Wire Rack Shelves are Better Than Cat Trees


Pro Tips for Making Wire Rack Shelves Your Cat’s Favorite Furniture

My cats love wire rack shelves, and so do I, for numerous reasons. The felines love to be elevated, so they can survey their kingdoms from above. I like to have the big ones on wheels, and the cats like to have them in front of the windows. I have several different styles in my house, ranging in cost from free craigslist score (tallest in the house – 8 feet!) to $120, including casters. They are easy to set up, easy to move, sturdy, and cleaning is simple. I live a utilitarian and unfancy lifestyle, so they fit well with my decor. Because, stainless steel goes with everything. And when it’s time to move across the country, they break down flat and fit into a Honda Civic, with room to spare. At first, wire rack shelves might not make a lot of sense for cats. Paws could get stuck between the wires and cause injuries, for example. But there are several super-cheap and simple solutions for this problem. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Rubber-backed carpet squares

These can be found at any big-box home improvement store, sometimes on clearance. They typically start around $2/sq. ft., but you can spend as much as you want for different levels of quality. I always cruise through the flooring aisles whenever I go to a home improvement store, just in case there are some deals. If you happen to live near a university, they sometimes have surplus auctions and you can find used industrial rubber-backed carpet very cheap. Also, craigslist. These rubber-backed carpet tiles can be thick so you will need something heavy-duty to cut them to size. Because I also do photo framing, I have a mat board cutter and this works really great.


If you are concerned about them slipping, you can use binder clips to keep them in place. Binder clips are super-cheap, you can buy a case (144) of the smaller ones for around $10, and they work just fine.

2. Interlocking foam tiles

These interlocking foam floor tiles are great. There have been some reviews about toxicity, but for me as a chemist with no human babies in my life, I remain unalarmed. I first started using them to cover my floors 5 years ago, after I was tornadoed and had to replace my floor coverings – all at once, and out of pocket.I did a little bit of research, and found these at Sam’s Club for ~$23 per package of 8 2’x2′ interlocking squares – that’s 32 square feet at ~72 cents a square foot. If you’ve ever bought floor coverings, you know that you cannot beat 72 cents a square foot. I bought a few packages,and they have worked so well for so many purposes, that I had a regular rotation and bought a new package every month for a few years. The cats also love them for clawing and sharp cornering traction during the early morning races. One other nice thing besides affordability- these foam squares can be easily cut to any shape or size with scissors. Easy to clean with a bleach wipe, or take them outside and hose them down. I use them under litterboxes, too. (A word of caution – these foam mats will keep liquids off the floor for awhile, but will eventually soak through over time. My dog is a messy drinker, so I use something else under the water dish. They are fine for moderate occasional spills, but not completely waterproof! Also, if the interlocking seams get wet, you will need to clean that up right away, or you may find a stain on your wood floor, with a nifty jigsaw pattern.)

Bonus tip: interlocking foam squares also make fancy crate liners

3. Cheap doormats, automotive floor mats, or bathmats

Buy ’em used or new. Hose ’em off when dirty, or even better…stuff them in a used pillowcase, and change the pillowcase regularly.

4. Ceramic tiles

I recently bought some clearance ceramic tiles, and I’m still not in love with them like I am with other options, and neither are the cats. But they do work ok as long as you buy them at the right size and don’t have to cut them. I put them on top of the foam mats in the feeding area, and have them on the lowest shelf of a wire rack, and they seem to be working just fine.

5. Flat pillows

If I see a chair pillow at the thrift store, I buy it. If it doesn’t come with a removable cover, I use a pillowcase. Memory foam is a big hit with the cats.


6. Retired sheets or blankets

I fold them several times and use bungee cords or binder clips (see #1 above, large binder clips are a little more expensive, but…not much.) to keep blankets in place.  Usually, I only use sheets or blankets in conjunction with cardboard, otherwise the little paws sink and this can cause an injury, especially during a little bit of rough play. One advantage to using blankets and sheets (other than washability) is that they can be arranged as privacy curtains. I have found that one secret to household harmony is making sure that everybody has their own space, and this trick goes a long way toward making sure there are enough window seats for everybody. (In fact, I have one very large wire rack shelf with a white sheet that doubles as my projector screen, and this works good enough for me!)


7. Plain old cardboard

Cats already love cardboard, so this option is a natural solution. You can buy rolls of corrugated cardboard for not a lot of money and cut it to size. Banker box lids are a big hit around here. Also, any box. (Again…binder clips or bungee cords.)

Wire rack shelves are relatively cheap compared to a cat tree. They can double as storage space, and can be configured to your cat’s preferences. They offer many levels of the height your cats crave. They are easy to assemble, customize, move, and cleaning is a breeze with bleach wipes. Save your money and buy wire rack shelves instead of a carpeted cat tree that will wind up unused in the basement in.a few years because it’s a PITA to clean. Your cats will love it!



One thought on “Wire Rack Shelves are Better Than Cat Trees

  1. Jeffrey B

    This has been a great help in designing my set up, i took the whole thing a few steps further by using sisal rope to wrap some shelves and poles and such and other things. Please feel free to contact me , I would like to talk about this and show you pictures of my set up.

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