IKEA Hacks: How to Build Your Own Cat Gym

Give your cat her own space to play, stretch, scratch and rest.
By: Kate Benjamin
DIY cat gym

Do you belong to a fancy gym where you go to sweat and stretch while your cat sits at home with nothing to do? Well, get out your glue gun and build her a cat gym! This fun project can be totally customized to suit both your cat and your style.

A good cat gym gives your cat a place to climb, play, stretch, scratch and rest. This kind of environmental enrichment is great for indoor cats, encouraging stimulation and activity. Also, giving kitty her very own cat gym offers a place of her own, where she can leave her scent and feel a sense of ownership, an important part of making cats feel at home.

Here are my guidelines for building a cat gym, but keep in mind, you can add whatever features you think your cat will like the best and change things up to match your own décor.

DIY Cat Gym Supplies

Start with a cube organizer, preferably one with an open back so you can create a cat gym that’s accessible from both sides. I started with the KALLAX shelf unit from IKEA, but you can find something similar at a lot of stores. You might even have one already.

You’ll also need:

  • Sisal rope – ¼” or 3/8” thick works well
  • Yoga mats – you only need one, but I used a few different styles for variety.
  • Cushions that fit the top of your shelf – choose cushions to match your décor or spice things up with a fun pattern or color.
  • Carpet – pick a type of carpet that’s good for scratching and one that’s easy to cut with a utility knife. I got a small shag area rug. Carpet tiles work well for this, too.

Cat gym supplies

And a few more things to add some fun toys to your cat gym:

  • Ping Pong balls
  • Elastic cord
  • Lighter
  • Awl
  • Rice
  • Eyehooks

Cat gym supplies 2

DIY Cat Gym Tools

To put everything together, gather the following tools:

  • A glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • A utility knife
  • An electric drill/driver
  • Short screws
  • Double-sided carpet tape
  • A needle and thread
  • Velcro

Cat gym tools


Start by assembling the shelf according to the instructions. Or better yet, find a used shelf that’s already assembled!

Decorate the Workout Rooms

Cut pieces of yoga mat to fit inside each shelf and attach with double-sided carpet tape. I placed the tape around the edges of the mat to hold it securely in place.

Cat gym step 1

Add a scratching wall by wrapping the sisal rope around the inside divider.

Start by drilling a shallow hole in the divider (don’t go all the way through). Use a drill bit that’s about the same size as the rope. Place some hot glue in the hole and insert the end of the rope. This will secure the end of the rope to prevent fraying and unraveling.

DIY cat gym step 2

Start wrapping the rope around the divider, gluing as you go. Gluing the rope in place makes the scratcher a bit more durable and keeps the rope from sagging when cats scratch on it. Make sure to pull the rope tight and keep it straight. Push each row against the previous row to minimize gaps between the rope.

You can choose to wrap the entire surface or just a portion of it. I decided to wrap just the center section of the divider. When you’re finished wrapping, drill another hole and secure the end of the rope in the hole with hot glue.

DIY cat gym step 3

Add some fun to the workout rooms with toys that hang from the ceiling and make an enticing noise. First, use the awl to poke a hole straight through a ping pong ball, then insert 10 to 15 grains of rice into the ball.

DIY cat gym step 4

Use the lighter to melt one end of the elastic cord. This will prevent the end of the cord from fraying and it will make the next step easier. After the cord cools off, insert the melted end through one hole and out the opposite hole then tie a knot in the end of the cord.

DIY cat gym step 5

Tie the toy to the eyehook, trim the cord and melt the other end with the lighter.

Screw the eyehook into the “ceiling” of the workout room. You can position the toy in the center or near the sides, whichever you prefer. You could even add more than one toy to a room—make it fun!

DIY cat gym step 6

Add a Stretching (and Scratching!) Center to Your Cat Gym

Use the utility knife to cut the carpet to fit the sides of your shelf and secure in place with the double-sided carpet tape.

DIY cat gym step 7

Because cats like to dig their claws in and get a nice stretch when they scratch, it’s also a good idea to use some small screws to keep the carpet in place.

Create a Post-Workout Lounge Area

Who doesn’t want to relax after a good workout? Give kitty a place to stretch out and chill by adding some inviting cushions to the top of your cat gym.

DIY cat gym step 8

In order to prevent the cushions from sliding off, sew pieces of Velcro loop to the bottom of the cushions, and then attach the hook side to the top of the shelf. Secure the cushions in place and you’re all set.

Now it’s time to introduce your cat to her new favorite hangout!

DIY cat gym final