The Perfect Cat Tree (refusing to use the pun on "purr")
May 13, 2012 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Cat trees: I've never owned one but have been offered one as a present for my pretties. What should I keep in mind? Do you have any recommendations? I'm thinking about this one. I would attach "cat stairs" to the walls but I'm not allowed, so a cat tree it is. I don't want to end up buying a big tree that they're able to knock over in five minutes or is covered with nonsense they'll never touch. My cats are big climbers, they like cozy sleeping spots but height is a priority for the cat tree. Maybe I'm overthinking this?

- Tall (they like to climb)
- Sturdy
- Presence of sisal/scratchy material
- Not covered with a bunch of crap they'll never use (I've seen rope ladders on cat trees--what cat climbs rope ladders?)
- Not outrageously expensive
- Somewhat attractive would be nice (I like the blue in the one I linked)
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
Armarkat is the only answer. We bought a 6' tall tree for a ridiculously low price and it lasted years and years. In fact, when we moved into a smaller house, I took it apart and re-configured bits of it to make a smaller tree that lasted a few more years. My only complaint is that they don't make anything that's actually small. Best of all, they sell individual parts, so if your cats love one particular piece to death, you can replace it without buying an entirely new tree.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:51 PM on May 13, 2012

We've had about the simplest cat tree imaginable - three levels attached to one upright thing. We were skeptical buying it, but our cats like it a lot - one or the other of them is almost always on it (or near it, as pictured.) They climb straight up the vertical pole part and have never come anywhere close to knocking it over. So I wouldn't worry about finding a "perfect" tree - the cats will like it no matter how fancy! Having a tree is really fun when its playtime - you can dangle a toy and make them climb up and down for as long as they'll put up with you.
posted by Wulfhere at 5:52 PM on May 13, 2012

aaaand if I'd noticed the second link, I'd know that you already knew about Armarkat. Sorry.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:52 PM on May 13, 2012

Best answer: Our cat loves this multi-shelf unit that can hang from a door.
posted by nicwolff at 5:52 PM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Something to keep in mind: the taller the structure, the wider the base needs to be so that it won't tip. It doesn't matter if there's dangly stuff, just cut it off if you don't want it.

Someone I know who fosters cats usually buys off eBay, but if someone's buying for you they may or may not want to buy from there. But there are so many that you might start there to get an idea of configurations, and then do some hunting from there. Obviously shipping is a concern, in which case find your swankiest-neighborhood big box pet store, as they tend to have the biggest selection.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:53 PM on May 13, 2012

YMMV, but I've never known a cat (as opposed to a kitten) which would actually hang out in one of those enclosed boxes on the cat tree. For this reason I'd suggest looking at this tree, which doesn't have any. This one is also a bit taller and has a horizontal scratching surface at the bottom, which some cats prefer.

As for the quality: I have a smaller tree from Armarkat, and I've been very happy with it. I've had it for three or four years, and it's been sturdy enough to withstand plenty of scratching and play.
posted by vorfeed at 5:54 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have three large cats (one is 26 lbs! The other 2 are around 12 lbs each), and they love Armarkat Classical Cat Tree Gym Furniture, which I bought at It's 68" tall, doesn't have any toys attached to it (it has two high stands, a box in the middle, and two low stands, all covered in some kind of soft faux-fleece), and all the posts have sisal. All three cats can be tussling on it at the same time, and it never moves or rocks. Two thumbs up, highly recommended.
posted by shamash at 6:09 PM on May 13, 2012

I had the opposite experience with an Armarkat tree; it wasn't stable enough to withstand the attentions of my cats (17#, 12#, 11#), which is a bummer because they are indeed the most tree for the least amount of money and they have lots of inventive features such as cozy looking hammocks. I returned it after a week and replaced it with a 7' tall bruiser from Costco (which doesn't always carry cat trees but are a good deal when they do). Returning the Armarkat tree was a bit of a PITA as I had purchased it directly off their website and they were very slow in issuing a refund + I had to pay return shipping, which was a good sized chunk of cash. So, if you go with one of their products, buy from a reseller with a good return policy.

Tree design-wise: offset levels are awesome, even if they are offset by just a few inches from the one below. The offset makes it easier for less agile cat to climb up and down.

Your cat will shred the carpeting off the bottom 2 feet of the vertical post(s). Sisal holds up much better. If you find a tree design that you like but there isn't sisal on the bottom, you can always wrap the posts yourself using sisal rope. You'll have plenty left over to recover the post a second time too.
posted by jamaro at 6:33 PM on May 13, 2012

We have one from Foster & Smith, which runs floor to ceiling and is pretty stable. Two of our guys love the hidey-hole; one sleeps in it; the other just goes in it to play.

I like that it's floor-to-ceiling because the two little guys get really wild when they climb it or play on it. I think all cat trees are ugly and I resisted getting one for a long time, but our cats really get a lot of use out of it.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:39 PM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

All of these are good suggestions, but a cat tree (if you need it to also be a scratch post) is only as good as the material your cat likes to scratch. I bought one for my cat who only likes to scratch on soft, nubbly materials (e.g. carpet, velour, etc.). It took me a good long while to find one that didn't have only sisal on the vertical posts. It was worth it in the end because she does not scratch the carpet or the upholstered furniture and LOVES stretching out and sinking her claws into the carpet-covered cat tree.

All that to say: keep in mind the material.
posted by absquatulate at 6:52 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another possibility is the Kitty Cot, which works really well if you like the look of shelves but can't put up anything permanent. I put one of these up after seeing them in all of the cat rooms at my local humane society and the Cot has become the favorite perch in the house. It's much stronger than it looks, my 12# and 11# have slept on it together and the only time it comes unstuck from the window is when I take it off to wash the fabric.
posted by jamaro at 7:08 PM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

We love our Lotus cat tree. It is sturdy - but sways when the cats climb it (like a tree! Not a ton, just a bit of gentle motion). It is an expensive cat tree - but we've had it for 6 years and it still looks great, with regular use by two rather busy cats.

I've had it in the dining room (why yes, I do think cats belong in the dining room!) and now in my office - and I really love how it looks.
posted by hilaryjade at 7:39 PM on May 13, 2012

The one we have is similar to this one on Amazon from Go Pet Club, except ours has two adjacent crow's nests and a hammock on the bottom. We have found it to be sturdy and a great design (except the puff ball thing which eventually falls off, but is kinda fun for them while it lasts).

As others have said, the cats don't care about the box or hammock parts (well, one of our cats very occasionally will go in the box to sleep), but they LOVE the crow's nests.

I would not get the one you linked to, mainly because the two upper platform things look like just square platforms (and therefore not as nice for sleeping on), and they are too far apart from each other in height. Our cats love sleeping in the round crow's nest with an edge on it (so that it holds them and their pudge up there), and they also love playing with each other while lazing on the crow's nests, like while they're curled up, one will reach over at bat at the other one, or will lean over and lick the other one. It's way cute.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:52 PM on May 13, 2012

I also have the Lotus Tower for my cats, purchased within the last few months. It does sway a little, but it has levelers at the bottom to help you adjust it if your floor slopes, which is nice.

Also, the look of the tree has changed a bit, and the company has not changed the online photos to match the new design. The shape and height is still the same. Where you see those light colored cushions? Ours were a color that matched the shade of the wood (espresso). Where you see the scratching pad? Ours starts a foot off the ground, and because of this, it is on one side only, and does not span the width of the tree, as it goes up past one of the shelves.

Two of the three cats like it, one ignores it, and only one has figured out that the scratching pad is for scratching. One actually does sleep occasionally in the cubby area.
posted by instead of three wishes at 7:56 PM on May 13, 2012

In our area, there is a local chain of garden/home/feed+pet stores, and there's a local guy who custom builds cat trees using real stumps and branches, and you can choose to have them wrapped in sisal or whatever your cat likes. I'm always impressed by how sturdy they seem in the store (they have a few samples).

You might look around at local stores like that, or call around vets/humane society/cat rescues in your area, to see if there is a local person building them. For about the same money you might be able to get a much sturdier product.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:31 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

We bought this one (Armarkat) and it is AWESOME. It's very tall, it's got lots of perches and nooks and crannies. Here is an action shot. You can't see one of the perches in that pic, but you can get a sense of how great it is. It is very sturdy and our cats play all over it.
posted by Kimberly at 4:53 AM on May 14, 2012

I recently came across this amazing and stylish cat tree. Absurdly expensive on Etsy, but would be easy to accomplish on your own. I'm thinking about making one this weekend.
posted by corn_bread at 7:03 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

In case you want some more options, we looked at Ace Cat trees too and also Cat's Play has a bunch, including some smaller and/or more platformy ones (we got one from them, but it's not available right now). If you'd like a nicer-looking piece of furniture, this one is hard to beat, but our cats do enjoy both having more sisal and a couple of hanging balls to bat at -- ours came with ones made of strong enough rope that 4 years of assault by two active bengals haven't begun to wear them out.

Anyway, the one you found looks pretty good too. I'm sure the cats will like whatever you get, if they're at all active -- also, ours always jump up to the eye-level platform when they're looking for some lovin (it's right in our family room, so we walk by it a lot), so it's good to have some platform around that height. I'm sure the huge ones with lots of nooks are fun for cats, but ours is just three platforms, and that's never limited the games they can play around and on it, and it doesn't have to replace all the hidey holes around your house -- just add some where you can see them. It's good to keep in mind that a huge footprint limits your ability to relocate the thing (to a new apartment, if a space-filling hobby or kid joins the house, etc.)...
posted by acm at 7:07 AM on May 14, 2012

The Hollywood Franklin Tower is what I'd like to get but can't justify the price of. It's all platforms and very modern-looking.
posted by jocelmeow at 9:00 AM on May 14, 2012

The Aramarkat trees are pretty awesome, and seem plenty sturdy for both our 15 lb Ragdoll who is sturdy but not terribly graceful, and our wild, wooly 8 lb Birman adolescent who likes to do the Tarzan thing from bookshelves, etc. Neither of their varied attempts to knock them over and/or tear off the sisal rope in wild frenzies of scratching / climbing have even made a dent. We've had one tree for over a year, added the 2nd last fall.

We liked this one so much that we got two for our 1000 s.f. house. It's nice in that it's tall enough it allowed our spoiled sir to sit by / look out the windows from a decent height, but not so tall that it overwhelmed our smallish rooms in our smallish midcentury ranch home.

Now that we have 2 cats, we're glad we did get 2 trees, but we have the space for it. The big Ragdoll prefers the top perches, but our itty bitty Birman prefers the hutch enclosures. I kinda wish now we'd gotten one of the ones with a cat log on for him, but c'est la vie.

I've found the best prices on Amazon fwiw, and if you have a Prime account, they'll 2 day ship it for free.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:56 AM on May 14, 2012

Ooh, good choice of brand — Armarkat make the best cat trees out there, as far as I can tell. We've had this model for as long as we've had our current two lovelies and three (four?) years in it looks almost as good as new. The sisal ropes are *barely* frayed (despite getting heavy use on a daily basis), the carpet is completely undamaged, and aside from them having destroyed the two yarn pompoms fairly quickly, it's in great shape.
posted by Lexica at 6:52 PM on May 15, 2012

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