Our feline friends are complex creatures with needs and wants outside of food and affection. Helping cats meet those needs by providing different climbable levels, or vertical spaces, offers several benefits that contribute to their physical well-being and mental satisfaction. Having those needs met can reduce unwanted behaviours from our furry friend, everything from caterwauling to destroying furniture.
The benefits of elevated surfaces are numerous, but here are a few main points, and more information on various types of platforms can be found at the end of this blog.
Exercise and Physical Stimulation: Cats are natural climbers and love to explore their environment vertically. By creating different levels, such as shelves, perches, or cat trees, you provide opportunities for your cat to engage in physical exercise and burn off energy. Climbing and jumping help strengthen their muscles, improve coordination, promote agility, and helps burn calories to maintain a healthy weight.
Environmental Enrichment: Cats are curious creatures that thrive on mental stimulation. By adding various levels to climb, you enhance their living space and create an enriched environment. It gives them opportunities to explore and observe their surroundings from different perspectives. Climbing challenges their problem-solving skills keeps them mentally engaged, and prevents boredom, reducing the likelihood of destructive behaviours.
Scratching and Marking: Cats have the instinct to scratch and mark their territory. When climbable platforms include appropriate scratching surfaces, such as sisal-covered posts or trees, it encourages cats to use them for scratching instead of your furniture. This helps to keep their claws healthy and prevents destructive behaviour. Having more than one style of scratching post can increase their interest by having variation.
Tip: Try spraying the surface with cat nip spray, or placing loose catnip or treats to encourage the cat to use that material.
Territory Expansion: Cats have a need to survey their territory and maintain a sense of control over their environment. Vertical spaces offer additional territory for them to explore, claim, and mark with their scent. This helps fulfil their innate want for territory and can reduce stress or conflicts with other pets by providing each cat with their own designated areas.
Safety and Stress Reduction: Cats often seek elevated spots as vantage points to observe their surroundings and feel defended. Providing vertical spaces offers cats a sense of security and a safe retreat, where they can monitor their territory, identify potential threats, and feel more guarded. This can be especially important in multi-cat households, situations where there are other pets or children around, or if your cat is timid or anxious.
Tip: Aim to have different posts/shelves/etc. in multiple rooms to give timid or anxious cats a variety of options to feel safe when needed.
Mental Stimulation: Climbing and exploring different levels in the environment provide mental exercise for cats. It challenges their problem-solving skills, encourages them to think and plan their movements, and keeps their minds active and engaged. This can help alleviate boredom and prevent behavioural issues that may arise from a lack of mental stimulation.
Rest and Relaxation: Cats love to find cozy spots for naps, grooming, or just to have a calm place. Different climbable heights give them options to choose from, such as high perches or enclosed cat condos. These elevated resting places provide a sense of security, privacy, and a comfortable vantage point to observe their environment.
Human-Cat Bonding: Adding vertical territory to your home can create more opportunities for interaction and bonding with your cat. You can play with them, reward them with treats, or join them on their climb. This can strengthen your relationship and provide shared experiences that promote trust and affection. Cats often enjoy being near their owners and may choose to perch on higher levels to be closer to them.
When providing different climbable enrichment items, it's important to ensure they are sturdy, secure, and appropriate for your cat's size and abilities. Regular supervision and monitoring are recommended, especially for young or older cats, to prevent accidents or falls. Additionally, observe your cat's preferences and behaviour to determine the type and placement of climbable levels that best suit their individual needs.
Various Platform Types
These can be specifically designed for cats or adapted from existing furniture or structures.
Cat Trees: Cat trees are specially designed structures that typically consist of multiple platforms, perches, scratching posts, and sometimes enclosed spaces like cat condos or hammocks. They come in various sizes and configurations, offering cats multiple levels to climb, jump, and rest on.
Wall Shelves: Wall shelves are mounted on walls at different heights, allowing cats to climb up and down. These shelves can be made of sturdy materials such as wood or metal and provide cats with vertical spaces for exploration and relaxation.
Window Perches: Window perches are platforms or shelves attached to windows, providing cats with a cozy spot to observe the outside world. Cats enjoy sunbathing, bird-watching, and exploring the view from a higher vantage point. Some window perches can be used with as little as 2 inches of sill. Always make sure to research the best window perch for your house.
Staircase Modifications: If you have a staircase at home, you can modify it to create additional climbing opportunities for your cat. Add shelves or platforms at different heights along the stairs, allowing your cat to climb up or down and explore the area.
Bookshelves or Cabinets: Clearing a few shelves in bookcases or cabinets can offer cats an elevated area to climb and perch on. Make sure the shelves are sturdy and securely fastened to prevent accidents. Additionally, mount the entire bookshelf or cabinet to the wall for added security.
Cat Walkways or Bridges: Cat walkways are narrow paths or bridges that can be installed on walls, connecting different areas of a room or house, either inside or out. They give cats a means to move around vertically, enhancing their environment and providing exercise and mental stimulation. If your walkway or bridge goes outside, ensure it is fully escape-proof.
DIY Structures: You can get creative and build climbable levels, catios, or other enrichment items using materials like wooden planks, carpeting, or PVC pipes. Building platforms at different heights and connecting them with ramps or scratching posts can create an engaging and customized climbing experience for your cat. Always ensure you are using safe and high quality products when constructing DIY Structures for your cats.
When incorporating elevated playgrounds, it's important to consider the stability, safety, and accessibility of the structures. Ensure they are securely anchored, don't wobble or tip over, and provide ample space for your cat to comfortably move around. Additionally, choose materials that are durable, easy to clean, and cat-friendly.