Is your cat not paying attention to his new cat tree?

Have you recently bought a new cat tree and assembled it just to found out that your cat likes its package better? Maybe your cat is ignoring or even is afraid of the new cat tree — what a waste of money.

Cat lying on a cat tree

We remember that once, as we bought a new cat tree, our cat (we had only one at that time, now we have three) only sniffed it initially and then turned around with no great interest.

However, soon later, she started to spend a lot more time on it. Not only sleeping, but also scratching claws, and observing over the room. It was a massive difference since it was fun, comfortable, and the cat felt secure when our then two-year-old daughter approached to “hug” her.

In this article, you will learn how to get your cat to use his new cat tree.

Why does your cat does not use his cat tree?

Cats are natural climbers. If an indoor cat does not enjoy lying on a cat tree, there must be something that prevents him from doing so.

  • Stress and fear. Cats are curious animals, yet they also can be too stressed to let their curiosity loose. A cat may be afraid of the cat tree itself, or from objects that are nearby.
  • The cat tree is not in a good location. The location of the cat tree is more important than its properties. Cat need cat trees not only for napping but also for the ability to overview surrounding.
  • A cat cannot jump on a cat tree. If a cat is still a kitten, is too old or in medical pain, he may not be able to jump on the cat tree.
  • Other cats prevent him. If you have more than one cat, make sure your cat is not afraid to use the cat tree because of territorial issues.

For your cat to use the cat tree, no questions, you must address anything from the above that you can.

Is the cat tree in the best location and accessible?

If you placed your cat tree in a distant room which cat never uses anyway, move it. A cat tree must be in a location that is easily accessible to your cat. If your cat sleeps on a couch in a living room, the best place for a cat tree is next to the couch. Or, at least in the same room.

If the cat tree is inside a niche, move it out. Cat needs to see what’s going on in the room and territories nearby. For example, best if your cat can observe all the entrances of the room.

You can also move the cat tree next to a window if your cat enjoys the outdoor view. Note that some cats may be afraid of outdoors. So, if your cat is, do quite the contrary — move the cat tree away from the window or cover the blinds. At least initially.

Additionally, make sure that things your cat is afraid of are not nearby – vacuum cleaner, washing machine, and others.

There are other things to consider. For example, a cat tree can be placed in front of spots your cat scratches, to prevent further damage. In such a scenario, cat trees work best if used together with smaller posts and pads, as well. You can learn more about places to put cat trees and scratching posts here.

Additionally, to correct placement, ensure that your cat can access the cat tree.

We mentioned already, if your cat is injured or old (or if he’s still a kitten), he may have trouble jumping on the cat tree. You can solve the problem by adding a step in between the floor and the lowest perch. Either place a cat tree near furniture, install and additional shelf, or place a sturdy box next to a cat tree.

Two cats charing a cat tree friendly
photo by Jon Ross (CC)

Also, if you have more than one cat, a particular individual may not dare or want to climb on a cat tree in a specific location, especially, it’s already “claimed” by the other cats.

It, though, depends on your cats. Some may coexist on the same cat tree easily. Especially if the more dominant cat can take the top perch. Some cats, however, won’t be happy to share a cat tree. You have to make a judgment by what you observe.

This may lead to the necessity of having more than one cat tree, placed in different locations. Of course, it’s not true if your cats get along well and do not mind the company of others. On the other hand, even cats who are friendly to each other will benefit from cat tree availability in alternating locations. Even a single cat household will benefit from it. Remember, cats love options.

Encourage your cat to use the cat tree step by step

Now that you have solved the placement and accessibility issues, it’s likely that your cat already uses the cat tree. However, if your cat is still reluctant, there are several ways to encourage him.

1. Place some food on the floor next to a cat tree. Allow your cat to eat them, pet him and praise, and let him see that his new furniture does not pose harm. If your cat is not afraid of the cat tree, most likely you will not have to repeat this step. However, if your cat is in stress, you may want to repeat this several times, with a pause between.

Instead of food, you can also use playing near the cat tree. There must be a toy that your cat loves, so initiate play in a location that is safe (in your cat’s opinion) and move closer. Let the passion of the game carry your cat away.

2. Place some food on the lower shelves of the cat tree, once your cat eats comfortably next to it. You may show the treat to your cat beforehand and scratch the surface of the perch with your fingers to get your pet’s attention. Alternatively, you can leave it for your cat to discover on its own.

In place of treats, you can also use a play. Slide your cat’s favorite toy along the floor, place it on a cat tree, and position, so your cat does not have a direct view on it, but make sure he was all eyes and ears before. This will raise his curiosity, and he may go after it.

If he’s afraid, play as you usually would in the same room, but try sliding the toy over the lower part of the cat tree occasionally, and return to regular playing instantly. At some point, your cat will jump on the cat tree after the toy. Praise him, and depending on his stress level, continue playing on a cat tree, or get back on the floor.

3. After your cat has learned to accept lower shelves, it probably won’t be challenging to encourage further explorations. You will allow your cat to investigate more of his new furniture gradually if you apply the same approach each step forward. The important part is to be patient. Any force can create the opposite effect. If your cat is afraid to explore the cat tree, placing him on it forcefully will only increase the fear.

Ensure the cat tree provides peace and security

One of the most useful things why cats love heights is they provide protection. It’s true in nature, and it’s true for the household environment. Of course, there are no death threats to your cat in your home. At the same time, cats can be scared of dogs, kids, other pets and other cats, as well.

Cat trees provide security to the cat!
photo by Jon Ross (CC)

It does not need to be something obvious, like a kid pulling a cat by its tail, or a dog chewing his ears off. Sometimes just the presence of a possible threat may encourage your cat to take some steps of action. For example, as the dog enters the room, a cat may feel it’s safer to climb the cat tree. No further action needed.

However, it will only work if you ensure that any possible bother will not reach the cat on the cat tree. For example, with dogs or small kids, you may provide the cat tree located, so the dog (or the kid) is not able to reach the top shelf or place it in a room where the dog or kids do not enter often.

If your kids are larger (this includes your spouse, parents, and grandparents), you may explain not to bother a cat, at times when he’s residing on a cat tree, and make sure that everyone (including you) sticks to this agreement.

A cat tree must be like safe heaven in the eyes of your cat, and isn’t it the reason you’ve got the cat tree in the first place?