A Cat On A Shelf

Elves on shelves are old hat, but tonight’s project was for my wife. In one of their exam rooms at her animal hospital they have a tree painted on the wall (painted by one of the staff).

They want some “cat perches” in the tree branches. So she asked me to make some wooden perches.

First I modeled it in OnShape with a parametric design. I realized I probably wouldn’t have enough proof grade maple on hand, so made it totally parametric with thickness as a parameter. I luckily had ordered a big pack of 12x24 1/8" birch ply from amazon and it came last night.

I used the Laser Joint feature script to create the tabs/slots. Worked great, and when I changed from 1/4" to 1/8" (because that’s what I had) it all compensated perfectly. I just exported the faces as DXF rather than going through Kiri.Moto for slicing, as it’s only 7 faces.

Stacked them up in AI into 2 cut sheets, and off I went. Now I was a little nervous that the slots/tabs wouldn’t match, so while I had really nice surface engraves, I chose to do a 2 stage build. Step 1 do all the cuts, and if it worked mechanically do engraving.

Amazingly with one tiny exception worked perfectly (noted the front panel needed a small slot for the ends of the angle braces, so quick apply of the script and reexport, and a 3 minute cut.

I noted the wood had a reasonable amount of flashback since I hadn’t masked it, but instead of worrying, I decided to own it since I was going to put some sort of leafy motif, I would just incorporate that level of noise.

I found some nice cat paw prints and a really nice wood/tree/vine motif that would go well with the wall tree, AI auto-trace, and so put the pieces back in and engraved.

So I only blue-taped it together as I am going to check the fit on the wall at her hospital, and if it is good, will then sand and finish it, so didn’t want to glue it up yet. She wants at least one more now that she’s seen it, which will be much easier as I will engrave and cut in one step, so less moving/repositioning…


Oh before someone notes the gap in the tabs in the last pic, they fit perfectly, just blue taped, and in that position sort of slid… Friction fit isn’t going to hold that much torque in 1/8" ply.


Great idea.


That looks great! Love the engraving. Cats will be purring away for your wife!


Can’t imagine someone wants it, but in case you want to make your own cat perch, here is the STEP file:

Cat Shelf.step (981.3 KB)


Are you kitten me? Those are Purr-fect! Any cat would be feline fine sitting in one of those !! I really did paws and admire that project! :smile_cat:


Dang, that looks good. I have been wrestling with OnShape for three days now and I finally go a shelf design defined enought that I was able to go from 1/8" 12 x 12 to 10 x 8 1/4" acrylic without breaking it. Tweaking the kerf parameters now but it’s time to go to bed. I can’t imagine how I’d add the sides of the top shelf and the tabs. Thanks for your help today. The Kiri.Moto plugin is absolutely amazing. Struggled with the Auto Layout featurescript, but it works. I am just in awe of the programming that must go into something like OnShape. It’s a thing of beauty.

Thanks again for sharing and as always inspiring us all to keep on creating.


Use the Laser joint Featurescript. I’ll share an example document with you so you can see how it works.


Great project! Thanks for sharing your design–we’ve got some test cats that might want to try it.

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Ha. That falls into the mantra I used when I taught grade school tech: if you can think of an automatic, faster way to do something, chances are someone else has too and written a feature to solve that problem. Usually it was about basic things like the tab key and tab stops rather than just pressing the space bar. Thanks.


It looks wonderful, you could have just done the project but the way it is decorated gives it a special touch.:smile_cat: the cats will love it.


Isn’t that great? Get the design just right, and it’s easy to make a bunch of them later on. s w e e t

Thanks for writing up this great design! :smile_cat:


Tutorial is now up:


Note that the tutorial location is not yet accessible to everyone–it is currently being organized and will open up once that work is done.

I realize that, but by the time they open up, I’ll forget to come back and put it in the thread since it relates to it.

Fit testing, fits perfectly. Also got dimensions for the steps up to it which have to go behind the doors.


Cute design. I’m sure the cats will love them.

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Sturdy enough? Some can get a little hefty and add in the forces from jumping from one to another can be a lot of load.

But it’ll land on its feet.:pouting_cat::footprints:

It’s plenty strong, but we were talking that we should engrave a sign next to each shelf with “If your cat is too heavy for this shelf, please speak with your veterinarian about our weight loss programs”