Because any old cat tower won't do.
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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 regularly recommend cat towers as part of behavior modification plans and catifying one's space. However, I don't recommend any old cat tower as they're not all created equal. So what makes a cat tower a good one and what are some options for folks who don't want to get a giant carpeted cat tree in their space? Read on to find out
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 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 fulfill 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.
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. Also look out for any broken parts or parts of the tower that could injure your cat. It's worth the price to get a better built cat tower than going with one that's not completely safe or poorly built!
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? With some exceptions, it's height!
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. They can climb the tower to escape from other cats, kids, 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 they may naturally start going to the tower as an alternative. This can be trained if necessary and Class Act Cats is here to help if you want to encourage your cat to use the tower.
Variety is the Spice of Life
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 really appealing and allow your cat to use the tower for what they need in that moment.
For example, a tower 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 those 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 build in food or water dishes, too, so your cat can have a safe place to satisfy their basic needs.
You can also put towers in a variety of different places. 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. Some, such as the one below from K&H Pet Products, can even go over your door!
Obviously this would be better suited for a door that has 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 options, also made by K&H (that I personally own and love) 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 me?
Phew, that was a lot to consider! So which cat tower is the right one for you?
As you may guess, that completely depends on a lot of things. Your budget, space, cat's preferences, and your aesthetic preferences 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 you 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. I'm here to help if you need it!
About the author: Joey Lusvardi is a feline behavior consultant and cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. He is available for consultation in the Twin Cities or virtually wherever you are located.