excellent! I bought a what is it called in English? window plank? You know, the flat board where you put pots and flowers ;) And I bought a small one, and put it under one of our small windows - just for our cat. He loves it!

Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on September 01, 2012:

Amerben, we will find out.

amerben on September 01, 2012:

Love your creativity and warnings. Is one shelf big enough & strong enough for 2 cats?


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