Savannah kittens make wonderful housemates…if you stay two steps ahead of their inventive little minds. Give them enough “legal” stuff to do, and they won’t edit your art collection (i.e., break stuff).

Museum gel only goes so far. I tried giving them a “highly difficult” dog puzzle with treat-containing cups that move along a track. Your dog slides the cups until they hit the wide spot in the track, where he can upend the cups and chomp the treat.

It’s guaranteed to keep your dog occupied for weeks. The kittens liberated all the treats in about 15 minutes and then, bored, headed for the bathroom to play toilet bowl jacuzzi (they LIKE water).

So much for games. I made them a cat gym.


The kits tend to stick close to me when I’m home, and grow bored when I’m otherwise engaged. That meant that the best place for a cat gym was probably my office.

Lola’s already scaled the printer cabinet and likes to sun herself on a 12-ft high window sill, so I wanted the gym to satisfy their urge to climb high and look outside safely.

My house is full of enticingly high ledges and cabinet tops that the kittens would love to turn into perches. I’ve already lost a couple of sculptures to their shelf-climbing mishaps, so whatever I made needed to also scale across the house as a “legal” way to reach those things.

And for the sake of rugs and furniture I’d incorporate a scratching post.


I did some research online and found a very nice “cat ladder” made from inexpensive Ikea shelves. (The site is “Ikea Hackers,” and it’s worth a look; I had no idea you could do so much coolth with Ikea.)

I liked the looks of it, so I took some measurements and headed for Ikea. Turns out the shelves are called Ekby and they’re offered in a variety of sizes, shapes and bracket styles. I spent $125 on this stuff:

  • 2 Ekby Jarpen 31-inch shelves with brackets
  • 1 Ekby Karl double-curved shelf
  • 3 extra pairs of 7.5 inch brackets
  • 4 feet of black indoor-outdoor carpeting
  • Double-faced carpet tape
  • Anchor and “WingIt” fasteners
  • 2 skeins of sisal rope

I already had a screwdriver, saw, electric drill, staple gun, hammer and level,  and some old shelves I didn’t need anymore. I carted my treasures home, got out the blue painter’s tape and started planning.

Ekby Karl is a long shelf with two outward curves; cutting the shelf in half would give me two slick-looking cat perches. I’d cut one of the two standard shelves to serve as “stairs” to reach the perches (and the top of the printer cabinet).

The idea was to place a series of small, carpeted shelves up the wall, leading to the top of the printer cabinet. There would be a scratchpost underneath, and the design had to account for Lola’s extreme athleticism and Nikki’s more grounded nature.

I didn’t want a kitten leaping onto a slick wooden shelf and crashing to the floor, so the gym needed good traction. Indoor-outdoor carpeting worked nicely, and looked nice (at least until it was covered with cat hair). It also provided auxiliary scratchposts.


The kits were using the gym before I’d finished installing the second perch, and the top of the printer cabinet has become one of their favorite nap spots. I had leftover indoor-outdoor carpet and double-faced carpet tape, so I carpeted the cabinet top, too. It gives them extra traction, and also keeps my farmer’s market basket (which is now a cat bed) from sliding off.

Where it used to take me about 45 minutes of hard playing to tire them out (these guys need to work off a LOT of energy), rollercoastering up and down these shelves does the same thing in 20 minutes.

But this is just phase 1 of the cat gym. In phase 2 I’ll add the scratching post, which is getting to be more of a production than I thought.

Lola’s already trying to step across wall-mounted glass sculptures to get to the overhead beams in the dining room, so in Phase 3 I’ll upholster a few more shelves and let her climb up there “legally.”

After that, who knows?

*Lost the first two pieces of glass as Nikki figured out how to use the top of the display cabinet to reach the clerestory window sill 12 feet off the floor. Unfortunately, the top display shelf could hold EITHER a questing cat or the giant, handblown purple bowl I’d forgotten to museum-gel down. The bowl sailed off into a second bowl on a nearby cabinet, so Nikki managed to take out two artworks in a single bound.

Lost the third piece, a rather nice 4-foot urn, when Nikki and Lola climbed up to eat the pussy willows it held. I exercised my disciplinary spirit and zapped Nikki on the rump with a water pistol. Big mistake; she leapt off as if shot from a cannon and the recoil sent the earn across the room. Ooops. 

Lost the fourth piece when I brought home ONE catnip mouse. A war broke out for possession, and somebody body-slammed into a delicate tack-fused stringer sculpture about two feet long. The kittens, fortunately, weren’t hurt, but the sculpture hit the floor and…DOA.

The fifth, a really beautiful ceramic sculpture by a friend, lost its head when the moth the kittens were chasing headed for the ceiling. The sculpture was the tallest thing on that side of the room but apparently failed as a diving platform. She repaired it for me and I hid it in the guest room closet, and kept the guest room door closed. That’s how I discovered that Lola can (a) turn doorknobs and (b) open sliding doors to a closet. At some point I’ll gather up the courage to ask Maria to play all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men. Again.

The sixth…well, you get the idea.