GADGETS & ACCESSORIES

DIY Cat Exercise Wheel: Long Walks for Your Cat without Going Outdoors

Image of a cat walking on a cat exercise wheel
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Just like walks and exercise are important for our health, they are equally important to our cats. It keeps them from getting obese and helps them stay healthy. But if you have a strictly indoor cat or you live in a snowy area, it is hard to help your cats get the adequate amount of exercise. Sure, you can play with them with cat teaser toys and such, but as you can’t be home all the time, your cat needs something else that will keep them active while you’re away. Our suggestion is to give them a DIY cat exercise wheel so they can stretch their legs whenever they want.

People try to make cats walk on the treadmill, but that doesn’t usually turn out to be very fruitful. Worse, your cat could fall when trying to get down and hurt himself. You can buy specially designed exercise wheels on the market if you have extra cash at hand, but if you’re on a budget, you should build one for your cat at home instead. Contrary to popular opinion, building a DIY cat exercise wheel is quite simple if you know how, and your cat will definitely thank you for being so dedicated to maintaining his health.

Oslo cat runs on her wheel

We have done all the legwork so you wouldn’t have to. Having tried making these ourselves, we are confident that we can now provide you with two easy DIY methods to build an exercise wheel at home. Your cat will love it and will love you even more as they work off their extra energy on the wheel.

How to Make a DIY Cat Exercise Wheel

Before we get to the step-by-step guide on how to build a DIY cat wheel, let’s have a look at how many parts there will be on the exercise wheel. There are three parts that you need to make and then assemble together:

  • The base
  • The support arm
  • The running track

There are several ways to do the building and the assembling, however, keeping in mind that not everyone is used to undertaking DIY projects like this, we’d like to keep it simple by first reviewing a method that includes a bicycle wheel for easy assembling.

Method 1

Items you will need to prepare for the base are:

  • Heavy plywood or natural lumber
  • High-density polyethylene
  • Saw blade
  • Varnish
  • Glue

Preparing the base:

  • Take the sharp saw blade and cut the wood to 2-foot-by-2-foot size.
  • The thickness of each section should be ½ to 1 inch. These will serve as the base of the cat wheel.
  • Make sure the blade you’re using for cutting is sharp enough to avoid creating rough edges.
  • To give a cohesive look to the wood, varnish it after cutting. Or better, varnish the whole thing after fixing all the pieces together.

Attaching the support arm:

  • First, decide on the size of the cat wheel. For larger cats, it is recommended to use a 36-inch wheel with a 20-inch long support. For smaller cats, a 24-inch wheel with a 14-inch support arm would do fine. In short, you should pick a wheel diameter that is twice as long as the distance between the front and back paws of the cat while they are standing.
  • Cut a 2-by-4 wood to the desired length for the support arm.
  • Attach the cut piece to one side of the board and center it on a single edge.
  • To attach it efficiently, use heavy-duty wood nails. Drive the nails in from under the base and secure the support arm to the large piece of wood.
  • Be very careful while using the hammer to avoid striking the visible surface of the base.
  • Drill a hole in the support arm which should be as large as the axle of the bike wheel.

Creating the running track:

  • Take the high-density polyethylene material and cut a piece at least 1/8-inch to form the track of the wheel.
  • The length of the track is determined by the circumference of the wheel.
  • A wheel that is 24 inches in diameter requires a track approximately 76 inches long to ensure full coverage and no gap or overlap.
  • The width of the track should be at least three times the width of the cat. This way it will be easier for the cat to run without accidental slips or falls.
  • You may also want to add an inner liner from an old carpet or get rubber material to give the cat additional grip when running.

Connecting the track and the liner:

  • To attach the track to the outer rim of the wheel, use heavy-duty plastic glue.
  • Connect both sides of the edges to the wheel and clamp the plastic to the wheel from the opposite side. Wait until the glue dries completely.
  • While the glue is drying, create an inner liner from a piece of plastic or sturdy cardboard to be placed inside the wheel. This piece protects cat’s paws and tail.
  • Cut the plastic or cardboard into a circle with a circumference matching that of the wheel.
  • Cut a hole in the center of the inner liner for the axle skewer to go through.
  • Make sure the skewer is long enough to clear the liner, the wheel, and the additional length of the support board without binding them.
  • You will be needing a longer skewer than what originally arrived with the bicycle.
  • Once the glue dries, you can glue in the carpeting if desired. Use the same method for gluing carpet as well.

Assembling the cat wheel:

  • Insert the inner liner which should fit firmly against the edges of the wheel. It should not bow or slide out.
  • Push the skewer into place and through the hole.
  • Fix it on its position by screwing on the nut or use the quick-release lever.
  • If you have a heavy cat, you will need to screw an additional piece of lumber in the shape of a triangle. It should be centered on the base and support arm.
  • Test the way the wheel spins.
  • Put a familiar toy inside the wheel to attract your fur baby to their new exercise wheel.
  • If you have covered the back of the wheel completely, you can also do some artwork on the inner wall to make it look beautiful.

That’s the simplest way to build a DIY cat exercise wheel. We have also added another method here to give you another option for construction.

a cat sitting on a cat exercise wheel

This method requires some expertise in cutting since you will be creating a wheel from scratch. You can use whichever method suits you best.

Method 2

You will need all the tools and supplies we mentioned in the first method with the addition of:

  • A 48-inch lath which is easily available in the market. The width of a standard lath is 2×4
  • Cutting tools such as a handsaw
  • 3 pieces of 10-inch scrap piece
  • A drill
  • RS bearings
  • 10-inch bolts

Making the wheel:

  • Measure the lath and cut it into smaller pieces around 14-inch in length each.
  • You need to cut two circles in the correct diameter to create a 3D device.
  • Fasten together the resulting circles with the scrap pieces. They will add support to the structure while you will glue the laths.
  • Roll the resulting structure on the floor once to check its balance.
  • Use clamps and glue the pieces of laths together on the outside of the 3D circle. Use industrial glue for this purpose since it is strong and can withstand the weight.
  • Glue the laths on one side first and then on the other side. Your goal here should be to keep both sides as parallel as possible.
  • Continue gluing the laths until the circle is complete. The result will be a drum-like 3D circle with no openings.
  • The circle should be about 14.25-inch wide around the base. Now the wheel is finished, but you can add some extras as well if you’d like to improve the experience for your cat.
  • You can add two smaller wheels to each corner so that the DIY cat exercise wheel will be portable. However, make sure that while the cat is using the big wheel to exercise, the smaller wheels will stay put.

Building the rolling mechanism:

  • After the glue is dried, cut one side of the circles, 2 inches smaller than the first one.
  • It will form a path inside the two circles with laths as its base.
  • Build the shaft contact area using plywood. You can also get a shaft from the market if you’re not good at making one.
  • The shaft made here has the shape of a gear. It will be used to rotate the bigger wheel.
  • Drill holes in the shaft and the big wheel using circle cutter point as a reference.
  • Drill a hole in a square piece until the drill comes out from the other side.
  • Use industrial glue to attach the gear and the wooden piece together.
  • Use 2×4 studs to make the base of the wheel.
  • Now you’re going to make the axle shaft. Pick up two RS bearings as well as a 10-inch bolt then fix them together. Make sure that the RS bearings are supporting the center well.
  • Cut a circle in the bearing-supported center just big enough for a shaft to pass through. The top should be about 4 inches wide and should be cut at 22.5 degrees.
  • The support for the bearings should also be 24 inches long and cut at 22.5 degrees as well.
  • All the pieces should be clamped together and then drilled for the exact fit.
  • Sand all the pieces before gluing them together.

Finally, to add some finishing touches:

  • You can cover the inside of the wheel with a carpet for added comfort. You can stick the carpet to the floor of the wheel using an adhesive tape or industrial glue.
  • This carpeting will act both as an insulator and as something that offers better grip to your cat. Make sure it is made of a type of material that your cat likes and is durable as well.
  • When you’re done with all the steps and everything is in place, it’s time to do the finishing. Use varnish on the wood to give it a nice and neat look.
  • Make sure to add some insulating mechanism to the base of the wheel as well. This will allow the wheel to maintain silence when rolled. Otherwise, you will be bothered by loud sounds each time your cat steps up to get his exercise. You can use rubber foam for this purpose.

While using a cutting saw, hammer, and other tools, be very careful. A little negligence can hurt you a lot. If you have not used these tools before, you can have them cut by a professional instead of doing the job yourself.

Bengal cat Mystic using the cat wheel for the first time

The varnish or paint that you will use on the finished product needs to be safe for animals. Your cat will be spending a lot of time in there and will be making direct contact with it once they get used to it. Therefore it is important for the finishing to be animal-friendly.

Wrap Up

Your cat’s health is very essential. As the owner, not only are you responsible for keeping an eye on what they eat, but you also have to make sure that they are getting an adequate amount of daily exercise. Kittens and younger cats keep themselves busy by chasing a ball or playing with small toys even when you’re not around. Unfortunately, some older cats do not like to play that much. They need constant stimulation from you.

Understandably, you can’t be around 24/7. That’s why you need to consider another solution—namely a cat wheel. This wheel will give you peace of mind as your cat won’t be running around wild in the house knocking things over, but they will be getting their daily dose of exercise.

It might seem difficult to build an exercise wheel, but it is not that hard. Rather than simply buying a commercial one, if you can spare the time and effort, your kitty will surely like the one you’ve made with your own two hands better. By the time you are done with this simple project, you will have a DIY cat exercise wheel to boast about, and you will have learned about many other things as well.

Image showing a cat exercise wheel

Be patient while your cats are getting to know their wheel. It may take a little time for them to get used to it. Make sure you keep their favorite toys on the wheel so that they visit it often. When they start using it, give them a little treat. Appreciation always makes things better for the both of you.

Share your experience making the DIY cat exercise wheel with us in the comments section below! Or maybe you prefer to buy a commercial wheel? Maybe you know a better or simpler way to make a DIY cat wheel? Please share any tips and tricks with us so fellow cat owners can ensure that their cat is getting their daily fill of exercise better.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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