Build Cat Scratch Posts with Sisal Rope

Tips on Building a Tall, Basic, Sturdy Cat Scratcher

Cat and scratching post

First of all, you need to know that I have produced sisal rope scratching posts for over 20 years - thousands of them. This is to establish the fact that I had better know by now the in's and out's of this! One thing I've learned is that people will go to a store displaying one of my works, and will conclude that they could make one of these pieces of cat furniture themselves, using readily available materials. In their mind (and I guess in yours, too!), it's just a matter of getting a post, some rug and rope, a flat panel for the base, and VOILA! A sisal cat scratcher is born. I regard you cat lovers to be handy, resourceful, and patient. You CAN build cat furniture. Just know that you will invest several hours of your valuable time and the money for the materials you don't have lying around the house. So take a moment and read a catman's advice for how to make a cat scratcher, and save yourself a little time and aggravation. 

To make a scratching post:


  • Hammer to bang each row of rope against the last as you wrap.
  • Drill with bits to predrill holes in the base and with drivers that will drive your screws.
  • Carpet blade or utility knife to cut your carpet and your rope. NOTE: these suckers are RAZORS, so use caution.
  • Staple gun to attach the carpet to the base.
  • Circular or table saw to cut your components
  • Glue gun -- a common craft-type hot melt glue gun could help attach your rope to the post, as well as your carpet to the base.
  • Level to check that you are making a relatively straight post.
  • Work gloves to hold the rope and apply some tension on it as you wrap it.


  • Rope: Many scratching post makers use 1/4" sisal rope. I would advise you to bump that up to 3/8". It'll make your post last much longer. In addition, I have found Brazilian rope to be easy to work with, and it's also fairly dry. By this I mean it is not heavily oiled. Regardless of claims by the high profile cat furniture websites, sisal rope has to be lightly lubricated in order to run it through the machines at the factory. Yes, folks, it is made in a factory, and not hand woven in a third world country. So, look for 3/8" Brazilian sisal. A nice, tall post will require no more than 200 feet of it. You can buy a continuous running length of this rope, and I would advise you to do this to avoid having to splice pieces together. Sisal rope is very rough, and when you are wrapping it onto your post, you'll need to use at least one glove to hold the end of the rope. NOTE: do not wet this rope. It can cause mold to grow on your finished creation. Plus, it does not serve any useful purpose. This rope has a little give to it, and if you apply tension as you wrap, it should remain tight enough throughout the life of the scratching post.
  • Post: There are several options. If you want to go for a wood post, you can find fairly round posts at a fencing supply center. If you want something that is totally round, you should go in search of a thick paper tube. Plug your tube with a tight-fitting section of lumber. It can even run the length of your tube. You can cut it so that it just fits inside the tube with a little coaxing from a hammer. Secure that wood with some nails. The wood plug will also serve as something to anchor your tube to the base. If you're going with the round wood post, make sure it's very straight, and that it has no splits that can compromise the integrity of the finished product.
  • Base: Many homes have pieces of plywood lying about, and any plywood panel will do fine as long as it has the following properties: it is not warped, it's at least 3/8" thick, and also at least 16" square. A good rule of thumb is to make your base at least 60% of the height of your intended post. So, a 32" post will need roughly a 19x19" base.
  • Carpet: If you're using carpet, I'd suggest cut pile, or plush carpet. This type of carpet is easier to work with than Berber or commercial grade carpet. In general, it also makes a more attractive finished post.
  • Other materials: Drywall screws, lag bolts (if you want to have an iron-clad connection at the base), washers to fit your screws, 1" wire nails (to fasten the rope to the post), staples (at least 1/2" long).


  1. Cut all of your components. Cut the carpet square at least 3" larger than the plywood square. Cut a hole in the center of the carpet to let the post fit flush onto the base.
  2. Fit everything together (except the rope) to check your design. Adjust as needed.
  3. Cut a hole in the center of your base's carpet to allow the post to fit flush against the panel. Apply carpet to the base using staple gun and/or glue gun. Fold the carpet under to the bottom of the base and secure it.
  4. Wrap your cat scratching post. Make sure that the rope is tight, and that there are no spaces between rows. Use the hammer for this. You can attach the ends with wire nails and/or glue. Make sure that the nails are really socked in there. There is no need to drive nails throughout your wrapping, but if you get tired or interrupted, you can use one to hold the rope in place. When you resume, pull the nail back out. Wrap the rope to the top, and drive several nails in to secure it. You can put some carpet on top of the post to give it a finished look, or you could run the rope over the top, and coil the rope to an end there.
  5. Make sure you have pre-drilled all of your holes. On the base, you drill just a little larger than your screws or bolts. Fitting the cat scratching posts to the base, and with the two sections upside down, pre-drill into your post, with holes just a little smaller than any screws you are using.
  6. Fit your screws with washers and drive your screws through the base and into the post. It would help to have two extra hands for this. Unless you are a 4-handed human, call a spouse or a friend to come give you a hand in steadying the structure while you do this part.

Get yourself a piece of string that is at least twice as long as the rope. Place your finished cat scratchers near a comfy chair and drape the string over the top of the post, letting it fall down the length of the post. When your cat comes to investigate, pull the string very slowly so the free end climbs the cat scratch post. Your cat should follow, and she'll most likely be convinced that you've just made something really cool for her!


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