Do Cats Need a Cat Tree – A Complete Guide

If you’re a newer cat owner or on the path to adopting or purchasing a cat then a cat tree should definitely be something you consider purchasing for your household.  Cat trees are a wonderful accessory for a household with cats because of the versatility they bring all packaged up in one product.

But before you pull the trigger and get one let’s run through the major pros and cons of cat trees so you have a full picture before you make the purchase. The simple fact is you might have a lot of the major benefits covered by other products you already own so a cat tree might not be a necessity. This guide should help you answer the question ‘do cats need a cat tree?


What Are The Benefits?

Cat Trees provide all sorts of amazing benefits for your cats (and those typically result in benefits for you from a sanity standpoint):

  • a home gymA Home Gym: Cat trees provide great exercise be letting your cat climb and jump all over. The multi-level design encourages your cat to jump up and down which is great for keeping their muscles in top notch condition. On top of this cat trees are generally covered in holes and caverns to mimic a maze that will keep your cat interested and curious.
  • A Huge Scratching Post: If you’ve already had a cat then you know scratching is in their blood and it is pretty much impossible to stop the behavior. Given this you’ll want to redirect it to a place that is acceptable, and cat trees fit the bill perfectly. Cat trees are designed to take a beating from cat claws and stay standing, this is why they are typically completely covered in carpet. Most cat trees also come with special locations that have either sisal or rope for your cat to scratch, but if you look around you can find ones that have vertical, angled, or horizontal scratchers built right in.
  • A Safe Place to Sleep: Cats like to be up high, it is in their genes because it is an ideal location to hunt from. On top of this cats also see high places as safe places to sleep because they are off the ground where other larger predators may roam. Cat trees typically have a nice top level on them that is an ideal sleeping place for your furry friend. You can even enhance the space by adding some your cats favorite bed or a lamb wool covering.

Are There Drawbacks?

While Cat Trees are an awesome addition for your cats they certainly do have some drawbacks that are worth considering. Let’s take a quick walk through those:

  • Space: Cat Trees and cat furniture in general do come in varying shapes and sizes, but most cat trees are pretty imposing from a space perspective. They’re usually a few feet long and a few feet wide and mine stands at just under six feet tall which is about as tall as I am. This means that you need to ensure you have a spot for your cat tree before you purchase it. As more and more of us are moving to the city this is a tougher consideration because space is at a premium. Be sure to check the measurements before you buy!
  • Cost: Cat trees range anywhere from $50 dollars to upwards of $2000 dollars. No joke, this cat tree right here is $2000 dollars. While I consider myself cat crazy already (I run a cat blog right?) I don’t think I could ever shell out $2000 dollars for a cat tree. The whole goal of your cat tree is provide exercise, entertainment & a safe place for your cat to sleep while bringing yourself some sanity. You’re likely to get almost the same amount of benefit out of an affordable cat tree and you also won’t feel frustrated if your cat decides not to use it.
  • Construction: While most cat trees are pretty straight forward to construct and only require a hex/alan wrench, do keep in mind that it is pretty difficult to buy one that is built right out of the box. There are plenty of pieces of cat furniture you can get from Petco or Petsmart that are fully constructed, but a typical cat tree simply wouldn’t fit in your car easily. Be sure to take into account that you’ll need to build it.
  • Cats Are Fickle: It took weeks for my cats to take any interest in the cat tree when we got it initially. I’ve also heard numerous tales of cats that simply have zero interest in a cat tree months after purchasing it (as with any product). Don’t worry, they’ll be interested in the box though.  This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if it is paired with having purchased a high end expensive cat tree. You can test your cat before buying a large tree by experimenting with smaller pieces of cat furniture first.

What Alternatives Are There?

There are all kinds of alternatives to cat trees on the market, the alternatives to consider though are going to depend on the reason(s) you were considering purchasing a cat tree. I’ll provide a few alternates ideas for each of the major areas I explored above:

  • cat sleepingExercise: Some cats simply aren’t as interested in climbing as others and as cats get older climbing can become more difficult. To keep your cat entertained you can consider all different kinds of ways to play with your cat. This article will provide a quick summary of great options, but a few straight away are wand toys, laser pointers and my favorite cheap option is simply a piece of string (don’t leave it out once you’re finished playing).
  • Scratching: If you know what you need is a place for your cat to scratch then you might just want to get a high quality scratching post instead of a full scale cat tree. I’d personally recommend the Pioneer Ultimate Cat Scratching Post, you can check out my review of it here. It has served me well personally and we constantly use it at the shelter I volunteer at.
  • Sleeping: If your kitty is looking for a nice comfy place to sleep the day away but doesn’t seem to like to sleep on the couch or on the ground then you might want to look at a window bed. My cats both love their window bed and constantly zonk out in the bed while the sun is shining. It is high up and comfortable and far less invasive than a cat tree.

Any Recommended Trees

Cat trees in general last a long time so I’ve only gone through a few of them in my home personally. That being said I’ve seen a lot of them in use over the years as well.  We currently have the Go Pet Club 62″ Cat Tree. You can read my review of it here. Generally I’m quite satisfied with it and would recommend it to pretty much anyone that doesn’t have a very large cat like a Maine Coon or a Ragdoll.


Do Cats Need a Cat Tree – Let’s Wrap It Up

So do cats need a cat tree or not? There’s a lot to account for when deciding whether or not you want to buy a cat tree.  If you have the space and don’t mind a little light construction when it arrives in the mail or from the store then I’d highly recommend purchasing one.  You can get cat trees pretty much anywhere these days, even discount online retailers like Joss and Main put them up for sale from time to time.

If you have any additional thoughts on cat trees and why you think one might be handy (or not) to have around the house then please leave a comment below or email me at Craig@StuffCatsWant.com so I can update the article to reflect your thoughts!

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17 thoughts on “Do Cats Need a Cat Tree – A Complete Guide

  • August 21, 2017 at 10:49 pm
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    Hi Craig,
    I knew there were lots of different toys for cats, but I didn’t realize how much some of these toys are. To buy a $2000 dollar cat tree, you gotta be an extreme cat person LoL. But I personally know lots of people that have cats, and different kinds of toys. I’ve seen some cat trees and can say that you’re right, they do take up a good amount of space, but from a cats perspective, It must be a paradise for them. Thanks for the info 🙂 Cheers,
    Darren D.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2017 at 3:16 am
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      They do indeed seem to love them! The tough part is convincing them to stay on the cat tree instead of your furniture. They still like to have the best of both worlds, silly fur balls!

      Reply
      • August 24, 2017 at 9:54 pm
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        Hahaha they are all theirs. Take them all!!

        Reply
  • August 21, 2017 at 11:12 pm
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    I liked the article on the cat tree only because my parents just got a cat after so many wonderful dogs they have had.
    They decided to get a cat because they are retired now and like to travel, as when they had a dog they would pay for a kennel while they were away. Now when the travel, they have the piece of mind that a neighbor can come over every few days and supply water and food and the cat can take it from there.
    A cat tree is something that I can get them for Christmas and it would be welcomed by there new pet. Great article.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2017 at 3:15 am
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      Cats are indeed pretty self sufficient, but I’d recommend someone comes over more often than every couple of days to check in on the cat if possible. Cats get lonely too and when they’re lonely they tend to cause mischief! Good luck with your cat tree purchase.

      Reply
  • August 22, 2017 at 3:28 am
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    I know what you mean about having a cat that is not interested in a cat tree, as I think that I have owned all of those cats! This is a great post, we may be in need of a tree for our kitten. Thank you!!

    Reply
    • August 22, 2017 at 4:11 am
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      That’s great news, I’ll be posting a few recommended cat trees shortly! Best of luck with your kitten.

      Reply
  • August 22, 2017 at 11:18 pm
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    Hi Craig, this is a very good article. I do not have cats but both of my children do so I was very interested reading about cat tree. I never heard about it before. So thank you for your article. I have forwarded the link to my children, I know they will love this!

    Reply
    • August 23, 2017 at 1:02 am
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      Thanks so much for passing it along to your family!

      Reply
  • August 22, 2017 at 11:36 pm
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    You’re so right when you say cats are fickle! My Maine Coon liked to scratch my flip-flops and my couch when I first took him home from the shelter. I tried a cat tree, large ones, small ones, scratching posts that stand independently and ones that you hang on a door nob. He wouldn’t have any of it. I spent several hundred dollars trying to figure out a way to get him to stop scratching. Then, as a last resort, I bought a $3.00 USD scratch pad ya just lay on the floor. He LOVED it. He never scratched anything else after that. If only I would have tried the cheapest option first! Ah, well. Ya gotta love ’em!

    Reply
    • August 23, 2017 at 1:02 am
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      Sounds about right…haha. Silly little furballs!

      Even though your cat didn’t particularly love any of the stuff did you have any specific piece of cat furniture you liked?

      Reply
  • August 22, 2017 at 11:48 pm
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    Hi Craig, I just read your article about cat trees! Thanks for sharing that, I learned a lot from it!


 I have a neighbor who has a cat. Is there a cat tree you would recommend that wouldn’t break the bank? I was thinking about getting them one. I’m also going to give them your site’s url. You have a good site with great information that I think would be a benefit to them.

    All the best to you,
    Don

    Reply
  • August 23, 2017 at 1:28 am
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    Very interesting article! I agree that cats are picky and do not always appreciate for what we gift them. But my cat is curious enough to eventually start checking on her new toys and play with them. However, I agree with your suggestion that we should introduce the smaller version first to see if they would show any interest especially if we are considering something expensive!
    Thank you for the great information!

    Reply
    • August 23, 2017 at 1:53 am
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      Haha, they are indeed. I’ve found it comical how long it has taken for my cat Beast to fall in love with certain things. We had this little cave we bought for a foster cat and then she wouldn’t go near it for months. All of a sudden she went inside and took a nap and now she uses it every single day. She’s such a goofball!

      Reply
  • August 23, 2017 at 8:22 pm
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    I remember when I was a kid mum buying a expensive cat tree for our cat it had a massive scratch post. This is the main reason we bought it as the cat was tearing chunks out of the wall paper. Once we bought it though guess what …. The cat never used it or went near it lol. Thanks for the article

    Reply
    • August 24, 2017 at 1:53 am
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      Ugh, bummer. This is one of the reasons I recommend staring with a smaller piece of cat furniture first. You can often get something a lot cheaper and a lot less imposing from a size perspective to test your cat’s interest level. Sorry to hear it didn’t work out!

      Reply

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