The Benefits of a Cat Tree

A cat tree isn’t just an extravagant purchase for a cat owner, it’s actually a beneficial addition to the indoor environment. Humans live in a horizontal world but cats live in a vertical one and they depend on elevated areas for safety, comfort, exercise and fun. If you’ve ever had to retrieve your kitty from the top of the refrigerator or bookcase you know how much she enjoys being on the tallest perch in the room.

Keeping the Peace

In a multicat environment, vertical territory can help maintain peace because the higher-ranking cat can claim the highest perch as a show of her status. In some cases where two cats might’ve normally engaged in a physical confrontation, the availability of a high perch can enable the higher-ranking cat to display her position by climbing up there instead of actually having to fight physically. It can often be a way of maintaining harmony when you have more than one cat.

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Safety for Timid Cats

For a frightened or timid cat, a cat tree can provide a safe haven for her to stay relatively out in the open while maintaining a sense of security. When she’s on a high perch she can more easily see her environment and has more visual warning time of any advancing opponent. The tree can also provide comfort to a timid cat and she may opt to stay in the room more often, rather than flee under a bed or behind the furniture. The tree becomes a place that’s exclusively hers because it doesn’t contain unfamiliar scents that a sofa or chair would have.

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Sharing Made Easy

A multi-perched tree allows more than one cat to share a close space while maintaining the pecking order. Two cats or three cats in the home who wouldn’t normally share a window ledge in peace, may each comfortably claim a perch in order to enjoy watching the birds outdoors. Each cat maintains their status and feels safe while being in close proximity to each other.

A cat tree can serve more than one function for your cat as well. In addition to being a great place to perch, the support posts can serve double-duty as scratching posts. You can find cat trees that have sisal covering the posts (cats love sisal) or even bare wood. If you currently have a tree that has carpeted support posts you can wrap them with rope to create more scratching options for your cat. Just make sure the rope is untreated.

Shopping for a Cat Tree

When shopping for a cat tree, keep your cat’s size and personality in mind. If you have a large cat, don’t choose a tree with small, flat perches or kitty will be hanging over the perch – and that can leave her feeling very vulnerable to attack. Choose a tree with perches that are an appropriate size. Perches that are in a “U” shape are great because the cat can rest her back against the side. Cats often feel more secure when they have their back against something.

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There are many cat trees on the market. You can find them in your local pet product store as well as online. Prices vary, depending upon whether you want a basic tree or an elaborate one. What matters most to your cat though will be the sturdiness, height and comfort of the tree. If the tree wobbles when she leaps to a perch from the floor, she’ll avoid the tree and you will have wasted your money. And, after the age of three months, those little kitty condos are a waste of money. They aren’t tall enough and the cat quickly outgrows the ability to squeeze into the little enclosure. Condos with enclosures also limit the cat’s escape potential as well. In a multicat household, the ability to have advance visual warning of an approaching potential opponent becomes important, as does the ability to escape in the other direction.

Where to Place the Cat Tree

Placement of the cat tree can make a difference in whether it gets used. Typically, a great option is to put the tree by a window so kitty can watch the outdoor goings-on. If you want the cat to spend time in the room where the family spends time, place the post there. You don’t want kitty spending all her time in the upstairs bedroom in her tree when the family spends most of the time in the bonus room every night.

The Cat’s Personal Space

A cat tree can provide safety for a cat when she shares her home with a dog or children. Whenever she feels threatened or just doesn’t want to interact, she can escape to her top perch. It’s also important to train the dog that the cat tree is off-limits. Teach your children as well that when kitty is in her cat tree it means she wants to be left alone.

If you have a timid cat, are dealing with multicat issues or if you simply want to provide more environmental enrichment for your kitty, think about adding a cat tree to the environment.

Want more Information?

If you’d like more specific information on increasing vertical territory or dealing with multicat issues, refer to the book Cat vs. Cat.

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About Pam Johnson-Bennett

Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of the international hit TV series "PSYCHO KITTY" airing in the UK on Animal Planet and in Canada on Nat Geo Wild. She is award-winning author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.