How To Build a DIY Cat Wheel

Have a cat who likes (or needs) to run? A cat wheel can work off all that energy, and it's DIY-able.

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Next Project

A full weekend or longer




More than $200


Here's everything you need to make an exercise wheel for your feline friend.

Tools Required

  • Circular saw
  • Drill and drill bit set
  • Forstner bit - 1-in.
  • Hacksaw
  • Hammer
  • Handheld sander or sanding block
  • Jigsaw
  • Miter saw
  • Painter's tape
  • Pencil
  • Router (optional)
  • Speed square
  • Staple gun
  • Tape measure
  • Tongue and groove pliers (2)
  • Utility -carpet or X-acto knife
  • Wood clamps

Materials Required

  • 1-in. wood dowels (13)
  • 2x4 lumber - 8-ft. (2)
  • 4x8-ft. plywood (1/2-in. minimum)
  • 5/16-in. bolts (1-1/2-in. long and minimum) and nuts and washers (4)
  • 5/8-in. roller ball bearing
  • Artificial turf or carpet runner
  • Cardboard scrap for compass
  • Heavy-duty caster- 2-in.
  • Paint (optional)
  • Sandpaper
  • Staples for staple gun
  • Wood glue
  • Wood screws - 2-in. and 1-1/4-in.

If you’ve spent any time on the cat internet, you’ve probably seen a few cat wheels. Like their hamster wheel forebears, cat wheels spin on an axis or rest on a skateboard-wheel base. Internet cats, usually Bengals and other large breeds, happily exercise while their owners binge-watch Netflix.

I have a big chunk of a cat who could stand to lose a few pounds, so I decided to make a cat wheel. Although cardboard incarnations exist, I chose wood. A plywood wheel, pine lath running platform and 2×4 base practically guaranteed the whole thing wouldn’t collapse on my chubster.

Plywood and 2x4s were no problem. But after finding three stores sold out of wood lath, I thought about dowels. They’re strong, first of all. And when fitted and glued into the plywood backing, I figured they’d provide plenty of support for the carpet runway. Best of all, they were in stock.

Well. Dowels were a fine idea, but half-inchers were way too small and unwieldy to glue and clamp efficiently. If you decide to make this, go with one-inch dowels.

Also, before you jump in, know that cat wheels make noise — at least this one does. I used a heavy-duty caster and roller ball bearing to support and roll the wheel, and that ball bearing on plywood is loud.

Instead, consider using two radial bearings and an axle for quieter operation.

Building a DIY cat wheel takes several days. I tried to iron out most of the kinks I encountered, but honestly, this is a labor of love.

Finally, there’s no guarantee your cat will use this. If your cat already enjoys running on a wheel, you’ll probably have more luck than I have so far. I’m not a fan of the no-reward frustration of laser pointers, but this time I made an exception, with marginal success.

It’s a fun project, though, and certainly a conversation piece. Let’s get started.

Project step-by-step (12)

Step 1

Cut plywood

  • Cut 4- by 8-ft. plywood into two 4- by 4-ft. pieces with a circular saw.
  • Find and mark the centers with your tape measure.
  • Make a compass out of cardboard to draw circles on 4- by 4-ft. plywood pieces:
    • Cut cardboard into a narrow strip longer than the radius of circle.
    • Attach one end to center of plywood with screw or nail.
    • Measure 21 inches from center, poke a hole for the pencil and draw a 42-in. circle with the compass.
  • Cut both plywood pieces into 42-in. circles using a jigsaw or router.
  • Adjust the compass radius and draw a 39-in. circle on one piece of plywood, and a 39-in. and 36-in. circle on the other.
  • Cut out the 36-in. circle, leaving a 3-in. ring of wood. Set aside the 36-in. circle to use for the base.

circles cut from plywoodAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 2

Cut dowels and 2x4s

  • Tape three to five dowels together into bundles.
  • Cut into 1-ft. sections using a miter saw.
  • Cut one 2×4 into four equal pieces.
  • Cut the other 2×4 into one 34-in. piece. Reserve the other end for later.

Cutting dowelsAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 3

Drill holes

  • Mark the 39-in. lines on both plywood pieces at 2-1/2-in. intervals (if using 1-in. dowels).
  • Use the 1-in. Forstner bit to drill holes halfway through both pieces of plywood on your marks.
  • Cut the 3-in. ring piece into four sections to make it easier to glue in the next step.
    • I had difficulty gluing the top ring piece onto dowels, so I cut it in sections. If you can do it and have enough clamps, this step is optional.

drilling holes in plywood circle around the edgesAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 4

Glue dowels

  • Place a 42-in. circle flat on workbench with the center mark up.
  • Do a dry run with dowels, fitting them into holes to make sure they fit and will stand evenly.
  • Apply wood glue to the holes in one quarter section. Insert dowels, turn and push to fully seat dowels in holes.
  • Apply wood glue to top of dowels and place one top ring section.
  • Clamp the section in at least two spots, making sure dowels are maintained at 90-degree angle to base.
  • Repeat with other sections. Clamp ring sections together and tack with staples to hold as glue dries.

glueing on dowelsAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 5

Build base

  • Just like with a cat tree, a cat wheel needs a sturdy base.
  • Stand the four equal-sized 2x4s on end and form into a square. Glue ends and screw together.

Base CornersAlly Childress for Family Handyman

  • Place base on top of saved 36-in. plywood circle and draw around the perimeter with pencil.
  • Cut the plywood along line with circular saw. Attach square plywood piece to base with glue and screws. Flip over.
  • Attach the 34-inch 2×4 vertically at back of base, centered, short side against the back.

base uprightAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 6

Make and attach cross braces

Cross braces should be beveled (angled on the face of the board) to support the upright. Forty-five degree angles are a good choice.

  • Measure the distance from the side of the upright 2×4 to the side wall of base.
  • Divide the distance by 0.707, the cosine of a 45-degree angle.
  • Cut the cross braces at this length, beveling both ends 45 degrees with a miter saw.
  • Fit cross braces between upright 2×4 and base, glue and attach with screws.

 Bevel Cross Braces Ally Childress for Family Handyman

Step 7

Make plywood support

  • Cut a roughly 6-in. by 6-in. or larger square of plywood for extra support in the center of the wheel.
  • Using a Speed square, draw bisecting perpendicular lines through the center all the way to the edges.
  • Trim with jigsaw to make it cat-shaped (or any shape you want), or keep as a square.

Cat Wheel Cat Cutout 1 Diy Cat Wheel Ally Childress For Fhm JveditAlly Childress for Family Handyman

  • Hold the caster backing centered on the pencil lines and draw the four bolt holes onto the plywood.
  • Drill out the holes with a 3/8-in. bit.
  • Center cutout on wheel backing and trace bolt holes onto plywood. Drill out holes.
Step 8

Prepare upright

  • Disassemble caster and remove wheel. Keep the bolt and nut.
  • Fit caster snugly on vertical 2×4 two inches from the top and mark bolt holes. Remove.
  • Drill hole straight through marks on 2×4 with a 1/2-in. drill bit.
  • Attach caster with reserved bolt and nut.
  • Attach 5/8-in. roller ball bearing 18 to 20 inches below the caster to provide wheel support and reduce friction.

Roller Ball Bearing Ally Childress for Family Handyman

Step 9

Attach wheel to base

  • Place wheel upright on ground. Grab a helper for the next steps.
  • Lift wheel and slide one bolt with washer through plywood into corresponding bolt hole on caster. Add a washer and spin on a nut.
  • Have your helper support the wheel while you add the rest of the hardware.

Attach Wheel To CasterAlly Childress for Family Handyman

  • Tighten all bolts and nuts with a nut driver and tongue-and-groove pliers or two sets of pliers.
  • Spin the wheel to verify it works. If needed, cut bolts flush with a hacksaw.

Cut Bolts With HacksawAlly Childress for Family Handyman

  • Add hook and eye to the back of wheel and base to prevent it from moving when needed.
Step 10


  • Paint plywood, dowels and base, or leave as natural wood.
  • If using spray paint, do it in a well-ventilated garage or outside. You don’t want your cat-themed DIY to make you or your family sick.
    • Cover plants and structures nearby to spare from overspray.

 Paint Diy Cat Wheel Ally Childress for Family Handyman

Step 11

Add carpet runner

  • Your DIY cat furniture isn’t complete without a carper runner
  • Cut carpet runner 1-in. wider than running platform.
  • Roll up and fit inside wheel. Line up visible edge flush with wheel.

 Add Carpet Runner Ally Childress for Family Handyman

  • Add carpet tape or glue. Unroll and press carpet to dowels, keeping edge flush.
  • Fold front edge up onto inside of wheel as you go.
  • Staple front edge of carpet to inside front side of wheel.

Staple Carpet Ally Childress for Family Handyman

Step 12

Add turf and finishes

  • Finish base, if not painted, with turf or carpet.
  • Glue or staple turf or carpet to outside edge of wheel.

Add Turf Ally Childress for Family Handyman

  • Cover the center cutout with turf, add scratchers or otherwise decorate as you see fit.

Cat Wheel Add Turf To Cutout Diy Cat Wheel Ally Childress For Fhm JveditAlly Childress for Family Handyman

  • Lure your cat onto the wheel and hope for the best.