AN ACTIVE CAT IS A HAPPY CAT
by Nancy Marano
"Cat furniture? Why spend money on that when the cat's always on the couch?" Cat owners often hear exasperated comments like this one from a spouse or roommate, but the truth is cats do need their own furniture whether it's a cat tree, a scratching post, a window perch or some combination of these elements. That's especially true for "indoor-only" kitties.
Explains noted feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like A Cat, "Cats don't just live in horizontal space. By using vertical space, you double or triple the size of your cat's territory. This makes a world of difference if you live in a small apartment. In multi-cat homes, the use of cat trees and/or window perches can help maintain hierarchical harmony. Cat trees and window perches provide exercise opportunities for cats and help in the trust-building process by giving the cat a place of his own to escape to when necessary."
Ollie Davidson, an adoption counselor at Tree House Animal Foundation, a no-kill cat shelter in Chicago, agrees. "Cats like, and need, to have a place of their own. Cat trees provide a cat with that place, and give cats a good opportunity to exercise and scratch. When a person adopts a cat from us, we recommend that they put a couple of scratching posts in their home so the cat won't destroy the furniture or drapes."
A quick, informal survey of cat owners showed that the qualities most cat furniture buyers look for are sturdiness, attractiveness, ingenious design, and cat worthiness.
If you're searching for cat furniture, you'll find a lot of choices in a big price range. The sheer variety can be confusing, but here are some guidelines to make your search easier.
1. Be sure the base is large enough to support the tree. If the tree topples over when your cat jumps on it, your cat might not go near it again.
2. Make sure the perches and tunnels are large enough to accommodate your cat. Some furniture isn't made with super-sized cats in mind.
3. Check that the furniture is made from solid materials. It's discouraging to pay for a scratching post and find out later that it's filled with cardboard, which won't last.
4. Be sure there aren't any staples or nails sticking out that could harm your cat. Run your hand through the tunnels, along the perches on top and bottom, and on the base. If you feel anything sharp, don't buy the furniture.
5. Ask whether the manufacturer will customize the design to your specifications. This might mean changing the color of the carpet used on the furniture or changing the configuration of stairs, perches, and tunnels to take your cat's needs into consideration. Older, arthritic cats may need to have the steps or platforms closer together.
Cat furniture is available in a wide price range. You can find scratching posts for as little as $10, while elaborate kitty gyms and multiple-perch cat trees can be over $1,000. The right equipment for your cat and your budget is out there, but it takes some searching on your part.
Chain stores, like Petco and Petsmart, have a good selection of cat furniture if you need to pick up something quickly or you run away screaming at the phrase "Some assembly required." But their selection is just the tip of the iceberg. If you're lucky enough to have a specialty cat store in your area, go to a cat show, or receive cat supply catalogs, you'll see how much choice, imagination, and ingenuity there is in cat furniture. These are also where you will be most likely to find opportunities to customize.
Don't forget the Internet in your search for the right furniture for your cat. Many companies do their business strictly online, and some of these manufacturers build unique pieces.
A quick search under "cat furniture" will return hundreds of manufacturers to check out. Some interesting sites to visit are:
All of these sites will give you plenty of ideas for furniture you can order directly from them or for the type of furniture you might look for elsewhere.
If you're handy at building things and shy away from the high price tags on many of these items, there are Internet websites that provide plans for building your own cat furniture. www.catsinternationl.org/9_3.html gives you plans for a scratching post and amby.com/cat_site/cattree.html has good plans for a cat tree.
Your cat's health and happiness depend on you giving him things to challenge him mentally and physically. But he also needs a safe retreat if things become too hectic in the household. Cat furniture fills this need. Since it's built for cats, it's also safer than having your cat take flying leaps off the top of the refrigerator or bookcase. Remember: if he doesn't have his own furniture, he'll be using yours.
Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who lives in Albuquerque and is owned by two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.
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