Cat Tree Considerations
June 17, 2020 12:41 PM   Subscribe

My sister is getting a kitten, and picking it up soon and definitely wants to get a cat tree beforehand to distract from furniture and floor scratching. I'm the family researcher, so I told her I'd look into it. But there are so many choices and things to think about! Help me help her!

Kitten already has a small cat tree at current home and uses it, so not too concerned about that. Kitten's expected adult weight is around 10 lbs.

Things She Is Unsure About:
1. Height: Should she go as high as she can afford? Or can more moderately high trees work?

2. Price/Durability: She's handy so won't have trouble building anything, but doesn't want to spend more than $100 right now. Premium models are not what she wants to look at right now. She's not looking for a lifetime cat tree, but does want it to be comfortable and stable enough for the cat.

3. Brands: There's so many! There are so many different levels of quality within the same brand, so many conflicting reviews! I did try to do some in-person research at pet supply stores but due to covid stock was limited.

4. Any special cat tree considerations for a single cat owner?

Any cat tree related advice would be appreciated!
posted by Aranquis to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have bought a couple Chewy cat trees (Frisco brand is cheap - under $100 even for the 6' tall ones). They're good! I recommend the ones with rope over the entire post, since the ones where the post alternates faux fur and rope, the fur tends to shred more easily. I think you have to look at the photos for that, though, the labeling seems to be the same.
posted by Lady Li at 12:47 PM on June 17, 2020

Armarkat cat trees are the best value for money I've encountered. Here's one that looks perfectly lovely for $85.

I would never buy a pre-assembled one at a pet store --- soooo much more expensive.
posted by slenderloris at 12:49 PM on June 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh, specifically about the height --- if the kitten will be the only cat in the home, I think a moderate-height (5-6 ft.) tree will probably be fine, since that will presumably put the cat about at eye level of the humans in the house, and above the humans when they're sitting down.

Extremely tall trees (7-9 ft.) I think are more useful when you have two or more cats that have their own personalities and intra-species power dynamics going. Tree-dweller/bush-dweller, etc.
posted by slenderloris at 12:56 PM on June 17, 2020

Extremely tall trees (7-9 ft.) I think are more useful when you have two or more cats that have their own personalities and intra-species power dynamics going. Tree-dweller/bush-dweller, etc.

We have a 6 foot tree and one cat, and the cat liked the tree just fine. But my roommate recently added carpeted shelves above it, the highest one probably at 9 feet up. The cat is O B S E S S E D with the shelves. I think cats like places where they know they can absolutely avoid humans grabbing at them, and eye-level is a bit low for that. It's not a necessity though.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:06 PM on June 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have this one from Go Pet Club ($56). It's only 48 inches but it's tall enough to give my cat a couple of good perches and room to play. If I were buying another I'd get something a little taller and a little bit sturdier - if my cat does a running leap she can make it sway, but she hasn't knocked it over. It assembled easily and I think it's a good value for the money.
posted by Jeanne at 1:09 PM on June 17, 2020

We had an Armarkat for many years and liked it fairly well. We've since upgraded to a Contempocat cat tree and love it.

We have a floor-to-ceiling model, but they make smaller ones as well.
posted by Lexica at 1:20 PM on June 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Fur covered poles look like crap real quick if the fur is at scratching height. Sisal and carpet last better, I think the carpet poles kinda look ugly though. Bordered perches like the top of this one have been popular for sleeping. The un-bordered levels or perches are generally less interesting for sleeping. The boxes have only been popular for sleeping in with 1/4 cats, and only after the addition of a small bed. The tops of those boxes, however, are usually at ideal window peeping height and have been extensively for that purpose. Do consider future placement and the tree levels correspondence to window height. Any basket or tunnel or rope has been completely ignored by 4/4 cats. Small dangly mice were popular with kittens only but last approximately two days once discovered.

If the goal is less scratching of furniture, regular scratchy posts near room entrances (or major room landmarks if a more open plan) are generally a better strategy. Think like a cat who is doing this scratching to mark territory, where would you put up your sign? Typically the entrance or biggest object (which is sometimes a cat tree).
posted by ixipkcams at 2:47 PM on June 17, 2020

You definitely want the pole or poles to be wrapped in sisal, not carpet. We have a 10+ year old pedestal type tree (just a pole with a platform on it) that's wrapped in sisal, and one of the cats LOVES to scratch it, and it's still fine.

We also have a more elaborate one in my office that came with our new kitten in November. She loves it -- lots of speedy climbing happens -- but the older ones are uninterested for the most part. Make of this what you will.
posted by uberchet at 3:16 PM on June 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Frisco brand trees -- I got one that's about 6'5" for my two cats, and it's wonderful and fairly sturdy even when the Giant Cat is hurling his body up it. They don't last forever, but at like $60 a pop, I'm okay replacing them every 2-3 years*. I would definitely go as high as she can; both cats love being up out of reach or nearly so.

(*Also building them is kind of fun!)
posted by kalimac at 3:19 PM on June 17, 2020

Definitely sisal not carpet, and something with a solid base. Our cats absolutely love this SmartCat/Pioneer post so much that we have a couple. It also passes the ultimate test of being more inviting to scratch than the furniture.
posted by homesickness at 3:23 PM on June 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

If she's handy, she should consider designing and building her own. There are lots of cat tree plans out there on the interwebs; she could either choose one of them, or adapt it for her own situation. Probably twenty years ago, my mom and I found a plan online, got some scrap wood from a builder friend, and covered it with leftover carpet. We're not at all handy but it was pretty easy and has lasted very well. And a heck of a lot less expensive than purchasing one.
posted by Preserver at 4:45 PM on June 17, 2020

sometimes you can find these second hand real easily. a shitty boss i had when i was 22 gave me a basically brand new one because she deemed that her cats didn't like it.
posted by zsh2v1 at 5:44 PM on June 17, 2020

I got some cheap scratchers in a few textures to see what catface liked, Marshall's or TJ Maxx have homewares sections that are good for this and pet beds if you have that option.

Carpet sheds a lot, for a long time, sisal is well-liked and cleaner. You can also get rope and a staple gun and recover sisal poles. Seagrass is less popular around here and also has a distinct odor. Cardboard is cheap and liked but wears out fast
posted by momus_window at 5:55 PM on June 17, 2020

My cat likes the higher the better. (I have several cat trees, and she always uses the highest one in the room).

Also it's really important that there is a long straight post at least as tall as the cat's full stretch. A lot of cat trees don't have that because the posts are all interrupted by platforms and toys and stuff every 30cm. The cat will want to be able to place its paws high up and really stretch out. Last time we bought a cat pole it was hard to find one that fulfilled that requirement.

You also want it to be very sturdy - a wide base and/or some way to attach it to something (wall, ceiling) if it is taller than maybe 1m. Our cat can knock over less sturdy ones with a running jump onto the platforms.

It's a fairly easy DIY project, with lots of instructions online. I have DIYed them before. If you want a particular configuration, materials, or for it to fit into a particular part of the room, DIY is a good idea.
posted by lollusc at 7:23 PM on June 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

In my experience, cats can be kind of particular about how they like to scratch. Some like to do it downward on a floor scratcher (or the rug), others like to do it upward on a pole (or couch arm), some will do it any which way.

Since your sister won't know how her new kitten is inclined, it might be a good idea to get a fairly inexpensive small tree at first, and also a cheap cardboard floor scratcher. Figure out which one the little kitty prefers before splashing out on something bigger and more expensive.
posted by Sublimity at 4:05 AM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Personally I got a cat tree when kittens where about 6 months. By that point I knew we had one climber and one that liked to hide.

I did really like having a cardboard cat scratcher tunnel. It lasts about 6 months with two cats.
posted by typecloud at 7:44 AM on June 18, 2020

we have a couple Baobabs from square cat habitat, and they are great - two of our cats prefer to scratch "down" so these work well for them. Yes they're insanely expensive but our house is very small and they're essentially part of our furniture so we went kinda fancy because cat trees are pretty ugly!

if your cat scratches "up" - our third cat did, and ruined a few couch corners before we finally found a post he'd prefer to the couch - this post is the best
posted by euphoria066 at 8:23 AM on June 18, 2020

if she's wanting to build something, I found the design of this cat tree to be quite inspiring to my budding woodworker eye as a starting point for my own design!

I would say she should just get a cheap post and one of those cardbox box scratchers for the first bit though to find out if kitten is an up or down scratcher.
posted by euphoria066 at 8:50 AM on June 18, 2020

My cat loves the taller (out of your budget) version of this Vesper tree. It doesn't have any carpet, as carpet can be a hazard if the cat likes to eat strings. It's held up well, far better than the carpeted ones I used to get at Costco.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:24 PM on June 18, 2020

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