Sunday, April 6, 2014

Some Time Ago Sunday: Cat Shelf Confessions

Good evening,

Hooray, at long last, this post is ready for reading!This week, Sunday Surprise is taking a vacation. It's been replaced with "Some Time Ago Sunday" (because Throwback Sunday just doesn't sound as good as Throwback Thursday). This story is also somewhat related to Operation Use It Up, because unfortunately, I still have ALL of the supplies for this project. Ugh, pinnstrosipeeps, I am so ashamed of the fails that took place during every step of this process. I almost want to punk out and not tell you, but, sometimes the worst Pinstrosities are the PinNOTsities. So, here we go, hang in there...

Do you know what I thought was a great idea a year ago? Making cat shelves for our two chubby cats Stella and Carly:



For any of you that are not cat lovers, you may wonder what a cat shelf is, exactly. Pinterest and I are happy to show you:

The Original Pin

Can we talk about the bat ears on that little furry? Oh my gosh, adorable!
Essentially, cat shelves can function as a more modern/ less expensive alternative to a cat tree. Please note that I said they are "supposed to be" (they weren't for us-- read on...). However, what really, really made us want to try cat shelves was that no floorspace would be taken up by a cat tree (since we have plenty of wall space, but minimal floor space).

It's kind of difficult to see from the following photo, but we wanted to put two shelves under each of the second story windows, so that the girls could watch the goings on outside from up high. We'd then use four small shelves as stairs, or a ladder, on a wall (not pictured) so the girls could reach the high shelves.

As you can see, they already loved the mini-cat towers that we got at Ross for $12.99 (What a steal!!!!)
Anyway, HausPanther posted this entry about the shelves that they installed in their modern loft. Totally adorable, right? They allow your feline friends to take advantage of high walls/ceilings (which we have) and they encourage activity (which my chubby cats need), so this seemed like a win. However...

The Pinstrosity

Shenanigans! Those shelves aren't even on your wall!
Now, who just tilted their head at the screen and thought "Well, it doesn't look like a cat could climb on those at all,"? You're right. The entire cat shelf project was derailed after a series of fails that I will detail for you now:

1. Questionable Material Choices.

Carly and Stella are actually Rob's cats, but since we moved in together, I've become their proud cat mom. So, naturally, when I had the idea of screwing shelves into the walls for them to play on, Rob had security concerns: the shelves must be sturdy, not too narrow, and not too slick. To which I said: "All right, I can handle that."When I explained the idea and showed him the photos, he was totally on board.

Since we were working off of the picture for this project here's the list of supplies we came up with:

Supply List:
- 4 small shelves: We used the Ikea Laiva for $1.99 each.
- 2 large shelves: We used the 75" Ikea Lack Shelf (this choice added more work for us later) for $19.99 each.
- 2 to 3 brackets per shelf: We used the Ikea Ekby Stodis for .50 cents each.
- Bath mats to use at the liner for the shelves: 1 for $6.99, 2 more at $12.99 each -- all from Ross.
- Industrial strength adhesive velcro (to attach shelves to the rugs, but ideal for removal if the rugs needed cleaning) - $19.99 ish
-Screws to attach brackets to shelves (Purchased at Ikea for like $7.99 in a kit).

At the time we were purchasing these items, it still seemed like we were getting a swingin' deal (compared to $150 for a cat tree). It would have been ideal to purchase the Lack shelves on Craigslist, but after two weeks of waiting for some to show up, the creative madness took over, and we buckled and went to Ikea.

2. Gross Underestimate of Time Required to Complete Project.

I'm famous for not understanding time. I mean, I know five minutes = five minutes. But, my relationship with estimating how long a project will take? 100% off. Every time. So, when I thought the cat shelf project was something that we could hammer out in a couple hours, I was sorely mistaken.

It took a couple of weeks to finally gather all of the supplies that we needed, which was torture, as you can imagine. We also have to borrow tools from my dad (who has ever tool known to humankind), so coordinating when we could borrow drills/ladders/levels also played into the schedule.

After what seemed like forever (two whole weeks, oh the trials and suffering), Rob and I had an evening free together. It seemed like the perfect "hammer it out" night. I started cutting the bat mats into pieces for each of the small shelves while Rob drilled the brackets onto the shelves:

Rob's work: Brackets attached to the four small shelves:

 My work: measuring the bath mat to fit each of the shelves:

Then, we allowed Carly to play on the shelves:
Carly thought this process was mighty fun.

3. Emergency Supply Revisions.

Part 1: Vexed by velcro adhesive.

The bath mat was cut up and ready for attachment. But... wait... the industrial strength, adhesive velcro has no interest in sticking to shelf or to the rug, let alone both at the same time. I've had bandaids that could have performed better. But, I'm a glass half full time of person, so it was time for Plan B: Needle and thread (because I don't have a sewing machine, and really can't sew to save my life anyway). Why a needle and thread? Because, CLEARLY, a tiny little needle would definitely be able to go through velcro and a bathmat.


After attempting to get a needle through the strip of velcro (with the adhesive, mind you), I was certain that the back of the needle would sooner go through my finger skin than said velcro. Don't even talk to me about it getting it through the bathmat. Basically, a critical bath mat/thread/needle/shelf crisis then took place on the floor of the living room.

Part 2: Hollow shelves call for additional hardware

What interrupts my crisis on the floor is an important observation from Rob. The huge Ikea Lack shelves? Yeah, they're HOLLOW. Why we didn't realize this before is beyond me, but we came late to the obvious-party. Initially, we thought maybe this wouldn't be a big deal. However, once we had attached the bracket to the shelf, it took only a slight tug for the whole bracket, screws and all, to come right back through the shelf, making us fear that the shelves would be unsafe for the furries.

Rob is a problem solver. So, he figured we would make the misplaced brackets work and we will use bolts/washers to attach the brackets to the shelves. No biggie, those can be purchased at a home improvement store, where Rob (the more level-headed of the two of us) pointed out that we also purchase Gorilla Glue to cure my bath mat ailment.

4. Late Night Trip to Home Depot

By this point, it's already 9:30, and I have to be at work the next morning by 7:00. However, we resisted the urge to give up. Dissatisfied, yet still determined, Rob and I made the late night run to Home Depot for Gorilla glue and bolts/washers. Because, censored word, we were going to make this thing work THAT night.

Good news? Finding Gorilla glue was no problem. Bad news? Home Depot did not have the length of bolt that we needed (since we wanted it to go through the shelf and the bracket). We went ahead and got the washers, sans bolts, and headed home.

I glued the velcro to the shelf and the velcro to the rugs, and then we (wisely) called it a night.

This is what the bottom of the shelf looked like with the velcro.

5. Fights throw projects off.

Rob and I didn't have another free night to dedicate to the cat shelf project for a several days (maybe even a week), so it sat and sat. We finally found the bolts we needed from the blessed Ace Hardware. The only trouble was that their hours were such that we missed them by minutes two days in a row. However, at long last, we had the bolts, which meant that it was time to attach the brackets to the shelves, trim down the bolts, and secure said brackets.

This part of the project took place outside, since the only thing we had on hand to trim the bolts was a hack saw. Shards of metal everywhere? Not in our house. Here, you can see our outdoor cat, Johnny, assessing the project:

This same evening (shortly after those photos were taken, actually), Rob and I got into some sort of argument. I can't remember what about, and he and I fight so rarely, that this really put both of us in a funk. We got the brackets attached to the shelves (thank heavens) before making an important realization: we had completely forgotten to measure the brackets to align with the studs in the walls. What did this mean, pinstrosipeeps? Either remove the brackets, re-drill the shelves, and re-attach the brackets or hope to find one stud in the wall and pray that our 30 lbs of cat didn't bring it crashing to the floor.

Unable to civilly decide how to move forward, we put the project away and spent the rest of the night apart.

6. Electricity is not to be meddled with by amateurs.

By this point, a couple of months has passed since we had touched (or wanted to touch) the cat shelf project.  The variety of shelves and brackets were traveling from room to room in our house, not conveniently anywhere.

A combination of a bad taste in our mouths, not knowing quite what to do, and being overwhelmed by other parts of life was keeping us from engaging with the project. Though, inexplicably one afternoon, Rob and I got the bug and made another attempt. After thoroughly discussing the bracket/stud issue, we decided not to mess with the brackets, and get the shelf against the wall. At least then we could see where we were at.

At long last, some good news. We got the first of the shelves onto the wall. And hot dog, it looked great!!! The door frame made it so that it was easy to hold up and drill in. And let me tell you, that thing isn't budgin'.

Flippin' sweet, right??
We were ready for large shelf #2 to go up. In the photo below  (where the ladder is). we wanted a second long shelf to go under the angled window.  The wall in the left-most part of this photo was where we were going to stagger the small shelves to create the stairs/ladder (so that the cats could climb up to the windows):
We whipped out our stud finder so that we could check for ideal shelf placement. We have semi-textured walls in our rental, so the stud finder was making heinous confusion noises and started blinking on and off. After grumbling and moaning, Rob finally handed it to me. I got it against the wall and realized the worst news about this project: there was an electric current in the "ladder wall". Rob and I were totally baffled, since there is no outlet on the wall there.

That was until we remembered that there was an outlet outside on that wall. D'oh! Then we REALLY felt like idiots. No lie, we looked at each other and without saying a word, we stacked the shelves into a corner, poured some wine, and called it a day. The entire cat shelf project seemed like a wash, and holy cow, I just wanted to buy a cat tree and give up. I'll mess with a lot of things, but negotiating an electrical line with a drill? No, thanks. I'll pass.

Six months later, for Christmas, my parents surprised us with a cat tree!

Whatever could it be? 
The girls have really enjoyed this new addition to the house since Christmas:
Play time!

Fast forward four months...This brings us to the present (well, least Saturday). Would you like to know what I did for the Use It Up Challenge?! Enlisted Superdad's assistance and got the second large cat shelf hung!!

Nothing like having a fresh set of eyes/tons of construction experience to fix your cat shelf problem and make you look really silly for making it into such a big deal. We ended up moving the brackets, trimming the center one down, and relying on the frame of the window for the studs.

Note the placement of the cat tree.
We placed the cat tree under the shelf so that we could avoid drilling into the ladder wall with the smaller shelves. We figure we'll re-use those elsewhere in the house (and just remove the carpet).

Robert and Papa 
First time on the shelves! Can you spot our stealthy black kitty?
Stella is so excited about the cat shelf! Carly is still a bit nervous (since the cat tree is kind of wobbly). We'll have to work her up to it. Stella was waiting for us on the shelf above the door tonight. Best. Feeling. Ever.

Holy cow, I'm so glad that I was able to share this near PinNOTsity with you.
Thanks for taking the time to read this novel of an entry. What did you think? Are we crazy cat people?
Cheers to you all,


  1. MAJOR PROPS to you and the man for seeing it through - no matter how long it took!! They look really cool too. Glad you didn't have to end up worrying about hanging the ladder shelves and the cat tree worked out great instead. Thanks for sharing - really fun post to read and I was totally pulling for you the whole time haha!! :)

    1. Hi Jamie Lynn,

      Thanks for the encouraging words! I sure appreciate them! Let me tell you, we're both relieved to have the project done (and not sitting around the house). Stella continues to climb up and down them. It will be a dream when both cats are able to enjoy them.

      Thanks for reading and for the sweet comment!

  2. Oh, yeah. Definitely crazy people, but for the well-being of our cats, just insane enough is, well, enough. And, it looks pretty amazing, almost as though it was part of the original design of the windows.

    Now all that needs doing is painting the lower part of the brackets to match the wall. Any time-frame for that? :)

    1. Hi J-- Thanks for the comment. I'm so glad someone else understands! Trying to tell some of my not-cat-people friends made them look at us like we were out of our minds. But we were on a mission!

      Haha! I think we'll probably leave the brackets as is. I think they could have been traffic cone orange, and as long as they were securely on the wall, we'd leave them be lol.

      Thanks again for your nice words! We thought they turned out all right too!

  3. I'm not familiar with American architecture. What are studs in the wall? Why can't you drill holes anywhere in the wall, isn't it all made from the same stuff? And who makes hollow shells? That kind of thing should not exist. Why not use a board or a piece of plywood...? At least everything turned out fine in the end and the cats appreciate the effort. Congrats on a job well done!

    1. Hi BlackKitty,

      Thanks for your comment. I fear that I won't do an explanation of wall studs justice, so here is the wikipedia page: Basically, when homes are built, builders frame out the home with wood to create the structure. There are industry standards that dictate the spacing of the frames, so that if you have something heavy to mount into your wall, you are not drilling directly into dry-wall (dry-wall will only hold very light things. If something is too heavy, it will tear out of your wall). The hollow shelves we purchases were originally intended to be "floating" shelves-- so that when you attached them to the wall, it looked as though there were no brackets. We wanted the extra support from brackets, so we added them by drilling through the shelves.

      Thanks so much for your comment. We appreciate the support!

    2. Oh my, they are making houses out of drywall now? What happened to bricks and mortar? Wow, drywall and hollow shelves - it's a good thing you took extra time with the sturdy brackets!

  4. Hollow shelves can be used to make floating cat shelves (google "floating cat shelves"). More complicated but they are floating! Anyway, I am so glad your cats like the shelves. If I ever get a cat again I totally want some cat shelves!

    1. Hi Daizy,

      Haha! I initially wanted to have floating cat shelves! I thought they looked so elegant and modern, but when we saw how much Ikea said they could hold (about 33 lbs, as I recall), we decided to add the brackets. Each of our cats are about 16lbs, and we thought we may have been tempting fate without the brackets.

      Thanks so much for your comment, if you get another cat and build cat shelves, I'd love to see them!
      Take care!

  5. The entire cat shelf project was derailed after a series of fails that I will ...

  6. Making cat shelves for our two chubby cats Stella and Carly: ...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.