Photo of Tracie Hotchner

Tracie Hotchner

Professional Pet Expert

Cat Trees and Condos

Featured On:

  • Oprah Show
  • CNN
  • Martha Stewart
The climbing/playing/napping towers sold for cats are often called “cat condos”, but I like to call them “cat trees” because they satisfy the cat's natural desire to climb for fun, escape, and mental stimulation. Cat trees are actually an essential element and investment in giving an indoor cat a happy and stimulating environment, especially because we ask so much of our kitties to live indoors without all their natural outlets. Indoor cats desperately need mental and physical stimulation and things to tickle their curiosity – if there are other cats in your home, or a dog, or small children, it also offers a vital option for vertical escape. A cat tree goes along towards fulfilling a cat’s primal needs by supplying different levels from which to look down at the world, hidden spaces for refuge and privacy, opportunities for the physical challenge of climbing, and the vital need for a good place to stretch on a scratching element. If you have an overweight cat, the stimulation of the tree will also help him shed some pounds. And if you have more than one cat, the pleasure and use of the tree is multiplied many times over as they interact in its spaces. A cat tree may take up a sizeable space in your home, and a well-designed and well-made one can cost quite a bit, too, but you may think more kindly of it when you realize that it meets most of your cat’s most basic instincts – to climb, to hide, to play, to scratch, and to perch.

Qualities to Look for in a Cat Tree:

* Soft surfaces make it more appealing (this why most are carpet-covered)

* The more nooks and crannies, the better

* Sisal-covered posts link one level with another and serve as built-in scratching posts

* The tree should be as tall as possible because cats love height, but make sure it’s stable. For stability, the largest components should be at the bottom and the base should be very heavy. Multiple posts at the corners of the base with the components mounted on them are more stable. With a single post cat tree, the components (beds, tunnels, perches) should not stick out too far from the center post or it can topple when the cat gets on top

* Your cat should be able to get easily from one level to another: look at the steps and jumping angles and see if they accommodate how your cat gets around. Generally speaking, distances between levels should be no more than 18” apart

* Consider your cat’s age: kittens need shorter distances so they won’t fall, older cats need ramps between levels, and multiple cats need a more elaborate tree – or even two trees

* Perches and landings are more secure if fastened to posts in at least two points – if only attached at one point, make sure it is very firm and strong

* Choose a tree with parts that are easy-to-replace in case components wear out

Ensuring Success with Your Cat Tree:

Your cat may be eager to try the new tree and need no coaxing from you, but some cats aren’t so quick to try out something new and strange. Some of the manufacturers of cat trees put catnip underneath the carpeting to lure reluctant cats onto it in the beginning and you can do the same thing: use catnip spray on the tree or sprinkle it on landings and perches.

Where you put the tree has a lot to do with whether your cat will take to it – she’s not going to rush to use a tree that is tucked away in a dark corner or in an unused room. Put the tree close by household activity – and near a window, too, so your cat can look out from all the new perches and there’s a greater the chance she will get your money’s worth!

Do not put a litter box anywhere near the tree – and do not put food or water bowls near it, either. Cats are “programmed” by nature to keep separate areas for playing, eating and eliminating.

Declawed cats can use a tree just fine – they can climb and jump and get some of the physical pleasures that declawing may have taken from them.

Best Cat Trees and Condos by Tracie Hotchner

The Best You Can Get

  • The Angelical Cat

    Tracie says: The Angelical Cat has the most fantastic of the rustic trees made with the real bark-covered posts. You can ask them to cover some of the many posts in sisal if your cat prefers that surface for scratching, which most do. They have a large selection but my favorite rustic tree is apparently their best-selling tree – P6 – a pagoda roof on top, a rounded bed, platform perch, and many places to run, jump, and hide.

    • Plush (16 colors) or Berber carpet (3 colors)
    • 75” tall
    • Sisal or bark post options
    • 5-year limited structural warranty
  • Zebra Mont Blanc

    Tracie says: The Zebra Mont Blanc, has great witty black and white striped faux fur fabric on the middle elements of this huge cat tree, including two high loft look out perches at the very top and a main house in the middle section with holes for entry and exit.

    • Premium Sliver Velour – looks like faux fur in 4 different patterns
    • 72” tall
    • Sisal posts
    • 2-year warranty
  • Katimanjaro

    Tracie says: The Katimanjaro comes in several sizes, but my favorite is over seven feet tall and features a little enclosed house and a stairs leading to a platform with a sort of kitty cat teahouse on it.

    • Plush carpet with 4 colors available
    • With or without vine design
    • 86” tall
    • Sisal posts
  • Armarkat

    Tracie says: The Armarkat A7101 is a tree with a variety of platforms and spaces – in particular a hanging tube the cat can lounge in, cubby platforms and a ramp to walk up for entry.

    • Model A7101
    • 71” tall
    • Sisal posts
    • Navy Blue Faux Fur
  • Armakat

    Tracie says: The Armakat A7802 is a great tree and a great value. This tree seems to have as many amenities and as much stimulation for the kitties as many trees that are three and four times most expensive – for example, it has two suspended slings, it has steps up to a platform, a two-doored cubby and a tent shaped cubby, too. And to top it off, shipping is free. How can they do it?!

    • Model A7802
    • 78” tall
    • Sisal posts
    • Silver Gray Faux Fur

You will be happy with any of these

  • Bungalow Monster Cat Gym

    Tracie says: Spoil My Kitty has a substantial contemporary tree called the Bungalow Monster Cat Gym. This has a nice look to it with high look-out lofts on the top and a main house with portholes in the middle. Other configurations and sizes are available.

    • Faux Sheepskin Fur - Beige
    • 78” tall
    • Sisal posts
  • Stairway to Heaven

    Tracie says: Here’s a different design, like a spiral staircase. It is aptly named Stairway to Heaven and makes a nice change from the traditional model layout.

    • Plush carpet – 6 colors available
    • 96” tall
    • Sisal posts
  • Pussicat Omega Cat Tree

    Tracie says: The Pussicat Omega Cat Tree is a more modern design and is 96” and you pick from many colors of the faux fur that you would like. It’s sleek and also cat-attractive.

    • Faux Fur Fleece - 10 colors available
    • 96” tall
    • Sisal posts
  • Custom Two House Pagoda

    Tracie says: Custom Two House Pagoda - a six-level cradle in the sky is captivating. There are three sleep cradles (suspended furry hammocks), a pagoda, a tunnel, and two round platforms.

    • Plush carpet with 5 color combinations
    • 70” tall
    • Sisal posts
  • Angelical Cat Tower

    Tracie says: Angelical Cat Tower WT3P1 has a deep pagoda shaped roof where cats can lounge high above it all. This tree comes with a lot of custom options to make it special.

    • Model WT3P1; 70” tall
    • Plush (16 colors) or Berber carpet (3 colors)
    • Sisal or carpet post options
    • 5-year Limited Structural Warranty

Related Articles