Many cats need a good amount of stimulation in order to keep them from becoming board, and we all know what a board cat is capable of! Cat trees provide that type of stimulation.
Most people wonder what to look for in a cat tree. As a cat tree manufacturer and a cat breeder, I would like to point out what is important to me.
All cat breeders know what mischief our cats are capable of. If there’s danger in your house, your cats are going to find it. Not only is the cat tree manufacturer responsible for making a well built, safe cat tree but the cat owner is responsible for using good judgement in the selection and use of it..
First, make sure the design of the cat tree does not compromise safety. Only purchase stable, well built cat trees. Beware of cat trees that are cheaply made and can collapse under the weight of your cats. You also want to purchase a cat tree that will not tip over when your cat , who has invisible wings it seems, takes a flying leap and lands on top or on the side of the tree. You have to take into account that smaller, lighter cat trees will not be as stable when used by a big, heavy cat, but even if you buy a small cat tree there are ways to test for stability. You can test your cat tree before purchase by taking it through the tip test. Tip the cat tree a bit and see if it falls over or if it rights itself (be careful if it’s a large tree, you don’t want a large tree falling on you and the store might not appreciate you knocking over all of the large trees in the place). Rock it a bit to see if it stays upright. It’s ok if the tree sways some with the movement of the cat, that’s normal, but it is not OK if the cat tree tips over easily.
If you purchase your tree from an internet website you won’t be able to put it through the tip test, but you can always ask for customer testimonials to see how other customers feel about the stability of the products you intend to buy. Be sure that there is a return policy in case the tree does not meet stability requirements, however, also be sure to read and agree to the store’s return policy before you make the purchase. Many stores will not let you return a used product so be sure to take the tip test before you let your cats use the tree.
Your cat tree should be sturdy enough to surface clean and sanitize. There are a large number of cats trees on the market that are made with cardboard tubing as the core of the structure. I don’t recommend cat trees made with cardboard because cardboard may not hold up well, especially if you surface clean your cat tree regularly with anything moist. If you have a cat tree with cardboard tubing as the main supportive structure, be sure to inspect it regularly for any weakness.
Many cat trees use toxic chemicals, dyes, and glues in the manufacturing process. It is not a good idea to use a cat tree with any of these items, particularly for cats that tend to bite at the carpeting and materials used on cat trees.
Be sure to buy a tree suitable for it’s purpose. Don’t buy a carpeted cat tree for outside unless it will be in an area protected from rain and moisture. If you keep a carpet and wood cat tree outside, even under a covered patio, moisture may still cause mold to develop on or inside of your cat tree.
For outside cat furniture, make sure that the cat house is suitable for cats. Most outdoor houses on the market are designed for dogs and not for cats, so do your homework when looking for those type of items.
Now for owner responsibility in the use and placement of the cat tree. As the owner it is important that you use good judgement when finding a suitable spot for your cat tree. Don’t put your cat tree in any area that cats might get hurt jumping down from the tree or if they should fall from the tree, particularly if the tree is very tall. One time someone reported that they placed a tall cat tree at the top of 3 flights of stairs. The stairs were open all the way to the basement. For unknown reasons the cat fell from the top of the tree and fell down three flights of stairs, landing on the basement steps. I’m happy to report that there were no serious injuries, but this was a lesson learned for that poor cat owner who chose the wrong spot for her cat tree!
My own cats spy their 6 foot cat tree from the 10 foot balcony in my house wanting to jump all the way over to the cat tree. My husband thought about putting the cat tree under the balcony so they could get onto the top of the cat tree from there. I thought it was not a wise idea because I did not want to encourage my cats to play balancing acts on the balcony rail, and if we ever moved the cat tree they might still think that they can play on the balcony. Instead, I keep the cat tree on the other side of the room and reprimand my cats when they get on the balcony. I plan on putting patio netting over the front of the balcony to keep them off.
There are other hidden dangers that the cat owner needs to beware of. Some cat trees are very large and heavy. You want to be sure that you keep large dogs and children away from and off off your cat trees. Large dogs might be able to tip over the cat tree and children like to climb on them and they might fall from the tree or knock them down on top of themselves. Make it clear to your human children and your non feline furry children that it is NOT OK to play on or around the cat tree.
Dangling toys can also be a huge hazzard for playful cats. I heard a report about an accident from a person tying a long, thin bungee type of toy to a cat tree. When the owner was out of the room the cat hung herself on the bungee cord. The owner came back into the room just in time to save the cat! If you want to put a danging toy on your cat tree, make sure it is not long enough for the cat to wrap around it’s neck.. Bungee type of toys can be particularly dangerous because they stretch.
You want to be cautious about any toy that is hanging from anywhere, be it doorknob or cat tree.
Finally, don’t do anything stupid like put a tv set on top of the cat tree trunk. It sounds really off the wall but I have heard of really strange uses for cat trees.
Make sure the cat tree you intend to purchase is accessible to your cats. There are all kinds of situations that call for a really accessible cat tree. Your cats may be old, overweight, declawed, or have health issues. If you have large cats, will your cat tree be large enough to accommodate them? Will they fit into the cubby holes or house(if the cat tree has holes or houses)?
The cats also need to be able to get up and down the tree easily or they probably wont use it.
A good idea is to get a cat tree that you can purchase additional parts in case your tree needs to be more accessible. If the cat tree looks like a cat tree, can your purchase extra branch steps? If it looks like a regular, multi level structure, can your purchase more steps? It’s also a good idea to purchase some sort of ladder for cats who are declawed (I am not a supporter of declawing but should you end up with a declawed cat you need to be able to accommodate it too). Your cat trees are no good unless your cats like them and will use them, so be sure your cat tree is designed with your cat in mind. We’ve had take a second look and to improve the accessability of our cat trees over the years.
Durability is not only an issue of getting your moneys worth but also of safety. Most mass manufactured cat trees on the market today are made with the cheapest materials possible. As stated previously, many use cardboard tubing as the main support structure. Cardboard is not very durable, especially if you clean your cat tree. All plywood has some amount of chemicals in it, however, press board and chipboard has a large amount of undesirable chemicals in it and is not as durable as plywood or solid wood.
Fabric is not as durable as carpeting, which is thicker and can stand up to cats scratching better. Of course, no carpeting is going to last forever, but you will get more bang for your buck if your cat tree is carpet covered rather then fabric covered.
Appeal is more important then most people think. Not only should the tree appeal to your cats but it should appeal to you and your visitors. The cat tree should be designed in a way that is attractive to your cats. If a cat tree is designed with cats in mind, usually cats will take to it instantly. Many cats are territorial, so if you have a large number of cats or territorial, cats it is recommended that you buy a large cat tree with multiple, separate spaces for each cat to claim as it’s own.
There are certain materials that most cats are attracted to. Cats like warmth and softness when sleeping and they like things they can really dig their claws into when playing. Having a cat tree that provides spaces where you can put soft, warm cat beds is always a plus, as is having a cat tree that can withstand rough play.
Next we want a cat tree that will appeal to our design and style. It does no good to spend $2000.00 on a new leather sofa and thousands on decor if you’re going to have a big, ugly, rickety cat tree sitting in the middle of your livingroom! The idea is not to detract from your decor, but to add to it. There’s no reason you should compromise your style because you have cats to please (although your cats would tell you different). If that is the case, you might as well pick up the 70’s checkerboard sofa sitting on your street corner and throw that into the living room for your cats to use as a scratching post. Of course, different people have different styles, likes and dislikes, so my idea of attractive might not be yours, but im sure you get the drift.
Finally, we come to PRICE::
It’s not true that 100% of the time if you spend less you’ll get less and if you spend more you get more, but generally speaking, you get what you pay for.
I’ll let you in on a not so secret, secret. I’m a penny pincher. I drive my family crazy. Let me tell you a story about my uh – hmmm…”penny pinching abilities”. When I was in school my father would take us to a restaurant every morning to eat breakfast before school. I’d buy the heaviest meal, and eat well every morning because I knew he’d give me $2.00 for lunch everyday. I never used the $2.00 to buy lunch. Instead, I would starve myself all day to be able to save the $2.00.I would go home famished but never broke. I saved so much money that way that when my other family members needed to borrow money they knew I always had some to lend them. Sure, I lent them the money, but I always charged interest! So what’s the moral of my story? If you can save a buck or two, please do. That being said, I never, ever, will compromise quality to save money. I feel that if you’re compromising quality to save money, then you really haven’t saved anything, in fact, you’ve lost money because it will be just that much faster that you’ll have to replace the item. I also, never buy anything im not 100% happy with buying. I won’t settle for second best because to me, second best is money not well spent. I don’t mind getting used items, but I have to be sure that those are of good quality as well. When it comes to cat trees, it’s not a good idea to get a used cat tree unless you know the person who your getting the cat tree from and know that the cats who used the tree are disease free. There are a terrible amount of diseases and parasites that can hide in cat trees.
If you’re anything like me, and I suspect that you are since I’ve done business with probably thousands of cat breeders and pet owners, you spend inordinate amounts of your cats but nothing on yourself. I’ll wear the same pair of tennis shoes until they fall apart (husband has to sneak into the closet and get them and throw them away because he knows I will wear them till I’m waking on insole liners held together with shoelaces), but when it comes to my cats, I have to have the latest, greatest and cutest. So, if you’re like me, I feel bad for you, but at least now you know how to find a perfect cat tree for your beloved furbabies.