Picking the Purrfect Cat Tower

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Cat towers: Some people love them, some people hate them. Most cats love them. So what’s a human to do? Get a cat tower, obviously. I run a cat business and write a cat blog so obviously I’m going to side with your cat on this one. I also happen to have more cat towers than I do human seating in my apartment. I have some experience when it comes to cat towers and am not afraid to have them in my own home!

I regularly recommend cat towers as part of behavior modification plans and catifying one’s space. However, I don’t recommend any old cat towers as they’re not all created equal. So what makes a good cat tower and what are some options for folks who don’t want to get a giant carpeted cat tree in their space?

An orange tabby resting on a cat tree with only his head visible.
This cat tree is cat approved! Photo By Erica Marsland Huynh.

Why Do Cats Like Cat Towers?

Before we get into recommendations, let’s start with going over one of the most common questions about cat towers: Why do cats love them so much?

Cats have a natural tendency to climb. This is not surprising to anyone who has struggled to keep their cats off their counters or tables. This comes from cats’ place in nature as predatory and as prey. By climbing to a high perch, cats gain an advantage over predators as many of them have a harder time reaching them up high. It also allows them to survey their territory for threats more easily. If something threatening is spotted, they can stay where they are to avoid being noticed, have extra time to run before the danger approaches, or gain a tactical advantage if they have to fight off an intruder.

In their hunter role, cats love being up high as it allows them to look over their territory for prey. Cats can spot tiny prey moving from a distance and, once again, have an advantage in their hunting because they can surprise attack from above. It also allows them to spend less energy searching for prey by being able to cover a wider area before committing to one hunting location.

In situations with multiple cats living together (either in our homes or the wild), perches and high places are some of the highest-value real estate to the cat. If there isn’t enough vertical space, cats are much more likely to have a spat as they can’t avoid other cats. They may also fight over what vertical space is available or engage in territory-marking behaviors (read: urine spraying) to claim their territory. Even single cats can have behavior problems if they don’t have enough vertical space!

Cat towers fill the role of trees, cliffs, and other natural climbing spaces cats encounter in the wild. It allows them to feel secure in their space and fulfills a completely natural urge for them in a less problematic way than climbing on a counter. Many cat towers also offer features that can reduce conflict or help get out other natural urges like scratching.

Features Of A Good Cat Tower

Not all cat towers are created equal and your cat may not like every single cat tower you bring home. The location of a cat tower is very important for if a cat will like it, but even if you put a not-so-great cat tower in an awesome location it won’t appeal to your feline friend. Let’s review some of the most important features to look for in a cat tower.

Safety

What is the most important feature to look for in a cat tower? Safety. You don’t want a tower that’s poorly built or won’t be able to withstand the force of a cat jumping up on it. One that’s too light at the bottom may topple over easily. Before you bring home a new cat tower (or before you put one together if you order it online), look out for any broken parts or parts of the tower that could injure your cat. It’s worth the price to get a high-quality cat tower than going with one that’s not completely safe or flimsy.

If you’re local to the Twin Cities, the best place without question to get your cat tower is Purrniture. They have excellent quality towers that are well-built and designed with cats in mind. There are many, many options to choose from so you can probably find something great in your budget that also works with your space.

Reach for the Sky

Safety is a bit of an obvious consideration, but there are plenty of safe cat towers that I still wouldn’t recommend. There are also many designs, features, and looks so choices can be overwhelming. All things considered, what feature should you prioritize above others? Height is generally the most important feature of a cat tower.

As outlined above, cats love high places. A high tower is generally going to appeal to more cats than shorter ones. Having a higher cat tower can also help give the cat a place that feels like it’s their own space. They can climb the tower to escape from other cats, kids, dogs, or other threats. It helps them feel secure in their homes. Plus, if you have a tower that’s higher than somewhere that you don’t want to climb, like your counters, they may naturally (or with a little persuasion) start going to the tower as an alternative. Adding another place for the cat to perch is a much better choice than using a squirt bottle!

Cat Trees With A Variety Of Features

Each cat is an individual and has different preferences. Cat life is also varied and cats like options for where to lounge, hunt, and hide. A cat tower with a variety of different features can be very appealing and allow your cat to use the tower for what they need at that moment.

For example, a cat tree with a basket feature may appeal to some cats who like lounging.  One that has hidey holes or a cave built in can allow a spooked cat or a cat that wants privacy to escape. Multiple platforms, especially platforms at different heights, allow the cat to choose what height they feel most comfortable at in that moment. They may prefer one height over another or they may mix it up depending on the situation!

Cat towers are made up of more than just platforms, however, and a well-designed tower can satisfy other needs. Some cat towers have dangling toys or ropes for your cat to play with which can help keep them from becoming bored. Some also come with built-in food or water dishes, too, so your cat can have a safe place to satisfy their basic needs. If you find a tower you like but it is lacking a feature, there are some products like this automatic cat toy that can easily clip onto the edge of an otherwise great tower.

Looking for a modifiable cat tower for your cat that truly has a variety of features? There are modular cat trees available that allow you to mix and match parts to come up with your own arrangement. No special tools or skills are required! The PetLibro Infinity Tree is a great choice and you can get a 10% discount with the code CATTREE. Another option is the Omlet Freestyle cat tree. It has a lot of customization options and goes from ceiling to floor so you can get it nice and tall.

Unique Cat Towers

You can also put towers in a variety of different locations throughout your home. This gives a cat a place to go depending on their mood or needs in that particular moment. Having towers in different rooms can be helpful as well. If you’re concerned about space, there are a lot of really cool, unique cat towers that can save space. K&H Pet Products even makes an over the door cat condo. I have it and it’s a hit with our Chief Purr Officer!

A lynx point Siamese cat on an over the door cat condo.
Gotta survey his kingdom from all angles!

Obviously this would be better suited for a door that doesn’t have a lot of activity such as a closet door, but this allows you to put a place for your cat(s) to climb in an area you may not have typically thought of. Another option, also made by K&H (that I personally own and Zoloft loves) would be a window perch.

Window perches accomplish a similar goal to a cat tower in that they add vertical space, but they don’t take up floor space. They’re usually mounted via suction cups. I’ve had mine for almost three years and the suction cups have never given out, though you do want to regularly check to make sure they are still firmly in place. Also, make sure your cat (or cats) aren’t too much of a chonk for the perch! The manufacturer of any perch should list the weight they can hold. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer for more information. You don’t want anything bad happening to your cat.

Which Cat Tower Is Best For My Cats?

Phew, that was a lot to consider! So which cat tower is the right one for you and your cats?

As you may guess, that completely depends on a lot of things. Your budget, space, cat’s preferences, and your aesthetic preferences (yes, there are nice looking cat towers available) are all important considerations. Plus, there are often some exceptions to what I outlined above. For example, some cats may prefer hanging out on a medium height perch or may sometimes go up high, but may prefer hanging out in a hidey hole lower on the tower. Every cat is an individual so you have to really know your cat!

I often help clients pick out a cat tower as part of a consultation. Of course, if you’d prefer some assistance in picking out a tower without a full consultation you can set up a Zoomies session. We can talk all about cat towers and figure out a few options for you and your cat.

As long as the tower is well-built, tall, and placed in a good location, you’re probably going to be fine with whichever cat tower you pick. The key is giving your cat places to climb so they can meet that basic need. And if you don’t want to get a cat tower? Cat shelves are always an option!

Need help catifying your home?

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Joey Lusvardi

Joey Lusvardi

Joey Lusvardi CCBC is an IAABC Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and professional cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation and cat training service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. Joey is available for in home sessions locally or virtual sessions wherever you are located!