7 tips for DIY cat wall shelves and walkways

We installed cat shelves and walkways in a spare bedroom to give the cats more vertical space. I want as many cats as possible to be in the room with me at one time.

Below you will find what you need to build and install cheap DIY cat wall shelves and walkways. Then, I will share 7 tips to consider when designing your cat wall shelves and walkways.

This is not intended to be a technical step-by-step installation guide. The list below will give you an idea of what you will need to help you decide if you want to install your own cat shelves.

DIY cat shelf material list:

  • Prefinished shelves. We used these white shelves from Menards. They came in varying lengths. Other hardware-type stores will likely sell similar shelves.
  • Brackets. Look for information on or near the bracket (it may be a sticker) to check the weight limit when the brackets are attached to wall studs with screws.
  • Screws. The bracket packaging may recommend a minimum screw length. You will also need screws to attach the brackets to the shelves.
  • Drill. A drill will be needed to screw the screws. Make sure you do not drill into plumbing or electrical wires.
  • Stud finder. A stud finder will be used to find the studs behind the drywall.
  • Outdoor carpet. Use carpet to cover the shelves so that they are not slippery for the cats. We used outdoor carpet, which was cheaper and easier to cut and work with than carpet squares. It came in a huge roll.
  • Level. Use a level to make sure your shelves are straight!
  • Liquid Nails. We used liquid nails to attach the carpet to the shelves.
  • Scissors. Cut the carpet into pieces the same size as the cat shelves. Glue the carpet to the shelves before installing them.

I outsourced the installation of the shelves and walkways to my husband! I found some instructions here that show how to install shelves with brackets. Be safe. If you are unsure about the location of plumbing and electrical wires (or anything else behind the wall), contact a professional handyman.

Floating shelves are also an option, and there are many nice-looking shelves designed for cats on Amazon. They will likely cost more but will also look nicer on the walls.

Watch the video below to hear my seven tips and see cats using the shelves.

7 tips for designing cat wall shelves and walkways

  1. Shelf Width. Make sure you choose shelves that are wide enough to hold your cat if they decide to lay on the shelf. Also, if you have more than one cat, a wider shelf will allow the cats to pass each other on the walkway. We used 11 1/4″ shelves.
  2. Shelf Spacing. When installing shelves at different heights, leave enough space between them to allow the cats to jump from shelf to shelf.
  3. Shelf Placement. We put a walkway over the windows. This is nice for the cat, but we learned that the shelf blocks light from reflecting off of the ceiling. So you may not want a shelf directly over a window.
  4. Use other stuff as shelves. Furniture and other stuff in the room can be part of your shelf design. We used the piano and also a dresser. You could also use the top of a bookshelf or other items already in the room.
  5. Distance to the ceiling. When putting a walkway near the ceiling, leave enough room for the cat to be able to walk. My cats can walk on the walkway, but they can’t sit straight up.
  6. Access points. If putting walkways around a room, make sure there is more than one way up and down. This will help the cat to not feel stuck or trapped by another cat.
  7. Window Seats. No matter how many shelves you put in, window seats may still be the cat’s favorite spot. However, it’s nice for the cat to have options!

So far, my cats are using the shelves every day. Sometimes they sleep on them, and they like to play on them too. The window seats (we have 3 of this seat) and some of the cats prefer the seat to the shelves (the seats get more sunlight.

Kilala on a shelf with Buster in the window seat
Kilala on a shelf with Buster in the window seat

I hope you found the list of materials needed for cat shelves and the 7 design and layout tips helpful!

You may also want to add cat tunnels for your indoor cats.


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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

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  1. Great advice! I’ve been thinking about a walkway and you’ve given me things to think about. Hope I can find brackets that can hold 30 lb. (My 20 lb. boy and my 9 lb. girl kitties loe to chase each other, so the shelves need to be able to handle the weight of both.) Will definitely explore more of your blog!


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