DIY Hicat® Adaption

For customers who want to shorten a Hicat® for themselves there are basically two options available – the first is to cut the excess height from the top of the unit & refit the top cap, the second is to take a section from the middle of the unit & make up an MDF disc to join the two sections together.

The first option applies to Polecat but Tomcat & Fatcat adaptions will depend on how Access Hole Compartments are positioned on the unit - typically if there is an Access Hole at the top of the unit the second option will apply, where a section is removed below this Access Hole.

Polecat

Shortening a Polecat is relatively straight forward depending on the way you finish the top end cap after making the adaption - you can either make a single cut then refit the top cap with an exposed end cap showing (this is the easy version) or make an additional cut to enable you to dress the end cap with a wrapped end detail (more difficult).

The calculation for making this cut is your unit height minus your new ceiling height minus 52mm.

If you intend to carry out the easy adaption then simply make the cut by mark-up the the tube with masking tape on the section that is going to be discarded.

The cut is best made with a fine saw, either hand or jigsaw, & if using a jigsaw you can drill a small pilot hole on the cut line to get you started. You can also cut around the mark-up line with a Stanley blade before making the cut as this will help to stop strands fraying & pulling.

Making this cut is the tricky bit so double check your measuring up & make sure you’re marking up is as accurate as possible - a common mistake is measuring from the coir edge rather than end cap so using a tape measure with a large end L-return to make sure you are measuring from the MDF face, not the coir edge, is important.

Once the cut is made clean up the coir on the tube edge with secateurs. Carefully strip back the coir from the top end cap, remove staples & release the cap from the cardboard then clean up edges so that it’s ready to be re-used & fitted.

Glue the end cap onto the tube & if you have a stapler you can also peel back the coir slightly around the edge & staple through to the inside edge of the end cap.

This will give you a basic adaption but you can use sections of coir taken from the off cut to dress the edge around the end cap if you like - cut the coir from the off-cut into 3-4mm long fibres & apply a bead of glue around the end cap edge then sprinkle the fibres on to the glue dabbing on fibres to form a neat detail around the edge of the end cap.

A hot melt glue gun is best for finishing the end cap as you can build up the edge with a number of separate beads & work the fibres into shape more easily than contact or modelling adhesive.

If you want to adapt the unit with a more difficult wrapped end detail you will need to first make a cut 50-60mm longer than the calculation noted above, carefully release & strip back the coir from the cardboard back to the final cut mark, fold the released coir back over the unit & then make a final cut to the final unit length.

You will then be all set to carry out the wrapped end detail as illustrated on our DIY Polecat page.

 

Tomcat & Fatcat

If you are able to shorten the unit by removing a section on the top of the unit then the Polecat instructions above will apply noting that the calculation for making the cut is your unit height minus your new ceiling height minus 57mm, instead of 52mm.

Because Tomcat & Fatcat units have internally surfaces finishes these will need to be trimmed back after the cut has been made to allow the end cap to be fitted whether you are carrying out the easy or difficult end cap adaption.

If you are not able to shorten the unit at the top because of Access Hole positioning you will have to carry out the second adaption option, which is to remove a section of the unit & fabricate an MDF disc to join the halves together - the section that needs to be removed is best between the third & fourth access holes where permitting but can also be lower on the unit.

You will end up with a join but this can finished with fibres to make it presentable or you can dress it with a Hicatch Toy band, which is what we recommend using on two piece units to cover the join. 

The section that needs to be removed equates to the new ceiling height minus 40mm for feet & connector clearance & the thickness of the MDF disc that you are going to use to join the sections.  

For example a 2500mm long unit adapted to a 2300mm high ceiling using 12mm thick MDF to form the disc to join the sections would be like this: 

2300mm high ceiling minus 20mm for feet & 20mm for connector gap = 2260mm new unit height

2260mm minus 12mm for MDF disc = 2248mm unit length

2500mm long unit minus 2248mm = 252mm cut out section 

The section to be cut out should be centred between the access holes where possible & you will need to work around the shelf position if you have one between these holes & decide if you need to cut out the shelf completely or can work around it, which is preferred as it will be stronger after the adaption.  

Typically a shelf will sit 200mm below the centre of the access hole above it & you need to make sure that after making the cut you have enough room to form rebates up to the shelf – see below. 

As per the Polecat instructions, once you’ve worked out your dimensions you can use masking tape to mark-up the position of the cuts noting that it’s best to place the tape over the section to be cut out, not on the body of the unit, as when you remove the tape you may fray the coir fibres when pulling it off. 

The cuts are best made with a fine saw, either hand or jigsaw, & if using a jigsaw you can drill a small pilot hole on the cut line to get you started. You can also cut around the line with a Stanley blade before making the cut as this will help to stop strands fraying & pulling.

Making these cuts are the tricky bit so double check your measuring up & make sure you’re marking up is as accurate as possible - a common mistake is measuring from the coir edge rather than the end cap so using a tape measure with a large end L-return to make sure you are measuring from the MDF face, not the coir edge, is important.

Once the section has been removed you need to make up an MDF disc that is the same size as the exposed cardboard external diameter i.e. 316mm for Tomcat & 412mm for Fatcat.

Again, the thickness of this MDF disc relates to the height calculation so working on the example above let’s say you are using 12mm MDF. An easy way to get the diameter marked up is to take a long strip of MDF scrap & drill a pilot hole, 158mm or 206mm depending on unit type, from one end then put a screw or nail through the pilot & scribe a circle with a pencil on the edge that you’ve measured from. 

Once you’ve made the cuts clean up the coir edges on the two halves with secateurs but hang on to the off-cut for later. 

You then need to make up at least two discs that smaller than the internal diameter of the cardboard core i.e. 305mm for Tomcat & 400mm for Fatcat, to use as rebates. These discs are centred & fixed each side of the 316mm/412mm disc noted above & used to locate the two halves when the unit goes back together & hold the sections in place. If you want a really strong join we would suggest doubling up the rebates i.e. two 305mm or 400mm diameter 12mm discs on each side of the 316mm/412mm diameter disc.  

To check the sizing of the discs cut away the coir from the inside edges of the cuts with secateurs at least the depth of the rebate, in this case 12mm for a single rebate & 24mm for a double rebate, & see if the disc fits snugly. If not you can file down the edges until you get a good fit.   

When you’re happy with the fit make sure your cats are not around & assemble the unit upright to make get it plumb – if you need to tweak things you can carefully trim the cardboard edges on each section until you are happy with the alignment. 

You obviously have the option now of rotating the upper & lowered access holes in different positions but if doing this make sure you mark the position of the sections with masking tape in relation to the edge of the disc with a marker. 

At this point you can also decide whether you want to cut out an aperture in the MDF disc to make it a climb-through join – you can also paint the disc or even cover each side in fabric as long as you make sure this doesn’t interfere with the internal coir edges that have been cut away & cleaned up for the rebates. 

When you’re ready to join the sections you need to put a generous bead of glue on the rebated edges of the disc & the internal edges of the cardboard tube & then assemble the unit. We use Gorilla Glue & this works really well when you dampen the surfaces before applying the glue. You may also want to add some glue under the inside edges of the coir that’s been cut away to form the rebates as these might have been pulled away slightly from the backing when trimming them back. 

If you have a staple gun you can also fire some staples in around the edge of the tube by lifting the coir on the outside edge carefully & stapling through to the rebate. As above, the larger the thickness of the rebate the stronger the join & the easier is to staple as well. 

You’re need the unit to set for at least 24 hours in a standing position so make sure that your cats are not allowed to play on it & that it’s safely secured.

While waiting you can make up some fibres to use to cover the join – take the off-cut & trim off the coir into 3-4mm long fibres then glue these into the cut joint. If you have a hot melt glue gun this works best as you can run a small bead of glue on to the join, sprinkle some fibres over the glue & then dab on more fibres to form a neat seam. When doing this also make sure that any stray strands are glued into position so the seam doesn’t fray when climbed. 

I would do this even if you’re planning to wrap a Hicatch band over the joint as it will help long term to keep the unit looking nice & also help strengthen the unit, especially if you use a thick bead of glue when dabbing on the fibres. If you want a really strong joint then run a thick bead of glue into the join to prep it, let is set, then run another bead of glue of it & dab on fibres to finish it. 

Good luck with your project & if you have any comments regarding the above notes please get in touch.