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How to Choose a Cat Tree

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 08, 2021

Cats love to scratch and climb on everything. While you can try to distract your cat from clawing and climbing on furniture, your attempts may not be successful, since these behaviors are natural for cats. 

Cats’ Natural Instincts

They love to climb. You’ve probably heard the phrase “curiosity killed the cat.” Cats want to explore everything, even places they shouldn’t. This may leave you worried about your pet getting hurt while climbing in cabinets and on shelves. A cat tree helps to solve this problem by giving your cat their own space to explore.

They love to scratch. Clawing furniture is how cats sharpen their claws. You may find it annoying or even unacceptable, but it’s very necessary for their existence. Instead of punishing your cat for their natural instincts, try redirecting them to claw a special cat tree designed just for them.

How Cat Trees Work

Cat trees can be simple or elaborate, but they all work in essentially the same way. Typically, cat trees have a broad base and sturdy stand with extended arms. They may have holes to hide in or tunnels to climb through, too.

Benefits of a cat tree. Cat trees are great for you and your pet. You can redirect clawing and climbing to your cat’s special toys, keeping them from destroying your home. Also, your cat feels fulfilled in having a place to claw and climb while staying safe. 

Keep in mind that your cat may still scratch furniture and climb around other places. Do your best to redirect undesirable behaviors instead of punishing your pet.

How to Choose the Right Cat Tree

Consider your cat’s age and ability. Do you have a kitten or a senior cat? A simple tree may be more appropriate for your senior cat who spends more time lounging. A kitten who has more curiosity needs a more elaborate setup or even multiple trees around your house.

Assess your space. Cat trees may be small or elaborate. If you have space for a larger tree, the investment will be worth it for your pet. Kittens will build habits early and grow up to become larger cats who seek more space.

Think about your cat’s likes. Do you notice any particular materials that your cat is drawn to, like rope or cardboard? Is your pet more apt to claw or climb? Choose a cat tree designed to fulfill their specific needs. Cat tree materials include carpet, fabric, cardboard, and rope. A variety of surfaces will help to pique their interest. Not all cats like the same things.

Safety first. Make sure that your cat tree is not easy to knock over. The force of jumping, climbing, and clawing during playtime may cause the wrong cat tree to wobble.

Train Your Cat to Use a Cat Tree

Encourage them to love it. If your cat is unsure at first, buy some catnip and sprinkle it on. Cats can’t resist catnip, and the desire to be near the smell will help your pet relax enough to explore their new cat tree. Give them lots of love and praise to help them feel comfortable in their new space. 

Redirect their activity. When they start clawing other furniture, pick them up and put them near the tree without forcing them to stay there. Again, give them lots of praise and love on the cat tree so they associate the cat tree with positive interactions. It may take some time, but soon your cat will gravitate toward their new tree and away from your furniture.

Mix things up. Over time the cat tree will become less exciting to your cat. Consider repositioning it so that a different side is accessible or move the tree to another room. You may even purchase a couple of cat trees for your pet to have in different rooms of the house. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

ASPCA: “Destructive Scratching.”

HUMANE SOCIETY: “10 tips to keep your cat happy indoors,” “Home, sweet home: How to bring an outside cat indoors.”

Walkerville Vet: “Which Cat Scratcher Do Cats Use Most?”

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