Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cat trees: What do you look for?

Fergus the kitten on top of his cat tree

Imagine for a moment that you live with a cat that is constantly climbing on your furniture, your mantle piece, your plants and your body. This is a cat that likes to think vertically. And this is a cat that is looking for ways to satisfy a need for height in a house that just isn't built with kitties in mind.

What could help? A cat tree.

Cat trees are made to help curious felines climb up and down with ease. And, they're made to help cats satisfy a need to sharpen their claws, so they don't use your furniture like scratching posts. If designed in the right way, a cat tree can become your cat's very favorite thing.

But that's the issue: The design must be perfect.

Fergus the Siamese on his cat tree

Over the weekend, I visited something like 5 different pet shops to find this cat tree for Fergus. In my mind, this is the very best tree money can buy. And here's what I was looking for when I shopped:
  1. Multiple levels for cat naps. Fergus is a restless sleeper, and he often likes to change position after sleeping for only a few moments. I wanted a tree that had several different sleeping options, including a private cubby, so he could sleep in a spot that seemed best for him at the time. 
  2. A high platform. Height is very important to Fergus, as evidenced by the large amount of time he spends on the fireplace mantle. The ideal tree for him would have a high lookout, so he could survey his lands. 
  3. Poles that could be covered in sisal. Carpet is a good material for scratching claws, but sisal is even better. I wanted a tree that had very long, sturdy posts that I could cover with sisal in time, so Fergus could use those surfaces when he chose to do so. 
  4. Weight and heft. Fergus is athletic, and he enjoys jumping from place to place. His tree had to be heavy, so he could leap onto and off of it without it tipping over. That cubby in the bottom gives this tree heft, so it's safe for leaping. 

Fergus the cat at play

This is by no means an exhaustive shopping list. What Fergus needs in a cat tree could be quite different from what your cat needs.

The point I'm making here is that it pays to watch your cat's play style very closely and think hard about what features your cat might enjoy in a cat tree. Does your cat climb? Jump? Sleep? Does your cat like to watch out the window? Hide? Spring out and attack?

Cat trees can be expensive, and there are hundreds of styles to choose from, so it makes sense to be a smart shopper. And, since these things are bulky, it also makes sense to choose something your cat will actually use. That way, the space you dedicate in your living room to these things won't be wasted.

Does your cat have a tree like this? What does it look like? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!


  1. i find it nearly impossible to find one that looks good - though the Vesper ones look nice!

  2. This is such a fantastic post on cat trees. We have multiple in our home, as my kitties love to climb and scratch. I always have to make sure one of them is a very particular, special setup, as my hind limb paralyzed boy Evan also loves to get in on the cat tree action. For him, I always make sure to find one that has a low, easily accessible bottom level. Past that, the levels above need to all be close to each other, and at least slightly staggered so that he can use them as stairs. Or, I have to find one that can be placed next to one of his favorite pieces of furniture, so that he can climb onto it right from there. It sure makes cat tree shopping interesting, but I like the challenge, and he's always happy to have one. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post!

  3. We have a sturdy tree similar to yours and several 3 feet tall , but the most popular is the ones that go floor to ceiling with a skinny pole and lots of platforms, they were $4o at Walmart, the carpeting rips quickly, but they love these and they are cheap enough to replace every other year or so.

  4. What a thoughtful post about cat trees, Jean. Every cat is different, so it's good that there are so many cat tree varieties from which to choose. :)

  5. We have one that is very tall because we like to be up high. And it is very sturdy since we also like to jump from the top. The mom paid a lot for the one we have because she wanted to make sure she got one that is really well made. She bought it online.