Cat Trees: How to Choose Best Tree for Your Cat – The Ultimate Guide

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Here is a list of what to look out for when buying cat trees. I’m sure your cat will find it interesting too! Read more below

I have spent days going through “best cat tree for” articles, product descriptions and customer comments to discover the pitfalls of buying a cat tree. 

Once you start searching the online shops, you will find hundreds of cat trees vying for your attention. This article will give you tools to check if a cat tree you liked is the best option for you and your cat.

Here is what to consider when buying a cat tree:

#Size of cat/many cats
#Cat behavior/favorite spots
#Materials used/ease of cleaning
#Stability/positioning in the house
#Size and shape of the available space
#Additional cat tree features

Keep reading below for more information.

Size of cat/many cats

Large cats

Large cats will need wider cat tree platforms, larger cat condos and hammocks tested for cat weight. If you’re buying a tall cat tree, remember to check if the base is wide and heavy enough to counterbalance the cat’s weight when playing on the top perch. A tall cat tree toppling over may injure your pet and cause damage to your home. Look out for the baseboard size no smaller than 19 x 19 inches, ideally 20 x 30 inches. Not all cat trees come equipped with a wall strap or wall mount; check the item description whether it is included in the set.

Many cats

If you have many cats, you most likely do not want them to compete for space on the cat tree! Consider cat trees with several levels of perches or more than 2 branches and extra features as baskets or cat condos. Aim for baseboard sizes above 20 x 20 inches and either use the wall strap or place it in a corner of the room to make it extra stable since the tree will need to support the weight of many cats at once.

Cat behavior/favorite spots

Bush dwellers

Does your cat spend most of their time sitting under chairs, coffee tables or hiding behind sofas and around the corners? Cats are natural predators and one of their favorite hunting strategies is to observe potential prey from a safe distance before launching a stealthy attack. Cats displaying a bush dweller behavior prefer to keep their paws on the ground most of the time. They will most likely appreciate a lower cat tree with overlapping shelves or a cat condo close to the ground.

Tree dwellers

If you find yourself forever telling your cat to get off the kitchen counter or gave up on the idea of having open shelves displaying your favorite china collection and the back of your armchair is always occupied by your feline, your cat is definitely a tree dweller. This type of cat enjoys the safety of its high position in the house while watching the goings on from the distance. Your cat will appreciate the tallest tree you can find, one with a soft pillow in a basket as the top ledge.

Beach dwellers

Some cats prefer to spend their lives with all four feet on the ground, but unlike bush dwellers, they prefer wide open spaces, sometimes in close vicinity of other household members. If your cat fits this description, you may skip the rest of this guide. Your cat is unlikely to ever use a cat tree.

Materials used/ease of cleaning

Types of materials used in cat trees

Cat tree frame is built using engineered wood or wood. Wood makes the tree heavier and more stable, but it comes at a cost; you can expect wooden cat trees to be more expensive. Some cat trees or parts of cat trees can be made of cardboard. While this is definitely a much cheaper option, it is much less durable and you can expect it would need to be replaced more often, which makes it less budget friendly.

The baseplates and platforms are usually covered in soft and fuzzy fabric or carpet like material. Soft plush or fleece will be less durable unless you keep trimming your cat’s claws. Carpet or jute lining will last much longer. Most vertical cat tree elements are usually wrapped in sisal rope and serve as scratching posts. Look out for unoiled, natural sisal rope to make the most of scratching posts offered by your cat tree. 

Ease of cleaning

Cat trees are not the easiest parts of the house to clean. You will need to get familiar with your vacuum cleaner’s smaller attachments to get around a cat tree’s all nooks and crannies. Some cat trees offer removable carpets and cushions that are machine washable. These options will be useful if your cats tend to be messy.

Stability/positioning in the house


Tall cat trees above 64 inches are more prone to toppling over especially if your cat is larger than average (average weight of a domestic cat is 8.8 – 11 lbs) or if you have more than one cat. If your cat is a good jumper even a tree lower than 68 inches may not be stable enough.

When buying a tree make sure the baseplate is large enough (the larger the better). Larger base will make the tree more stable. Another feature that helps prevent wobbliness is more weight of the base; wooden bases with cat condos are the best option.

Some cat trees will come equipped with wall strap or mount. This is to help the tree stay stable; keep in mind that the tree will need to be positioned next to the wall and some drilling will be required to secure the strap/mount onto the wall.

You can also consider positioning your cat tree in a corner of the room and get it supported by 2 adjacent walls.

Positioning in the house

Have you noticed how often your cat will stare out the window watching birds, bugs or neighbor’s dogs? Cats are very interested in what is going on around them. Sitting on a high perch of their tree will give them an even better view of the outside world. The ideal position of the cat tree, especially a taller one, is next to the window. If possible you can hang a bird feeder outside the house, visible from the window, to give your cat a chance to watch exciting cat TV. If you happen to keep fish, your cat will be thrilled to watch the fish tank from his high vantage point in the cat tree.

Size and shape of the available space

Amount of floor space available

Usually the larger cat trees will take more space than the dimensions of the baseplate; check the total dimensions mentioned in the product description and use measuring tape to confirm the tree you intend to buy will fit into the space you want to set it up in. If you have many cats, the cat tree may need to have some space away from the wall to give your cats more room to climb.

Shape of available space

Most cat trees are squares or rectangles and will be ideal for positioning in the room corner. Some have more unusual shapes, particularly cat trees fashioned out of real trees and may need lots of space to fit. This kind of cat tree will need even more space to display it properly as  you can use it as a decorative element in your house.

Wall mounted cat trees

If you decide you want to save your floor space, but still let your cat have fun climbing, the wall mounted cat tree is your best bet. These cat trees come in all shapes and sizes, from a vertical trunk with perches on both sides to a cat playgrounds with mounted shelves, branches and suspension bridges. You can even buy 2 sets and combine them to create an indoor catio! The possibilities here are endless. 

As these must be wall mounted you will need to check what types of walls are in your house. Different wall types need specific ways to anchor the cat tree pieces (zinc drywall anchors may not require drilling, but plasterboard walls will need some drilling).

Additional cat tree features

Comfort features

Where in the house does your cat take his naps? Cat bed? Couch you picked for its soft pillows? Your bed? Then make sure the cat tree you buy comes equipped with pillows, baskets lined with soft fleece or hammocks. The soft fabric will encourage your cat to sleep on his tree while you can enjoy your couch. It will also soak the cat’s scent and make it feel safer there. You can try placing your cat’s favorite sleeping blanket inside the cat condo (if the tree has one) to help him get used to it.

Toys and scratch pads

Some trees come equipped with dangling, fluffy cat toys. These are sometimes attached to the tree with elastic string, which adds more movement. Cats can easily chew through it and if you can find trees with hanging sisal rope, this one will last longer.

Scratch pads can serve as extra ramps, if your cat is elderly and does not enjoy jumping while giving the cat more opportunity for scratching.

Cat trees with puzzles and tunnels will let you spend less on other cat toys and keep your cat busy for longer.


Cheapest options

You can find the cheapest cat trees on Amazon, Walmart or Petco websites. The cheapest options at the time of writing this article are $38. These are basic cat trees with either a cat condo as the base and one perch suspended on a scratching post above it or a scratching post with a ledge on top of it mounted on a baseplate.

More expensive cat trees

As a general rule the more layers and extra features the tree has, the more expensive it will get. 3-4 level cat trees prices start at around $80-90. Also better quality materials like wood and carpet will be reflected in higher prices. The only exception to this rule are cat trees sculpted out of driftwood, dead trees or cut trees. These will only provide a few perches and set you back over $1500, but will definitely make for a prominent focal point in your house and a great conversation starter!

Wall mounted cat trees are a little more expensive than their floor based counterparts as you also may need to add the installation cost to the cost of the tree you buy. Wall mounted trees may be a good idea if you want to build a cat playground, but don’t want to buy all the elements at once. Each element can be bought separately whenever you can afford it.

DIY cat trees

If you are comfortable doing your own DIY projects around the house, try building your own cat tree. The materials for the build are easy to find and are relatively cheap. You will be able to find downloadable free cat tree plans on some websites and there are a few YouTube videos showing how others have done it. If you decide to build a large cat tree, the total cost of materials will most likely match that of a ready-made one. You can also mix’n’match it, buy some elements (like cat condo) and build some others. If you decide to go that route, please share your results! Especially with your cat in the picture!

What to do next?

If your cat displays any behavioral or mobility problems, make sure you consult your cat’s vet before deciding on buying a cat tree. 

If you would like more information on cat behavior, check out our cat maintenance and living with cats guides.

Photo of author


Agnes is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of PetCareLink, website dedicated to first time pet owners looking for help in looking after their animals. Agnes is a pet enthusiast and a devoted owner of Cookie the ragdoll cat. She combines her passion for improving pets and their owners' lives with her background in medicine and research to promote responsible pet ownership.

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