Aging cats and cat trees - seeking anecdata
July 30, 2021 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Our two cat brothers are 10 years old this year! They are as playful as ever, but I'm starting to wonder if we need to get them a shorter cat tree.

They are both bigger cats (15-ish pounds but also built big), and so we have a nice sturdy cat tree designed for large cats that is around 4 feet tall. They're also (and have always been) a bit clumsy. Lately we've noticed that during zoomies, they are more likely to stumble or scramble at their tree - sometimes falling a level or all the way to the ground. So far, no injuries noticed aside from wounded pride. However, partner has expressed concern that the cats are more likely to hurt themselves acting like nutbars on high perches now as they're senior cats, and maybe we need to opt for a shorter tree.

My concern with getting a shorter cat tree is that they'll just seek out other high places which are more dangerous to access. We've tried to make any other high places inaccessible to cats, but, well... cats be cats. One dumbo recently bailed when trying to get on top of an inadequately blocked bookshelf, for example. They also just love the tree so much, and I'd be sad to take away one of their favourite places/activities.

Did you have a similar experience with your aging cats, and did you come up with a good solution? Any thoughts and stories are appreciated!

Cat tax.
posted by Paper rabies to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
 
Best answer: I'm absolutely not an expert, but our blind 19 year old used to fall off furniture into her face several times a week, without any apparent injury. Even big cats have a very different surface area to volume ratio than humans. The world is a different place for them. Personally, I wouldn't take away a thing they love until an injury happens, if the injury is unlikely to be life changing. (But, weigh the opinions of experts above mine.)
posted by eotvos at 12:21 PM on July 30, 2021


Best answer: I don't think you need to take away their current cat tree but you could just get them a new smaller one and see if they prefer it. If they're really bothered by the old tree they'll stop using it. And if they're not bothered by it you're not really helping them by taking it away. They have to live their little kitty lives, bumps & bruises & all.
posted by bleep at 12:50 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Can you put a chair or something else nearby, to make it a little easier for them to get up and down from their beloved tree? That's what I would do, and see if they use it.
posted by carrienation at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2021 [4 favorites]


My own cats seem to naturally adjust the ambitiousness of their jumps as they age, especially jumping downward. One has had some sad fails jumping up or across as she's gotten older, but not down. And they have places other than our cat condo where they could get into plenty of trouble and that would be hard to restrict.
posted by adamrice at 2:53 PM on July 30, 2021


One of my psychocats will literally climb (somehow) on top of doors if there's nothing else. She doesn't appreciate getting knocked off when we close the door without realizing she's there, either.

Same cat has EASY access to a shelf the same height as the top of the door frames, and usually gets up there the easy way. She will also still occasionally try to run & jump from the floor. She failed spectacularly at it a few days ago, hitting the shelf at mid-belly, and then falling to the floor. I was both shocked and not close enough to try to catch her, and she doesn't like being held anyway, so all I'd have accomplished was stressing her and getting scratched if I was closer and not so surprised.

She jumps just fine most of the time - but last night, missed a whole 2' jump with a mere 6" drop from bed to desk. I don't where she thought she was going to land, anyway. She's only 6, but she can be a klutz with lousy decision-making skills, especially with the zoomies and a catnip high.
posted by stormyteal at 2:55 PM on July 30, 2021


What carrienation said.... I've got a couple of 5' high cat stands in the windows, next to them are either chairs or some other bench/stool at about 30", so they leap in stages. My Handsome Prince is 16, he's got no problems. Big Doofus and Lil Sis are younger (8) , but clumsier; Big Doofus occasionally decides to go up onto All The Things and usually makes it fine.
I think having different levels helps.
posted by winesong at 3:10 PM on July 30, 2021


Best answer: Our family had a lot of cats over the years and they mostly seemed to know to adjust their activity level to their age. It's natural to worry about them though, and maybe there's a way to limit the scope of any potential actual harm and your partners's anxiety level. What about getting some foam floor tiles for under the cat tree? There are all kinds of varieties, mostly for kids playrooms or workout spaces. Could be hidden under a nice rug if in an area where aesthetics matter. Between the foam and cat physics, even a falling cat should be OK, as long as you all pretend it didn't happen so it can retain dignity.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 5:26 PM on July 30, 2021


Penelope is 13 and still loves her floor-to-ceiling cat tree.
posted by Lexica at 6:38 PM on July 30, 2021 [5 favorites]


Jack is 18 and no longer uses his tree at all. From the time he was about 15 we had a chair next to it to make it easier to get up into it and he used that until about a year ago when he just got too frail to jump up anything.
posted by leslies at 1:55 PM on July 31, 2021


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