Is a Cat Tree Necessary? – A Complete Guide
When it comes to preparing for a cat, there are a lot of things that you are going to have to make sure that you invest in. In some cases, you may need to make sure that you have enough food for your cat to enjoy. Other times, you might want to stock up on your cat’s favorite treats so that you can reward it for behaving properly. No matter whether this is going to be your first cat or you are adopting another cat to add to your family, you are always going to want to make sure that you have enough entertainment for the cat in the house. There are plenty of ways that you can try and keep a cat entertained. From toys that your cat can chase independently to cat trees to sprawl out on, you can rest assured knowing that you will surely be able to find toys and furniture that your cat will appreciate.
If you have never owned a cat before, you may not know what kind of cat furniture or accessories you need to invest in. In fact, you may not even be aware that there are some accessories that you should absolutely purchase for your cat. If you only have a limited budget to spend on your cat, you may feel at a loss as to what you should purchase. Assuming that you can only purchase one piece of cat furniture for your cat, the best thing that you can purchase for both single-cat and multi-cat households is going to be a cat tree. There are many, many different aspects of a cat tree that will make it appealing and a wonderful addition to your cat’s life.
What Exactly Is a Cat Tree?
If you are only first learning about some of the different cat accessories and furniture that you can purchase, you may not be too familiar with what exactly constitutes a cat tree. The pieces of furniture that fall under the broad term of “cat tree” can vary a fair bit in material, size, and overall complexity. At its core, a cat tree is going to be a tree-shaped piece of furniture for your house. It will typically have a “trunk” that is made from a material that is optimal for your cat to scratch. The cat tree will also have several “branches” on it with platforms that your cat can perch on and watch the rest of your house from.
To go into more detail, the “trunk” of the tree is commonly made out of a material that will encourage your cat to scratch on the tree, rather than your favorite furniture. This is commonly going to be a form of rope that feels good on your cat’s claws, although some cat trees play into the name of the product and may actually have a “trunk” made from an actual tree and bark. The goal of the cat tree’s trunk is to encourage your cat to scratch in that part of your house, rather than on something you care about. As with many animals, the ability to regularly scratch on something is not as much of a luxury for your cat as it is a necessity.
The “branches” of the cat tree are often going to be platforms made out of a soft material that is designed to be appealing for your cat to sit on. This material will often be some form of faux fur, sometimes closer to wool and sometimes meant to be long and soft fur. The goal of these platforms is to be a place for your cat to sit and relax off of the ground, as many cats appreciate being able to sit up high where they can watch the actions of everyone in the house. Depending on the type of cat tree you purchase, some of these platforms may have small toys dangling from them for your cat’s amusement.
Why Should You Purchase a Cat Tree?
Cat trees are more than just decoration in your house. One of the reasons why they are considered some of the best furniture for cat owners is because a good cat tree can provide quite a few benefits for your cat’s health and wellbeing as well as a comfortable place to sit.
One of the biggest and most obvious benefits that comes with a good cat tree, especially a cat tree that has a lot of space for your cat to scratch, is that your cat will be more inclined to scratch where it has an appealing place to do so. This will dissuade it from going after your furniture, walls, and curtains. Even if it doesn’t immediately change your cat’s mind about where the best place to scratch is going to be, it will make it considerably easier for you to deal with and train your cat to focus on scratching the cat tree instead, as it will have a comfortable and relaxing place to scratch.
Cat trees will provide your cat with a good viewpoint of the rest of the room, and depending on where you put the cat tree, it will offer a better view of the rest of the house and maybe even the outdoors. This will not only provide a good place for your cats to sleep, but there’s a good chance that it will keep your cats occupied as they look for a place to sit, sleep, relax, and to watch the world around the cat. With the cat trees that also have small toys attached to the perches, this can also be a great way to add some entertainment into what is essentially your cat’s brand-new bed. Even if you didn’t purchase a cat tree with toys on the perches, they are easy enough to add that you can easily create this fun environment for your cat.
Are Cat Trees Dangerous?
If you have never owned a cat and have never found yourself searching for some of the materials that are needed to own a cat, you may be worried about the idea of purchasing a cat tree. After all, something that sounds like it is modeled after a tree sounds as if it would be large and cumbersome in the house, and not everyone wants that. For example, what if the cat tree fell down? While there will always be the remote possibility that something goes wrong and the cat tree falls down, most well-made cat trees are completely safe for you, your cats, and even younger children who might be curious about the cat tree.
It can go without saying that there are some types of cat trees that are dangerous, but not all cat trees should be avoided. Some cat trees cut corners in production and are more of a nuisance in the house than something that is going to make your cat happy. Sometimes the problem will be that the base of the cat tree is not weighted enough, so when the cat sits on one of the perches, the whole tree topples down. Other times, some cat trees may be made from a material that is not safe for your cat to ingest if it gets the urge to lick the tree, meaning that the tree may not be dangerous to the house so much as it would be to your cats.
When searching for a cat tree, you should try and find a cat tree with a base that will keep the tree weighted down. This typically means that the taller of a cat tree you purchase, the more important that weighted base becomes, and the more risk there is that your cat could send the entire tree crashing down. If you can, you should try and go to a pet store where you can see the full model of the cat tree built so that you can get a physical feel for just how sturdy the cat tree is going to be. Otherwise, you should stick with a shorter tree with a heavier base just to be on the safe side.
Additionally, there are just some materials that should not be included in the construction of your cat tree. These materials may be toxic to your cat if they are ingested, and because you may not be able to control what your cat wants to eat or lick, it is best to stay away from these materials as best as you can.
Phthalates are a material that are commonly found in just about all PVC products. These can penetrate through your cat’s skin and cause damage to the liver and kidneys, as it is not a material that your cat’s body can process. With that being said, you should try and avoid all PVC for cat trees, as many PVC products contain added chemical additives that will be harmful to your cat in both the long- and short-term. These additives are usually added to make the PVC easier to work with, but for a cat tree that is going to remain primarily stationary, you will not have to worry about this.
BPA is another product that you should try and avoid when you are planning out what materials you should be on the lookout for. BPA has been known to disrupt the endocrine system in the feline body, which leads to changes in your cat’s metabolism as well as changes in its entire microbiome.
Lead, just as with humans, has been linked to quite a bit of systemic damage throughout the cat’s body. Lead can damage organs and has a tendency to focus on the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system of cats. Thankfully, lead is becoming less common in pet products, but it is still something to be on the lookout for.
Finally, it has been proven that cats do not handle exposure to formaldehyde very well. Exposure to formaldehyde can result in both respiratory and digestive issues in your cat, especially after long-term exposure.
Many of the cat trees’ branches on the less expensive end of the scale are covered in carpeting. While carpeting is not something that is inherently dangerous to your cat as all of the previous materials mentioned are, it is something that you should stay away from if you can help it. A cat’s claws can easily get stuck in the fibers of a carpet, which means that the cat’s claw will snag. This will lead to your cat being stuck, tangled, and confused. If your cat notices that it is the carpet that is “trapping” it on the perch, it will likely try and chew the carpet away. Because cats’ tongues are serrated, they cannot spit anything out, especially fibrous things such as carpet fibers. Their only option is to swallow the carpet fibers, which will lead to long-term serious health issues, and if your cat is unlucky, it could lead to some immediate health issues. You should try and avoid purchasing a cat tree with carpeted perches.
These are all the materials you should try to avoid at all costs, as they can pose an inherent danger to your cat in one way or another. Aside from these materials and the construction of the cat tree being factors that play into the safety of the cat tree, cat trees themselves are completely safe for cats to play with. It is simply a matter of making sure that you know what to look for when you are purchasing a tree for your cat.
Picking Out the Perfect Cat Tree
Now that you have a better idea of what you shouldn’t pick out for your cat’s tree, you may want to have a better idea of what you should be looking for. Thankfully, there has been a major shift from cat accessory and furniture manufacturers to move toward materials that are beneficial for cats to use, so it will be much easier to find a cat tree that is completely safe for your cat to play with. It is more something that you will have to keep in mind if you are planning on purchasing an older model of cat tree.
There are some materials that have been shown to not only be safe for your cat to play with, but they will also provide a better and more comfortable effect for your cat who will be making use of the cat tree. As for the trunk of the tree, which will commonly have the scratching material attached to it for the sake of the cat’s convenience, it will usually be made out of one of four material types. It may be made from wood, resembling a real tree trunk that you would find out in the wild and providing an interesting sensation for your cat’s claws. You can find sisal, which is a type of plant that is local to Central America. Sisal tends to be quite comfortable on your cat’s claws and is completely safe for the cat to interact with in all ways. The most common material that you will find cat trees have a scratching post made from is going to be braided ropes. These are inexpensive and easy to produce, so they are incredibly common in the world of cat trees. With a material as common as this, you can expect that you will be able to have it safely. Finally, a cat tree’s trunk may be made from corrugated cardboard as a form of recycling. This type of cardboard provides more texture for your cat’s claws than a standard sheet of cardboard would, making it a bit more enjoyable for your cat to play with.
As mentioned earlier, most of the cat tree perches that you will find will be made from faux fur. This faux fur can be as short and fluffy as fake sheep’s wool, or it can be as long as your cat’s fur and just as plush. Some types of perches will be covered with a material that falls somewhere between faux fur and faux wool. Regardless, most of these materials will be much safer than carpet around your cat, allowing your cat the chance to rest and relax when you let it have its place on its very own cat tree.
What to Take Away
In the end, it is crucial for you to consider purchasing a cat tree whenever you are planning on purchasing any cat. No matter if the cat you are looking at is a young kitten, a stray cat from the street, a senior cat that needs a forever home, or even if the cat is not going to be the first in the household, all of these cats can benefit greatly from the purchase of a cat tree. While it may take a little bit of time to find a good and reliable brand for your new cat tree, you can rest assured knowing that when you put this kind of work and effort into the cat tree, your cats will be just as happy and pleased with the tree as you want them to be. Before you know it, you will have the perfect cat tree to place in your house and your cats will have the best places to sit, play, and relax.