A common joke amongst cat parents is that the fancier the item you get for your cat, the more likely he or she is to ignore it and play with the box instead.
Scratching posts, cat trees, toys; more like couches, windowsills, and dust bunnies, right? In this post I cover great DIY cat 🛏️ 🐈 bed ideas to make a cozy place for your fur baby.
If your cat is anything like mine and loves playing with boxes 📦 more than fancy cat furniture, you might be hesitant to invest in a fancy cat bed for your fur baby.
If you want to give him or her somewhere cozy to nap without breaking the bank, this post will walk you through some simple yet great DIY ideas you can use to put together a cat bed with items you just might have sitting around the house or that can easily be picked up at the store.
And, if you are not much of a DIYer yourself, or maybe you are simply a very busy pet parent, no worries, we've got you covered too.
Looking for more cat care guides? No problem, you can either scroll down all the way to the further reading section or visit my blog. Another spoiler alert here, it is packed with useful resources 😁.
Happy reading and sharing!
Editor's Note: 'DIY Cat Bed Ideas to Make a Cozy Place for Your Fur Baby' was originally written in 2021. I update this post periodically to reflect changes in techniques, new recommendations, and because I am always learning new things!
Before we get into the nitty gritty of DIY cat bed ideas, lets discuss some general guidelines.
As every pet parent knows, cats can be like us humans in many respects. Just like we have our own preferences when it comes to picking a new mattress, so do our fur babies.
The ideal DIY cat bed should be as bespoke as possible. And yes, I said bespoke 😄.
After all, what’s the point of making anything for your fur baby if it’s not to indulge their specific needs, likes, and preferences?
So, if you're going to spend time and energy making a bed for your cat, as opposed to buying one, you should consider the uniqueness of your fur baby in the process.
Here are some of the most basic considerations before you get started:
The right bed size: The ultimate goal for any bed, whether for humans or cats, should be comfort. And when it comes to a comfortable bed, size matters. Picking the right size for your cat bed can be a little tricky though. It's more of an art than a science. The best size for your cat bed will normally be a function of your cat’s size and sleeping style. A basic consideration is whether your cat is a lounger or if s/he prefers to curl up in a ball. On the one hand, loungers will tend to prefer larger beds that offer plenty of space to stretch out. For these types of cats, consider how big is big enough for your cat to comfortably stretch out. On the other hand, cats that like to curl up would favor tighter more snuggly beds. In this case, think about how small the bed can be before your cat feels uncomfortable. It's a delicate balance.
Natural materials are always better: Cotton and wool are naturally hypoallergenic. Given the high sensitivity cats have to scents, it is always wise to favor natural materials. Whenever possible, avoid the use of plastic fibers such as polyester. As you may know polyester is highly flammable and in order to make polyester fibers “safer,” they are coated with toxic flame-retardant chemicals. Cats can be very sensitive to these chemicals, not to mention they are also known to be carcinogenic. An added benefit to using a natural material such as wool is its naturally occurring cat-attractant, lanolin. Your cat will most likely favor a bed made from wool to one made from synthetic fibers.
Keep maintenance in mind: Make sure to choose easy-to-clean materials. Cats are very clean creatures and keeping a clean bed free of nasty smells is essential. If your cat has an accident, you should be able to easily clean it without having to replace the bed. For example, if you are opting for the old pillow option, make sure to use a wool pillow. Unlike synthetic fibers, wool pillows are very easy to keep clean. Simply place the pillow/bed out in the sun. Sun exposure will naturally deodorize, bleach, disinfect, and revitalize your cat’s pillow bed.
Your #1 goal is comfort: The goal is obviously to make a bed that your cat loves. After all, what would be the point of spending time making a bed that your cat won't use because it’s not comfy? In addition to your cat’s sleeping style and size, also consider your cat’s life stage. Needs for younger cats may be different from those of older cats. On the one hand senior cats, for example, will favor lower beds that provide orthopedic relief. On the other handa younger one wouldn't necessarily care much about this.
The Cardboard Box Bed
If your kitty loves cardboard boxes, why not convert one of them into a cat bed? It's a simple process.
Start with a sturdy cardboard box.
Shoe boxes work, as do office supply boxes and some of the more heavy-duty shipping boxes.
On the other hand, the boxes you get in the mail usually aren't a great choice (they might be covered in who knows what chemicals) and can fall apart easily.
You can reinforce the walls of your DIY cat bed if you get an extra-tall box. Simply cut the corners part of the way down and fold them over. Or, if your box has sturdy flaps, you can fold them in instead.
To make your DIY cat bed look a little fancier, take a trip to the nearest fabric store and pick out a yard of your favorite fabric.
Try to get something organic and dye-free so your fur baby doesn't have to snuggle up to chemicals and harsh dyes.
After running the fabric through a quick wash/dry cycle, secure the fabric to the box with glue (not staples) and decorate it however you like.
To make the bed a little cozier, pick something to pad the bottom. Cotton or wool batting are both warm and cozy ideas.
You can also use something with your smell on it, like an old sweater or old t-shirts (kitty will feel immediately at home in the new space with it being filled by your scent).
You can cover the old clothing with more fabric, sewn into a pillow the same size as the bottom of the bed. This way, if your fur baby has an accident (or just sheds a lot), you can easily wash the pad without having to discard the whole bed.
Are you having trouble getting your fur baby to use the cat bed? In addition to adding a similar scented item, try putting the bed somewhere he or she likes to relax, like on your chair.
You can also try sprinkling the new bed with a little catnip to attract him or her to their new lounge.
The Simple Sweater Bed
Don't want to use glue, sew fabric, or otherwise put crafting skills to work on a cat bed?
There's another super-simple option you can make out of items you probably have laying around the house.
All you need for this is two items: an old pillow and an old sweater or sweatshirt.
The pillow doesn't need to be so old that it's crushed down flat, but something with more give to it is ideal.
The great part about an older pillow is that it's infused with your scent, which your cat is likely to enjoy a lot more than a pillow that smells like the factory that made it.
If you've noticed that your fur baby loves one of the pillows you sleep on every night, consider replacing it and giving him or her that pillow for their new bed.
As for the sweater, you want something cozy and soft.
Ideally, you'll use a sweater made out of 100% wool or cotton, natural fibers rather than synthetic fibers, and free of harsh chemical dyes.
You might not know what your old sweater is made from, and it's probably fine, but better to be safe when your kitty's health is on the line, right?
To make this cat bed, all you need to do is put the pillow inside the sweater like a pillowcase. To secure it, you have a few options.
You can simply tuck the sleeves under the bed. It's not terribly secure, but if your fur baby doesn't toss it around, it should be fine.
You can secure it with a couple of binder clips. You know those little clamps you have mingled with your office supplies? Grab a couple to close up the ends of the sweater. Once in place remove the metal pieces that you squeeze leaving just the clip portion behind. Something small and metal can be potentially dangerous for a pet though, so if your kitty playing with the clips, replace them with something else.
You can sew it up with a needle and thread. It doesn't take much to secure the arms, and you can leave the bottom open to swap and clean the pillow as needed.
You can attach a zipper to the bottom hem of the sweater. This gives you access when you want to swap or clean the pillow but keeps it closed and looking more like a bed.
You can also convert this style of DIY bed into a cat cave!
All you need is a couple of stiff but flexible half-hoops, something like a length of stiff wire or flexible wood.
Simply weave these through the front of the sweater, leaving the neck hole of the sweater open as an entryway. It doesn't take much, and you'll have a nice, cozy cave ready right away.
The Empty Drawer Bed
If your cat is anything like most cats, he or she probably loves to explore every nook and cranny in your home.
You've probably found him or her in closets, in hampers, behind furniture, under furniture, and everywhere else he or she can squeeze into.
Why not dedicate one of those spaces specifically for your fur baby?
One great option is to pick a place in your dresser, closet, or another piece of furniture that has drawers.
The lowest drawer is the safest bet since it's the easiest for your fur baby to access and the least convenient for you to use anyway.
All you really need to do for this option is to put a cushion in the bottom of the drawer.
A folded blanket, an old sweater, a small pillow; it doesn't matter, so long as it's something more than the bare surface of the drawer.
That said, you can also make this a little safer. We have two recommendations.
First, put a small block or box behind the drawer, so it can't be pushed in all the way. You don't want your fur baby to trap him- or herself in the dresser and suddenly go missing!
The other thing you might consider is checking the back of the drawer above.
Some furniture with drawers leave space behind them, which your fur baby can use to climb up into drawers above the one you're using as a bed. This lets them get into whatever you have in that drawer, which you may not want.
And, of course, you can always just fully remove the drawer from the furniture and keep it somewhere else. Remove the tracks on the side and add additional features, like a hole for a toy or a brush glued to the side as a built in scratcher.
If you want to go hog wild with an old dresser you're getting rid of; you can use multiple drawers, old table legs, and a little elbow grease to convert it into a cat condo!
As a safety note, if you’re using a vertical dresser, please be sure it is anchored to the wall, so it is stable for kitty to jump in and out of without the risk of tipping over.
The Wire Basket Bed
Many kitties love getting where they aren't supposed to, especially if it means accessing a cozy, closed-off place to hide and relax.
Hampers, trash cans, and baskets are all common hiding places. So, why not convert one of those into a bed just for your fur baby?
Larger items, like large trash cans or clothes hampers, can be laid on their side and padded. Smaller tubs and wire baskets can work standing up or on their side.
Taller items can also be cut down to size with a Dremel, craft knife, box cutter, or other crafting items. Just make sure to round off the edges, so you don't leave anything sharp!
All you need to convert one of these enclosures into a cat bed is something for padding.
An old pillow, an old sweater, some batting or padding (seeing a theme here?); pretty much anything works.
A basket is a great choice, too, because you can tie a cat toy or two to the weaving, so the bed doubles as an entertainment center for your fur baby.
He or she can tire him- or herself out playing with a string toy, then crawl into the bed for a nap.
One clever idea we've seen is to use a small bracket to secure a wire basket to the wall for an elevated perch your kitty can use to keep an eye on their surroundings.
It's no secret that cats like to hang out in high places, so giving him or her a wall-mounted basket bed can be a great idea, especially if it lets him or her watch you while you're home, and win-win you get to watch your fur baby right back.
If you go with this option, make sure to mount your bed to a wall stud so there's no chance it will fall. Additionally, make sure your kitty has access to it without needing to traverse surfaces you wouldn't want him or her walking across.
The Knitted Option
If you're crafty, here's a great option for you; a knitted cat bed!
All it takes is a pattern, some yarn, the right tools, and some padding to make a perfect cat bed for your feline friend.
You can find patterns around the internet; here's another pattern we liked. Don't forget; you're not limited to knitting, either!
Want to crochet, macrame, or sew a cat bed? You can do that too.
The best part about this kind of cat bed is that it's entirely customizable.
You can pick any yarn you like so long as it's safe, has natural fibers, and free of toxic dyes.
You can make it larger or smaller to suit your fur baby's preferences. You can pick any color, choose any padding you like, and make it as simple or as complex as you want. Make it a cave! The choice is yours.
The Shelf Hammock
This is another wall-mounted option, perfect for those fur babies that love to linger up high.
All you need is two shelf mounts, a bit of wood, and a stretch of fabric. Mount the shelf brackets on studs securing them to the wall at the perfect height and placement for your feline friend.
Use wooden blocks to secure the fabric to the shelf mounts.
These blocks help keep the fabric stretched out rather than bunched up against the wall and prevents it from falling off the mounts.
The fabric should be something thick and soft, with a bit of give to it, but not so thin that your fur baby might tear through it or stretch it to the point of failure.
If you don't have the time, the right materials, don't have tools for assembly, don't want to put something together out of scraps, or even if you've tried and your cat just doesn't like it, there's always the option to buy a cat bed instead.
Vegetable dyes are 100% azo-free, and so they won't hurt either your cat via dermal absorption or the environment when they need to be discarded and replaced. They're 100% safe for your cat, the planet, and you.
**Save $5 PLUS free shipping with coupon code Catcave5 on any of our cat caves.
Over to you, does your cat prefer cardboard boxes over fancy cat beds? Have you ever tried to make a cat bed for you kitty? Do you have any other DIY ideas for cat beds? Please leave us your comments below.
One more thing, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in China), 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 30K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).