3 Alternatives to Cat Trees That Will Give Your Kitty a Lift

By PetMD Editorial. Reviewed by Katie Grzyb, DVM on Feb. 21, 2019

Image via iStock.com/w-ings

By Cheryl Lock

It’s no secret that most cats love to climb, jump and perch—basically any action that gets them off the ground. That’s why cat parents usually have a cat tree or two in their array of cat supplies.

But cat trees aren’t the only options for pet parents. Among cat hammocks, window perches and wall perches, there are plenty of unique cat tree ideas you can use to give your kitty a lift.

Why Do Cats Like to Be Up High?

“Domestic cats descend from the African wild cat, [who] are known to be excellent climbers,” says Dr. Cheryl Kolus, DVM, KPA-CTP, behavior center manager at Fort Collins Cat Rescue and spay/neuter clinic.

“Cats are both predator and prey, so high places provide safety,” says Dr. Kolus.

Besides safety, having access to high areas can help keep the peace in multicat households, says Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant and author of “Naughty No More!

“One way that cats demonstrate their social position in their flexible hierarchies is by where they position themselves in relation to each other,” Krieger explains. “Even cats who are the only kitties in their household have the instinctual need to exhibit their status.”

If your home has multiple pets or small children, or is just a busy place in general, adding vertical space—like a cat hammock or cat perch—can help your cat avoid the fray, if he is so inclined.

“Plus, for many cats, climbing and jumping on and off things is simply fun and good exercise,” says Dr. Kolus.

Traditional cat trees are the common product people use to allow their cats to jump and perch, but there are tons of other alternative cat tree ideas too.

“Cat trees are great, but you can also add vertical space in other ways and even give your cat a super highway so he can access different parts of your house,” Dr. Kolus says.

Hammocks for Cats

A cat hammock is a great alternative to the traditional cat tree. It allows your cat to not only jump but also relax and swing—which some cats really enjoy.

If you’re going with a cat hammock, Dr. Kolus suggests using caution for older or disabled cats that might easily lose their balance. These cats may find themselves in an awkward position that’s hard to get out of. For a sturdier cat hammock option, consider the Petstages Easy Life hammock cat toy.

Window Perch for Cats

Cat perches provide a versatile option that can be configured in multiple ways, depending on your space and what you’re trying to achieve. They’re also a great option for people who live in apartments or smaller homes and don’t have the room for traditional cat trees, Krieger says.

If you are looking for cat tree ideas that will provide your cat with extra height, you can try a cat window perch. A cat window perch operates essentially like a cat shelf that you can attach to a window in your home, like the Oster sunny seat window mounted cat bed.

Another option is the K&H Pet Products deluxe kitty sill, which can be set up on a window sill in your home to create a lofted hangout for your kitty. It will also provide your cat with a vantage point for monitoring the activities of birds and creatures outside.

You can even find a cat window perch that has cat scratchers built right in, like the K&H Pet Products EZ mount window scratcher kitty sill cradle, which will allow your cat to lounge or get all his scratching out.

Wall Perch for Cats

Another alternative cat tree idea for creating vertical space for your cat is to create a climbing maze using wall-mounted cat shelves. “Climbing mazes with lots of shelves are great for providing mental and physical stimulation, and they also help to eliminate boredom,” says Krieger.

You can use Katris blocks—like the Katris Mix & Match Blocks "Z" shape cat scratcher or the Katris Mix & Match Blocks “I” shape cat scratcher—to create a climbing tower. The Katris blocks can even be mounted to your wall—using the Katris cat scratcher wall mount kit—to create a climbing maze or vertical safe space for your feline family member.

How to Decide Which Elevated Cat Hangout Is Right for Your Cat

There are certain things to be on the lookout for to ensure your cat stays safe when jumping or climbing.

To start, any products you permit your cat to climb or jump off should be sturdy or well-anchored. “For items like cat trees that have multiple levels, look for those built in a step-wise fashion so that it is reasonably easy for the cat to jump or climb from one level to the next,” says Dr. Kolus.

Extra safety precautions should be taken for senior cats or those with physical disabilities, she adds. “For instance, they should be able to simply step up or down between levels instead of having to jump, and perhaps items should not be too tall to avoid the chance of a dangerous fall.”

With multiple cats, it always helps to provide two exits from a cat perch; that way one cat can’t stop the other from moving away when they need or want to.

Krieger also warns of perches or shelves with slick varnish, which may cause cats to slip and fall when jumping. “The surfaces can be easily changed by safely securing sisal, cat beds or carpet on them,” she adds.

Keep Your Cat’s Comfort and Needs in Mind

While the alternatives to cat trees are sure to be tons of fun for most cats, every cat is an individual. Owners should consider what types of climbing surfaces their cat enjoys as well as their cat’s physical abilities when deciding which alternative cat tree idea to try, says Dr. Kolus.

“Adding vertical space can be very enriching for cats, increase physical activity and enhance both physical and mental health,” says Dr. Kolus. “It can also be very important for providing additional territory, whether you have one cat and a small apartment, or even if you have a larger home but with multiple cats.”

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