What Should I Look for in Cat Trees & Condos?
While different cats will have different ideas about their ideal home, there are some common factors to consider.
- Sturdy and Unlikely to Turn Over
When 15 pounds of cat leaps from a countertop and lands on the top shelf of most standard cat trees, the tree will turn over. The result will be a loud noise, a frightened and irritated cat, and a startled household.
A good cat tree will have a wide base and will not wobble when it is assembled. Standard cat trees can sometimes be stabilized by placing a sandbag on the bottom shelf or by nailing or screwing it to the floor.
- The Condo or Hideout is Large Enough for Your Cat to Stretch Out In
If you’ve just taken in a sweet, little baby cat, it might be difficult to visualize how big that little bit of fluff will be as an adult. Most cats will reach a weight of at least six pounds, and their body (not including tail) will be a minimum of twelve inches from nose tip to the base of the tail.
While cats do like to curl up, they also like to sprawl. If you have a chance to look at the mother and father, you can get a good idea of the size your baby is likely to reach.
- The Shelves Are Wide Enough for Sleeping
Small surfaces can lead to falling asleep and tumbling off. While most cats will right themselves and pretend that nothing happened or that they meant to do that all along, a little forethought can prevent possible injury.
- The Surface Provides Traction for Claws, But Will Not Catch Claws
Cats love to climb. While a good climbing tree with an attractive surface might not prevent your kitty from scaling your bookshelves, it can present a pleasant alternative.
With that said, the surface of the cat tree should be textured in a way that allows for good traction, but that should not catch your cat’s claws. Basic indoor/outdoor carpet is often a good covering choice.
Cats love to stretch up and scratch downward on a surface. This allows them a chance to clear off rough places on their nails as well as an opportunity to stretch their muscles.
Very few commercial cat scratchers are long enough or tall enough for a medium-sized tomcat, who might be able to stretch out to a height of 24 inches or more. Sisal cord wrapped around a two-inch by four-inch board can offer a great scratching experience, especially when it’s incorporated into a state-of-the-art cat tree.
Rub a little catnip on it, and you just might be able to persuade your handsome fellow to use the cat tree instead of the back of your couch.
Hairballs, spraying, kitten “bathroom” mistakes, and, everyone’s favorite, loose cat hair is likely to gather on a cat tree. Indoor/outdoor carpet can usually be cleaned with a damp cloth and a cat-friendly disinfectant spray. Vinegar and water work nicely.
You can wear a rubber glove and rub it over the carpeted surfaces. The static electricity generated will attract the hair and make it easier to collect. A good shop vac can also help. Make sure your vacuum cleaner is rated for pet hair.
Cats look dainty, but an adult has both weight and muscle. This is especially true of the larger breeds, such as Maine Coon, Siamese or Russian Blue.
But even smaller breeds have shredder paws and will inflict damage on even the best cat tree over time. Look for a unit that has a solid wood frame that can be recovered and have fresh cord wound over the scratching areas.
- Incorporates an Element of Fun
Cats are playful. Almost anything can become a toy. Human household members often find that hair ties, small bits of jewelry, wads of paper, rolled up socks and even house slippers can become impromptu toys for a creative cat.
A cat tree that includes feathers on a dangling string, a ball strung on a stretchy bit of elastic, or a “mouse” attached to an upright spring will increase your cat’s enjoyment. However, pay close attention that the toys do not have parts that can be swallowed.
Strings need to be thick enough not to be swallowed, and toys need to have many parts that can be pulled off to be large enough to prevent choking. Think regulations for baby toys, and you will be on the right track.
Cat trees that include places to hide, holes to climb into and out of, and similar features are sure to be a hit with most kitties.