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.