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How Do I Create Cheap Vertical Space?

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? 

iamthegreatwent @ Instagram
iamthegreatwent @ Instagram

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.

How Do I Give My Cat Space From My Rough Toddler?

Today’s column is brought to you by Gaea Stephens, an expert in the art of living with a toddler. Gaea is an (almost) 14 year old cat who lives in the Southern VT/NH area. She lives with her human parents, their 2 1/2 year old daughter and an enormous dog. She spends her days sleeping, eating, loving and plotting.

gaeaQ: Dear Gaea,
My toddler tends to play rough with our cat– tugging her tail, squeezing her, etc. The cat takes it like a champ, but I want to make sure she’s as happy as she can be. What can I do to ensure that my cat has ample space from my terrorizing toddler?

A: Sounds like you have a pretty great kitty and a toddler brimming with love for her. Just like kittens, human children show their love through rough play. What seems mean to a human adult can be seen as a sign of love for a toddler. And sometimes, love hurts!

Make sure that your feline friend has plenty of places to take respite from the rambunctious toddler. In my house my human parents allow me to hide in their room if I need some space. They have also provided vertical real estate for me– perches high enough that the tot can’t reach but I can still feel like part of the family.

Trust me when I tell you that your kitty will openly express her disdain if the kiddo takes things too far. I usually give a quick claw-free tap or a loud vocalization as a warning. I also show other signs such as flattening my ears and ceasing all purring. I have even been known to fluff up my tail and hiss a little when she gets really crazy. That is when the humans step in and remind their little one to be gentle with me. More often than not though, I really enjoy my little person’s company and affection.