Why do Cats Need to Climb?

Kitten hanging from drapes If you, like us, have at one or more times in your life, adopted a cute little kitten, and then went on to experience the shenanigans that kittens get into, including scaling your drapes and stranding themselves on top of your fridge, you might have wondered - why on earth do they subject themselves to such dangers? Keeping a young cat out of trouble is enough to drive anyone to exasperation. At least they're cute.

The truth of the matter is that all of these death-defying stunts that kittens do from a young age are important work in their training to become the cats they are designed to be. Even though our indoor cats are cuddly and tamed, their wildcat instincts are still a central part of who they are. 

Cat in tree In the wild, climbing is essential for a cat's survival. Their retractable claws are perfectly designed to scale trees, in which they can find safety from predators, observe their prey, or keep watch over their territory.

Your indoor cat, though they may not be hunting for food, has similar needs. Cats need to have a way to get up high to remove themselves from any stressors that may be down below, to take a break from other cats or the stimulus of human interaction, and to, yes, watch over their territory - indoor cats need territory, too.

In addition to these instinctive imperatives, it is in feline nature to want to play. And climbing is fun! A cat who has ample opportunity to climb and play on things that belong to them is a cat who is less likely to experience anxiety or depression - supporting your cat's natural needs lays a foundation for a happy cat. 

So how can we help? It's as easy as starting from your cat's perspective. Can you track your cat's interests based on her behavior? If she climbs the drapes, you could place a cat tree in the same place that allows her to look out that window without harming your curtains. You could install a cat perch under the window, or a step nearby, to create some dimension and interest as she climbs to her new observation seat.

Cats climbing on hammocksIf your cat likes to get very high, there are amazing varieties of cat shelves, climbers, hammocks, bridges and more on the market that can help you create a feline wonderland in your home. 

As for us, in our home, we add a little bit of catification, little by little, to respond to our young cats' needs as we get to know them. We cleared space on the top of the fridge and provided a safe way to get up and down, so they don't get stranded. We cleared a shelf on the window box over the sink because they like to lay in the sun there. We installed cat shelves over my desk so that they can hang out with me while I work, but (most of the time, anyway) not sit directly ON my work. 

These are but a few ideas to jump-start your journey in creating a safe and healthy space for your cat to thrive. It's all about getting to know the little panther inside.

Cat on high shelf