Q: Dear Nora, I hear that vertical space is important for cats. I want to make my cat as happy as possible, but I can’t afford a cat tree. What are some alternatives?
A: It’s true that vertical space is important. As hunters, we like to observe our surroundings from above. Vertical space that is inaccessible to dogs and children is also a great option for escaping chaos and danger, which allows us to let our guard down to rest. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it– in fact, my mom has found me creating my own vertical space for free on bookshelves (which work great, once I knock all of the books off) and on the top shelf of the pantry.
You can create vertical space for your cat for free by clearing off a dresser, unused desk, or window sill. Add a cozy blanket (and maybe even a sprinkle of catnip) to entice her. If you happen to be crafty, you could also build your own for a fraction of the price. Check out this tutorial for ideas. Remember, your cat will be the one who will ultimately dictate what she wants to climb and sleep on, so look for clues about her favorite places in the house when choosing where to make cozy vertical spaces for her.
Q: Dear Nora, We live on a busy street now and don’t feel comfortable letting our formerly-indoor/outdoor kitty outside here. She seems bored inside. What can we do to keep her stimulated indoors?
A: I used to be outside too, before I was rescued. I like being indoors because it’s safer and my food bowl is always full– but when I first came inside I did miss chasing birds, climbing trees, and eating mice. There are a lot of things you can do to make a stimulating indoor environment for your cat. Here are a few ideas:
Food puzzles. Food puzzles are a great way to stimulate your cat– just think of all the scheming and problem-solving that will go into retrieving the food!
Bird feeders. Just because your kitty lives indoors now doesn’t mean she can’t still be stimulated by the outdoors. Set up a bird feeder outside her favorite window to perch in (perhaps with a cat tree nearby). She’ll love watching the birds and other critters.
Cat TV. If you aren’t able to have a bird feeder, or for something extra, consider Cat TV. My personal favorite is the bird channel, but my sister Pippi really likes the fish.
Q: Dear Nora, My cat is always climbing on things. He jumps onto the counters, my dresser, the tops of cabinets, bookcases, and even the refrigerator. I don’t like when he gets up onto places where he isn’t supposed to be (especially in the kitchen with his litter-paws), but he only purs when I call him “Bad Kitty”. Why is he so insistent on being naughty and how can I get him to stop?
A: We like to be up high. It’s just a fact. From the beginning of cat-time, we’ve climbed trees, buildings, and refrigerators. It’s how we keep an eye on our surroundings, hunt our prey, and keep from becoming prey for other sneaky creatures.
You won’t be able to easily stop us from climbing to the highest perch in the room. However, you can provide more cat-appropriate vertical space to lure him away from the cabinets. There are lots of options out there, in many styles and price points. I have a tall, multi-tier tree in my house. It’s great because there is plenty of room for both my sister and I to be up high. Plus the base doubles as a scratcher to keep my claws nice and healthy. If you don’t like the look of a carpet-lined cat tree, there’s this fancy wooden version. There are also window perches and wall-mounted cat shelves.
In my house, we really like it when the cat tree is near a window so we can watch the birds and insects fly around. Most cats like this best, but you can try your tree in a couple locations to see what your cat prefers. Sprinkle some catnip onto the new tree or perch and give him some treats when he uses it. That’ll help him associate the tree with good times and ensure that he’ll keep using it.
I’m not a veterinarian (obviously. Cats aren’t allowed into veterinarian school). The information you’ll find here is strictly for educational and entertainment purposes. Dear Nora is not intended to diagnose and we encourage regular visits with your local veterinarian to address any medical or behavioral problems.