Whether it’s the top of the refrigerator, a cat perch, the highest shelf of a bookcase, or the top cushions of the sofa, cats cherish those elevated locations. You may have purchased the most comfortable, enticing cat bed on the market but if it’s placed on the floor, it may be ignored by the cats in your home. Why do cats love elevated perches so much? Here are some reasons:
1. More Visual Warning Time for Your Cat
When the cat is on an elevated perch she can more easily see more of her environment. The ability to see whether a predator or opponent enters the area can provide her with much needed extra seconds to
- Plan her escape
- Remain silent and hidden
- Prepare to attack
- Determine whether the approaching animal or human is a threat
2. Prevent an Ambush from Behind by Another Cat
For an indoor cat, if the perch is situated close to a wall or window, it limits an opponent’s ability to sneak up and ambush from behind. In an outdoor setting, the cat may also choose an elevated location that limits or eliminates the possibility of a surprise rear attack.
3. A Way for a Cat to Display Status
In a multicat environment, a higher ranking cat may choose the top elevated location to display her positioning in the group. When there’s tension between cats with a possibility of aggression, a higher ranking cat may go to an elevated location to show status and it can often be enough to thwart a fight.
4. Out of Reach
If the cat lives in a household with young children or dogs, the ability to retreat to a high perch is the best way to be left alone. In our house, my children and my dog were taught early on that when the cat is her cat tree it means she doesn’t want company.
In a multicat household where there’s any tension, you might find one or more of the cats feel more secure eating their meals in an elevated location. It can also be an easy way to keep an older, less mobile or obese cat away from a younger kitten’s food.
5. A Look-Out Place for Hunting Opportunities
For an indoor cat, the perch or cat tree located near a window is the perfect spot to keep an eye on potential prey activity happening outdoors. Even though she won’t be able to get to the prey, it becomes a form of Cat TV. It also provides a handy view of any unfortunate spider or bug who wanders into the room. For an outdoor cat, the elevated perch, whether it’s a tree branch or the roof of a shed, gives her a safe place to visually scan for prey.
6. Exercise and Playtime for Your Cat
If you have a multi-perched cat tree, the cat has the added benefit of being able to climb, jump and play on the structure. With a cat tree, it can also serve double-duty as a scratching surface if you choose one that has sisal-wrapped support posts.
7. Scent Familiarity for Your Cat
Although many cats may choose to sit or nap on whatever piece of furniture is convenient, there’s something very special about perches and cat trees. Furniture shared by other family members will have their scents on them whereas the perches and cat trees will only smell like the cats themselves. Scent plays a huge role in the cat world when it comes to identification, comfort and familiarity. For many cats, the ability to curl up in a spot that smells exclusively like them can provide extra reassurance. This can make a big difference if your cat is typically nervous or uncomfortable when visitors come to the house. The chair that kitty likes to sleep in may now have the unfamiliar scent of a guest, whereas the cat tree will always smell familiar.
In a multicat household you can’t assign particular perches to individual cats but it’s important to make sure you have more than enough choice spots so no one has to compete. Pay attention to where each cat likes to spend time as well so you can locate perches and cat trees in those areas of the environment. Some cats won’t mind sharing the various perches on a cat tree but there are also cats who need a bigger personal distance. Make sure everyone has comfy and secure elevated options.
Even cozy cat beds might be chilly if placed on the floor with the potential for drafts. Perches located on the top of cat trees are farther from the draft and closer to the rising warm air.
Choose Perches and Trees with Your Cat in Mind
Cat-specific furniture is popular these days but many of the pieces I see are made to appeal to the human eye more than the feline body. Perches need to be large enough to accommodate the size of the cat without the poor kitty having half of his backside hanging off the edge. In a multicat household it can also create a feeling of vulnerability if limbs are dangling as the cat tries to nap.
I typically suggest to my clients that they look for perches that are curved in a “U” shape so the cat can feel her back up against one side. This often helps the cat feel more secure, almost as if she’s leaning against a wall so opponents are less likely to be able to ambush.
The bottom line is to choose perches and trees that match your cat’s size and also the way she likes to position herself. Additionally, make sure all perches and trees are installed securely and well-made. The last thing you want is for your cat to leap up onto this comfy-looking window perch only to have the whole thing come crashing down on her.
Remember to Accommodate Seniors and Less Mobile Cats
Your cat should be able to enjoy perches and trees throughout her life. Provide pet stairs for the cat who can’t reach the window perch or other favorite elevated location. With cat trees, look for ones with enough perches for her to use as steps to the desired perch.
Need More Information About Cat Behavior?
For more specific information on cat behavior and training, refer to any of Pam Johnson-Bennett’s books, including the brand new CatWise. Pam’s books are available at book stores everywhere, through your favorite online book retailer, and also here on our website.
Please note that Pam is unable to answer questions posted in the comment section. If you have a question about your cat’s behavior, you can find information in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s health, please contact your veterinarian.