Chicago Apartment Dweller Cleverly Adds Cat Climbing Spaces

Posted on September 22, 2017 under Cat Articles

Brenna Malmberg, Houzz.

Andy and Ollie may have different personalities, but both appreciate the DIY project their mom completed for them.

By Lisa Harmon – See more Home Design Photos

Photos from Lisa Harmon

Pets at a Glance Pets: Ollie and Andy, both domestic shorthairs Age: Both 3 Location: Chicago Owner: Lisa Harmon, a hairstylist at Penny Lane Studios

Meet Ollie: He’s the tabby cat on the left, and known as the timid one of the duo. “He’s big on hiding and napping when there’s a lot going on,” Harmon says. He also scares easily, so he rarely ventures outside. He’s much happier burrowed under the blankets on Harmon’s bed.

Meet Andy: This curious orange cat does the exploring for his brother. He loves to go outside in the warmer months. He also knows how to fetch. “Bottle caps are his favorite to chase,” Harmon says, “so I throw them for him until he loses them under the couch.”

By Lisa Harmon – See more Home Design Photos

DIY cat furnishings: Harmon read that cats like to explore vertically, so she added cat shelves around her apartment living room. She spent a day sketching a design and measuring the space and decided to add shelves above the windows and smaller steps on the wall.

Then she went off to the home improvement store, had the wood cut to size, painted the pieces white and attached them to the wall with brackets. For traction, she added carpet to the tops of the shelves.

“There’s only so much you can do in a rental, and after living in a space for a few years, it’s easy to feel uninspired by your surroundings,” Harmon says. “I was super excited to be able to create something practical for the cats that also blended really well with my aesthetic.”

By Lisa Harmon – See more Home Design Photos

Climbing time: The staggered wall shelves give Andy and Ollie easy access to the longer, higher shelves above the windows.

“Once it was all set up, they took to it really quick,” Harmon says. “I think they love having a good view of everything from up top.”

By Lisa Harmon – See more Home Design Photos

Curiosity killed the plants: The cats may look uninterested in the potted plants now, but as youngsters they thoroughly enjoyed digging in them and knocking them to the floor. “I was always trying to find higher ground for the plants but the cats were determined to destroy,” Harmon says. Now the two are pretty good, but Harmon has learned to put the plants up higher or to give the cats a distraction, such as the shelves.

Related: Keep Plants Out of Reach With Plant Stands

Added decor: Andy and Ollie have multiple scratching posts around the apartment to keep them from scratching the furniture, especially while Harmon and her roommate are away. So far only the couch has suffered a bit of damage. “As a pet owner,” Harmon says, “I think you have to expect a certain amount of destruction.”

By Lisa Harmon – See more Home Design Photos

Lazy days: These two spend much of their day napping around the house. “For them, no spot is un-nappable, but in the sun by the window is prime real estate,” Harmon says. Their favorite spots include the couch, the chair by the front door and her bed.

Related: 50 Cats Soaking Up the Last Days of Summer

By Lisa Harmon – See more Home Design Photos

Soak up the sun: When they aren’t asleep, Andy and Ollie like to watch the neighborhood. Harmon leaves the window sills open for the cats, which doesn’t help with growing plants. “Cats win over plants any day,” she says.

By Lisa Harmon – See more Home Design Photos

Home, sweet home: “I love the little ways they have made the apartment theirs,” Harmon says. “Their personalities are so funny and different, and it’s really interesting to watch them move through the space in their own little ways. They add so much to the atmosphere of the apartment and the place always feels full of life. It truly wouldn’t be a home without them.”

Learn more: Is cat health insurance worth it?

This article is part of a collaboration between Houzz and Pets Best, a U.S. pet health insurance agency founded in 2005. To learn more visit