While indoor cats are certainly safer from road warriors and predators, your homes interior becomes her only playground – and a curious cat will benefit when in an environment that stimulates physical and mental activity.
According to Dr. Drew Weigner, DVM, of the Cat Doctor in Atlanta, Georgia, Indoor cats have less opportunity than outdoor cats to get the exercise and mental stimulation they need. Furniture with different levels, secret areas and climbing opportunities is ideal for providing both.
Todays options – condos, gyms and trees – stretch the imagination (and, in some cases, the budget!) but these tips will help you survey the gamut between high-end and low-end products and find what kitty really needs.
Wild at Home
Cat owners often discover their pets peering down from high shelves or hunkered down beneath sofas, two glowing eyes the only indication of their presence. Climbing, perching and hiding are instinctual behaviors that cats in the wild use to their advantage when scanning the territory, keeping an eye out for prey.
Your home may be too space-challenged to meet your pets need for a feline hideaway, or perhaps there is no serene area that Kitty has claimed. Feline furniture can function as a hideout as well as a bed, scratching post and exercise area.
Matching Furniture to Kittys Needs
Comfort and security play a big role here, so furniture with nooks and crannies is preferred by most cats as their castle, says Dr. Weigner, who is board-certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Soft surfaces (fleece, carpet, etc.) make it much more enticing. Sanitation is also an important consideration, so look for furniture with removable coverings that are washable.
Condos provide what their name implies: a kitty home that often features an enclosed bed area at the apex, along with easy climbing access. Gyms and trees serve as playgrounds and open-air napping locations. Consider your cats lifestyle when choosing between them. Does your pet sleep with you? (And do you like her there?) More active and curious cats may require the playground feel of a gym, while kitties prone to hiding beneath sofas covet furniture with a high degree of seclusion. Multiple cats need sharable furniture with multiple play areas, as well as more durable surfaces, due to the higher level of wear they will likely inflict.
Location, Location, Location
An ideal place would be near – but not in the middle of – the household activity, preferably near a large window for light and views of the outdoors, explains Dr. Weigner. But he has a caveat: Do not put the food bowls or litter box nearby. Cats have separate areas for eating, eliminating and playing. Putting a litter box near a play area, for instance, will discourage playing in that area or using the litter box – its a common reason for whats politely known as inappropriate elimination.
From a cats standpoint, the higher the better, but stability plays a big role here, says Dr. Weigner. Picture your cat leaning on a post scratching, chasing her housemates around the gym landings and hanging from a perch with her claws. Furniture should remain stable during all these activities. Pull at the top tier of a showroom model (keeping kittys weight in mind) to make sure it stays put.
If you plan to buy online, assess stability by examining the construction. Tree weight should be appropriately distributed throughout its height, with the heaviest components concentrated near the bottom. (Otherwise, the piece becomes top-heavy when kitty is added to the mix.) For a single-post tree, make sure that the components do not stick out far from the post, because this tends to throw off the center of gravity. Multiple posts located at the corners of the base, with the various components (perches, beds, tunnels, etc.) mounted on them, are often more stable.
An underweight base is often oversized to maintain the stability of the structure. If floor space is at a premium, furniture with a heavy base may be preferable.
Fluffy Gets Around
Your cat should be able to maneuver easily between components, so examine the jumping angles and the steps between them to make sure that they are not directly above one another or too far apart (less than 18 inches is a good guideline). And bear in mind Kittys age and size, says Dr. Weigner. Older cats need ramps to climb to different levels, kittens need shorter furniture so they wont get injured if they fall, multiple cats need multiple pieces or very large furniture and overweight cats need more exercise, so furniture is an especially good idea for them.
Even a declawed cat can make use of furniture. Theres really no special accommodation needed for declawed cats, insists Dr. Weigner. They can climb about as well as a cat with claws within the limits of an indoor environment.
Constructed for Kitty
Carpet and/or sisal rope are perfect coverings on furniture that assuage Kittys scratching needs, but both should be firmly secured. Very active cats may need more durable ropes and carpets. Make sure that all components are safe and non-toxic. Perches and landings may be more secure if fastened to posts at two or more points. If components are fastened at only one point, verify that they are firmly attached and strong enough to endure the stress that active cats will place on them. Select a style that offers easy-to-install replacement parts, since renovations may be required after your kitty wears away at posts, ropes and carpets.
Coaxing Kitty to Move In
Your feline will likely take to her new perch like a fish to water, but some cats are reluctant to abandon favorite haunts. Entice your pet by relocating a favorite mat to the new furniture, sprinkling catnip on landings and tunnels or covering sections of the furniture with catnip spray. Some manufacturers install catnip beneath the carpeting to excite even the shyest kitty.
Shop Till You Drop
There are loads of websites offering kitty furniture. Here are some interesting ones to check out:
www.catsplay.com/ will customize cat furniture for your home dcor and even performs color matching.
The Feline Furniture Company has pieces called go as you grow that are made for kittens and smaller breeds. Visit them at www.felinefurniture.com/.
www.all-cat-furniture.com/ sells a high-end selection of durable trees that feature special environmentally friendly features.