Let’s be honest, DIY projects can at times, be a huge headache and not worth the trouble. That’s where this guide to building your very own DIY cat wheel comes in handy.
Cat exercise wheels can be a fantastic addition to your cat’s life. Yes, even your old cat who has seen it all before could benefit from having one.
They can come at a high cost and that is why many want to learn how to make a cat wheel for themselves. It’s no easy feat though so I’ve put together this easy to follow step by step guide for you.
Keep reading below if you’re ready to get started! I hope this helps.
What Is A Cat Wheel?
A cat wheel, or cat exercise wheel, works in the same way as a hamster wheel does. It’s either fixed to a wall or has its own roller system allowing your cat to stretch their legs and go for a walk or run inside the wheel.
Cats will use the wheel in the same way we use a treadmill, to go for walks, exercise, or reduce stress.
If you have a mostly indoor cat that is perhaps bored of their Cat Tree, exercise wheels make for an excellent alternative.
Before You Get Started Here Is What You Will Need
Before starting your cat wheel project, you will need some basic materials to put together your very own free-standing wheel.
The materials you will need to build your cat exercise wheel are as follows.
- Roller wheels of your choice
- Plywood or Aluminum sheets
- Wood or Metal Screws and bolts
- Specialized wood glue
- Carpet or Rubber Matting
If you opt for a wall mounted option you’ll need to find a suitable mounting place in your home as well as a mounting option. A list of materials needed would look like the following.
Wall Mount: (Recommended)
- 2 x Pillow block bearings
- 1″ Black pipe fitting suitable for block bearing attachment
- Plywood or Aluminum sheets
- Wood or Metal Screws and bolts
- Specialized glue
I want you to know that you have options for the type of movement your cat wheel will have. There are simple wheel spinners such as rollerblade wheels or, you can mount a pole on the wall and use a fixed bearing set up.
The wall mount is the more difficult choice, but really it’s up to you. Below is a guide on what’s needed.
Whether using Plywood or Aluminum, be sure to pick up slightly more than required as a rule of thumb. I recommend some strong plywood for the backboard of the wheel and then thinner more flexible plywood for the interior of the wheel.
Some wood or metal screws and bolts are needed.
Also, a handy toolkit like the CARTMAN Orange 39-Piece Tool Set for assembly.
- Contains the tools needed for most small...
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A strong suitable Glue for joining the required pieces will be needed.
Wood Stain if you plan on staining afterward, or think of some coverings. ( Some people use yoga mats ) A good quality JigSaw will be needed for the majority of the work.
I recommend using the TACKLIFE Advanced 6.7 Amp 3000 SPM Jigsaw with Laser & LED
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Okay, let’s get started then!
Step 1: Making The Form
You’ll need to first measure out the form. I recommend opting for one that’s 4 feet in diameter or 49-inch diameter.
I found this to be an ideal diameter, of course, it depends on the size of the wheel you want, and the room you are putting it in.
If you have a large breed of cat, you might want to consider going slightly larger in diameter.
Mark an exact center point on the piece of wood and use a pin and marker with a ruler to draw the perfect circle.
This will be your guide when making the cut but before doing so you can use cardboard as a guide as well. You should be measuring twice and cutting once.
Once you have your perfect circle marked out, you can then begin to cut along your line using a good-quality jigsaw. To make life easier, you can drill out a hole near your line using a hole saw and then switch to the jigsaw to trace out your line.
You will need to do this for two pieces of plywood.
Once you have finished cutting out the form you will want to sand the outer edges to smooth it all off. Make sure you’re wearing a proper mask when doing this, sawdust is very harmful to our lungs.
If you have done this correctly you should end up with two solid pieces of 49-inch diameter circles.
You can roll your cut-out pieces along a flat surface to make sure you’re happy with them.
Don’t hollow out one of the forms just yet though, we will save that for later.
Step 2: Making The Support Slats
Next up you will want to make support strips for the wheel. I would recommend about 13 inches in length to create a wide enough platform for your cat to walk or run on.
There are two ways you can connect your slats. Option one is to place them on the outer part of your forms as shown below.
Option two and the one I would recommend is to place them internally. You will need to use fewer slats and it’s a lot easier to line everything up.
The image below shows you what internal slats should look like. Keep in mind the form is already hollowed out in the pic.
Once you have cut up a bunch of slats go ahead and lay down one piece of the form on the ground.
You should then begin to attach the support slats using strong wood glue and straps and clamps. Once you have attached all the slats and clamped them all down, you need to allow the glue 24 to 48 hours to dry.
Be aware that clamping your slats with a strap could damage your straps. The sharp wooden edges can cut and fray your straps. For this reason, it’s best to use clamps where possible.
Once dry, you’re ready to attach the other form using the same method and also allowing it to dry for 24 to 48 hours.
After allowing everything to dry over a couple of days you should now be ready to measure out the internal wheel needed to cut out one side.
Step 3: Hollow Out The Form
Now that everything is secured together and looking strong, you will want to begin to hollow out one side of the form.
To do this you should follow the procedure in step one. Find the center point of the inner wheel and mark it with a pin. Attach a ruler and measure the desired circumference.
Simple math should let you know the maximum size you can cut to depending on the width of your slats.
Go ahead and make the cut taking your time and proper safety measures. Once you’re done you are now ready for the next step.
Step 4: The Running Surface
You will begin to fill the center with flexible plywood. A combination of wood glue or nails can be used to fix the ply to the support sticks. Just be sure to get the nails flush.
Take your time here as this will determine how smooth your running surface will be. Once you have filled in the form, allow this to dry overnight and use clamps to keep it all secured.
Come back again and cut off the remaining plywood that is no longer needed. Keep it aside for another DIY project you might have.
Step 5: Fill In Any Gaps
It’s time to give the wheel a once-over and check for any gaps that might be present.
If you see some gaps use a good quality wood filler to fill them in and sand them smooth.
Step 6: Mounting The Exercise Wheel
There are many mounting options or ways to get your wheel to spin. You can build a base with wheel runners (this is very tricky and not something I’d recommend) that will allow the wheel to spin or you can go for the wall-mounted option.
If you have the know-how, I’d recommend wall mounting over freestanding for the most sturdy cat wheel. Of course, that means it’s no longer able to be moved as easily.
Don’t expect your wheel to be perfectly balanced on the first go. It may take some adjusting or thinking outside the box to get your wheel steady.
When mounting anything for our pets to use, you will usually want to reinforce it with over engineered bolts.
Check out the images below for an example of what I mean.
Drill holes for the shaft in the forms blackboard piece (the non cut out one). For drilling holes, drill until the drill point comes out the backside of the material and then flip the item over, and use the hole where the drill point came out to drill back to the center.
You’ll avoid having an ugly hole in your work.
You can use a short, three-quarter inch bolt to clamp all of the pieces together through the center hole of the assembly after applying liberal amounts of white wood glue to the facing surfaces of the gear and square.
Step 7: Making The Base
If you do decide to make a base please note: It’s extremely difficult to get the required precision needed for a completely balanced wheel. Expect some wobbles.
In order to prevent it from falling over, cut out an area of plywood that has a similar width as your wheel’s diameter. Make sure the wood is thick and strong enough to hold the wheel off the floor while a cat runs on it.
For the caster wheel mechanism, drill a hole through the top of the wood. Bolt the wood securely to the plywood, then add another 45-degree support to each side as shown above.
Making a base by hand is EXTREMELY difficult if you don’t have extensive woodworking skills. For an example of an impressive base made by hand have a look at this article.
Step 8: Adding Some Grip
Grab some second-hand carpet or rubber mats to line the inner wheel and create a grip surface for your cat. Make sure to use strong adhesive and allow proper time to dry.
Some people have used yoga mats as an alternative and that seemed to work well for them.
Step 9: Seal It Or Stain It
Ah, what an effort. But you’re not quite done yet.
You should look into sealing or staining your cat wheel to lock in any odor or to simply add to its visual appeal.
Cat wheels can be a bit of an eyesore so any decoration is welcomed.
Let’s Wrap This Up
While I hope this guide was useful in some way, I understand that not everyone is handy with tools. If this was all a bit too much and you’re still wanting an exercise wheel for your cat, then here are some recommendations.
If you’ve made it this far and still need convincing on your DIY project, check out this awesome video below.
If you still really don’t fancy a cat wheel diy, you can always look into purchasing a cat tree with a cat wheel included.
Here’s one I’d recommend below.
Penn-Plax Wheeled 35-in Sisal Cat Tree
Last update on 2023-01-26 at 10:55 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API