How to Repair an Old Cat Tree

An easy DIY project

Ellie Daforge
3 min readOct 16, 2019
Photo by Cong H on Unsplash

Updated 1/23/2021 with more tips after I repaired my tree a second time!

Cat trees are a must-have for the feline in your life. They allow cats to have scratching posts, as well as their own areas to climb, play, and sleep.

But cats put their claws to good use, tearing up trees over time. I recently noticed that one of my cats’ trees was worn out. The sisal rope was coming off, and the fabric was torn. I couldn’t find another tree that was a similar height and style, and more complex ones were $100 or more.

The bones of this tree were still good, so rather than throw the entire thing out, I decided to repair it. It was surprisingly easy, so I decided to write up a guide. Just remember to keep the kitties away while you’re doing the heavy-duty cleaning, cutting, and gluing.

Gather materials

You’ll need:

  • a stiff-bristled brush or handheld vacuum cleaner
  • carpet cleaner
  • sisal rope
  • a knife or scissors
  • fabric/wood glue (I used Gorilla glue) or a glue gun
  • soft, thick fabric (such as sherpa fleece)
  • gloves
  • paper towels (optional)
  • scraps of old fabric (optional)

My cost breakdown was about $25, but I had leftover materials to repair the tree again in the future.

Prep

First, check for areas of the tree where the fabric is still good. In my case, the bottom cloth was barely touched, so I didn’t need to replace it.

Brush off any fabric you want to keep, getting all the fur off of it. I used an old cat brush for this. Then, use carpet cleaner to get rid of any stains or odors. When you’re done, the tree will already look a lot better.

Replace the rope

Put on some gloves, such as work or garden gloves, when you’re handling the prickly sisal rope. Cut off any old, frayed sisal rope. It may take awhile to unwind it all.

If you’re not replacing all of the rope, you can try to find rope of a similar size and color. Hardware stores and online shops carry a variety of sisal rope. But if you can’t match it perfectly, don’t worry about it. Mix and match looks are good, and your cats won’t mind.

Glue on the new rope, winding it tightly to the posts. If you use a glue with a strong smell, you will want to pull the tree outside or into a garage while you work on it.

I placed paper towels under the glue bottle in case some dripped out. I also tied scraps of old fabric to where the ends of the sisal rope were glued on, so they stayed in place long enough to dry.

Replace the fabric

To keep your cat tree looking great, replace the fabric as soon as large rips appear. I bought some white “sherpa” fleece to match the color and style of my cats’ tree.

Measure the the width and depth of the area you’ll need to cover. Cut out a square that’s a little bit larger on all sides, so you can glue it to the wood underneath the stand.

Cut off the old fabric. (This part took the longest for me, as the old fabric was securely stuck on.) Apply glue to the post, place the fabric on it, and apply glue to the bottom. Press down tightly to make sure the glue holds.

And voila! A remodeled cat tree.

Safety tip: A lot of trees come with toys dangling off them, but I always cut them off. Cats can get their paws tangled in them. Instead of attaching toys, place your cat tree up against a window so your pet can look outside.

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Ellie Daforge

Article writer, aspiring YA novelist & health scientist.