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ByAnne Dennon Home Technology Writer

Anne has covered home security and home automation for Reviews.com for two years. She's interested in human-computer interaction and tech ethics.

The Best Cat Trees

Indoor cats lead safer lives, but removing them from the challenging, stimulating natural environment poses its own problems. A well-built cat tree can enrich your cat’s home life by providing an outlet for innate behaviors like climbing, scratching, and observing their domain from on high. We compared cat condo models to find which meet the construction specifications recommended by veterinarians and promise to be purr-approved by your cats.

The 4 Best Cat Trees

Best
Basic Cat Tree

AmazonBasics Multi-Level Cat Tree
Amazon
The classic cat tree, with weight for solidity and toys for entertainment
Pros
Perfect for cozy time and playtime
Streamlined appearance
Rest spots for multiple cats
Cons
Unclear assembly instructions
Toys may need to be removed

Why we chose it

Perfect for cozy time and playtime

Dr. Herron reported that in preference testing, “fleece material has been shown to be preferred by cats.” The fleecy, velvety soft fabric that covers this AmazonBasics cat tree is perfect for snuggling. Cats will also enjoy the two high, safe places for comfortable resting. But with assorted dangling, bobbing toys, the tree encourages play as well as sleep.

Streamlined appearance

Sure, there are dangling toys and the enclosed cat cubby, but compared to other cat trees, this option from AmazonBasics has a cleaner appearance. The visual space between the scratching posts and the elevated perches makes the piece look a little more architectural, a little less cat-lady cluttered.

Rest spots for multiple cats

If yours is a multi-cat household, you know that every diva needs her stage. Providing each cat with breathing space (particularly cats that don’t get along) is essential to their sense of safety and well-being. While AmazonBasics Step Ladder Cat Tree is smaller than our upgrade picks, it still offers three staggered platforms for rest. Staggered is the keyword: Cats want to be on different vertical spaces.

Points to consider

Unclear assembly instructions

Most cat trees come with pictograph instructions printed on a standard piece of paper. AmazonBasics does the same, but they cram it into a couple pages in a palm-sized booklet alongside instructions in five other languages. The compressed format makes it more challenging to follow along. Your best bet is to read through the instructions before you get started and face the tree the same direction as you’re seeing it depicted on paper.

Toys may need to be removed

Alarming customer reviews lead us to make the recommendation that you cut off the uppermost dangling toy. One reviewer’s cat got its tail wrapped up in the string, then tried to jump down. She found the poor thing hanging by its tail. A freak accident to be sure, but one easily avoided. Plus, there are other, more innocuous toys included on the tree.

Best
Deluxe Cat Tree

Cat Tree King Corner Cat XXL
Cat Tree King
“King” and “XXL” turn out to be two of the best descriptors for this generously sized condo, fit for feline royalty
Pros
Sturdy
Luxurious fabric
Ample resting zones
Cons
Tricky assembly
Heavy

Why we chose it

Sturdy

Many cat trees feel like a strong breeze could knock them over. If your cat tends to get the “zoomies” or has a bit of weight to throw around, you may worry that their energetic movements could knock the cat tree over. But we’re thinking this cat tree could stay put through a tornado. Dense materials and outsized components give the Corner Cat XXL heft, which translates to longer life and improved safety.

Luxurious fabric

Super snuggly, velvet-soft fabric covers the entirety of the cat tree, save for its rope-covered columns. It also covers the two pillows that swank up the first floor nook and the top perch. It’s exactly the kind of cozy fleece that cats love and the silken texture is apparent to the eye—a serious aesthetic step up from the pebbly appearance of a traditional carpeted cat tree.

Ample resting zones

Other cat trees offer kitten-sized baskets and perches. Those on the Corner Cat XXL could probably fit two adult cats. If you own a larger breed, like a Maine Coon, this tree will be able to accommodate them from nose to bushy tail.

Cat-Tree-Comparison

The Corner Cat XXL's bed baskets were larger and plusher than other cat trees'.

Points to consider

Tricky assembly

It isn’t a difficult cat tree to put together, and even with a couple foul-ups and finicky pieces, you’ll have it assembled in under an hour. But the thick wooden boards, the fabric covering, and the sheer weight make it tedious at times to get the screws through and aligned. A flashlight will serve you well here.

Heavy

The positive spin on this cat tree’s heft: It’s a sturdy, high-quality piece of furniture that will withstand aggressive kitten playtime and accommodate multiple full grown cats. Just be aware that it arrives in two 60-pound boxes that require team lifting. Shuffling it around once built feels a bit like maneuvering an upright piano.

Best for
Multiple Cats

Playtime Workshop Bigfoot Cat Tree
Playtime Workshop
For breeders and dedicated cat fanciers, this stately tree will fit the bill for years
Pros
Generously sized and sturdy
Handmade in the U.S.
High-quality materials
Cons
Expensive
Long wait for delivery

Why we chose it

Generously sized and sturdy

Most cat trees are made from thin fabric, plastic, and particle board. The cat trees from Playtime Workshop are made with hefty wood and thick carpet. The result is an astonishingly sturdy creation that gives cats six and a half feet of vertical exploration. Its sturdy base will allow cats to zoom up and down their jungle gym without toppling it over. This cat tree towered over every other model we brought in, with super high vantage points perfect for cats who want to have the best view of the room.

Handmade in the U.S.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find another cat tree that’s not only made in the United States, but is custom-made to your order. Select your favorite design and then your favorite colors, from rich, jewel tones to cool neutrals. You can even submit requests for custom designs.

High-quality materials

Most cat tree manufacturers don’t disclose the materials, meaning there’s no way to verify their safety. But cats are a curious lot and get into plenty of substances you’d rather they leave alone, from yarn to dog food to rubber hair bands. With Playtime Workshop, you don’t have to wonder what your feline is chewing on. There’s no glue, cardboard, or faux fur — just wood and carpet.

Points to consider

Expensive

Unlike the thin sisal rope and lightweight particle board of affordable options from GoPetClub, this tree is heavy, solid, made by hand. And you pay for those perks — Playtime Workshop cat trees cost several hundred dollars. Still, we think it’s a good investment if you have a houseful of cats or need a good tree for many cat generations to come.

Long wait for delivery

This isn’t a good purchase if you’re in a hurry. It’s unclear whether crafting this super deluxe cat tree or shipping it from Florida takes more time. We waited two months for our tree to be delivered. Admittedly, the company is upfront about the lag time (confirmation emails advised 17-20 days for shipping), but, in the age of AmazonPrime, we were surprised the process could take so long.

Best
Minimalist Cat Tree

Tuft + Paw Ozzy Cat Tree
Tuft + Paw
Chic and simple, this narrow cat tree provides hearty rope for scratching and a lofty perch
Pros
Small footprint
Clean aesthetic
Wood, not plastic
Cons
No soft surfaces or hiding spots
Easy to tip

Why we chose it

Small footprint

For apartment-dwellers or those who simply don’t want a bulky cat tree taking up a lot of space, the Tuft + Paw Ozzy cat tree is a great solution. It offers the two elements cats probably appreciate most in a tree — scratching options and an observation perch — without dominating your living room. The straight up-and-down design is sleek, but may not be the best for geriatric cats since it lacks the easy-access steps we required of more traditional cat trees.

Clean aesthetic

The carpet covering, the inevitably beige or brown color scheme, the vaguely castle-like design — cat trees on the whole could use an upgrade. Tuft + Paw is the only cat furniture company we could find that offers sophisticated cat trees. The Ozzy, available in white birch or natural birch, blends with any decor.

Wood, not plastic

Most cat trees are made of plastic or particle board — not the highest quality materials for a long-lasting cat tree. While the Ozzy is a simple design, its constituent parts (birch plywood and sisal rope) are solid.

Points to consider

No soft surfaces or hiding spots

This tree is more of a column. Exposed on all sides, it will give your cat a good view but no cozy walls to feel secure and protected. The tree will provide for her adventurous side, but she’ll probably opt to snooze elsewhere. The platforms provide enough room for an alert crouch, but neither the space nor softness for a proper lounge. You can separately purchase a fur cushion from Tuft + Paw to add to the top of the Ozzy cat tree, but the base asking price is high enough that the cushion should just come with it.

Easy to tip

Proverbially, cats land on their feet, but older cats, small children, and nearby furniture and plants could all be harmed if a cat tree tips over. This cat tree is particularly liable to tip. Luckily, it comes with a wall fastener that you screw into the center column during construction, then affix to the wall.

The Ozzy's minimalist design requires a little extra anchoring.

Guide to Cat Trees

How to Use Cat Trees to Create a Feline-Enriched Environment

Offer elevated platforms in the rooms your cat likes

Dr. Herron recommends providing “an elevated platform in every room. Otherwise they will choose countertops and furniture.” And if you have a multi-cat household, lots of perching options are especially important. “They need safe escapes from each other sometimes.” If you just have one cat who mostly frequents the living room and bedroom, maybe put the main cat tree in the first and then give them a designated chair or install a cat shelf in the second. Yep, a cat shelf. Check out Catastrophic Creations for cool wall-mounted cat furniture or to gather DIY inspiration.

Place perches on the periphery of the room

This is one baby who likes to be put in the corner. Cats like to have a good vantage point over the whole room, so they will get the most enjoyment out of their cat tree if it’s not exposed on more than two sides — that way, it's easier for them to survey their territory. A good view out the window is also high on your cat’s wishlist.

Get creative with all aspects of your cat’s life

The day-to-day life of an indoor cat doesn’t change much. The only element of variation is what you as a cat-owner bring into it. For that reason, many indoor cats become overly dependent on your attention — biting your hand if you stop petting, getting miffed if you don’t have time for them to sit on your lap.

  • Make feeding a game — It’s more rewarding for a cat to eat after they’ve worked for it. Try a scratch-activated feeder or a feeding toy to elevate their mealtime experience from the same old bowl.
  • Enrich their senses — Olfactory enrichment is often ignored, but your cat’s sense of smell is a huge part of their life. Introduce the scents of the outdoors by leaving their toys out in the grass, periodically bringing in (safe) potted plants from the patio for them to nose, and offering smells they love. Catnip goes over huge with lots of kitties, but lots of cats also like silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle, and valerian.
  • Get them outside — Not all cats will go along with your plans on this one, but some cats love going for a walk in a cat stroller, on a leash, or even in a specially designed backpack. An enclosed outdoor space (sometimes called a catio…) is also a possibility.

Feline Enrichment FAQ

What is feline environmental enrichment?

Providing an indoor environment that allows cats to engage in the normal, natural behaviors they are highly driven to perform. That means offering indoor opportunities to approximate hunting and capturing prey, scratching, chewing, and jumping to high resting platforms. Explore Cat Friendly Homes by the American Association of Feline Practitioners for more veterinarian-approved ideas of how to support your cat’s best life.

How do you read your cat’s body language?

Cats have long been tagged with descriptors like regal and aloof, and this boils down to the fact that cats will let you know when they want to be left alone. You can help your cat feel respected and safe by letting them be when they aren’t in the mood for interaction, and giving them love when they want to give love, too. The signs can be subtle, but as a general guideline:

  • Happy / relaxed: Head up, back straight, elongated body with limbs and tail extended
  • Fearful / tense: Head pulled back, lowered body, legs curled beneath body, tail in tight
  • Playful: Ears and whiskers alert, swatting, rolling, vocalizing

How can you help your cat lose weight?

Obesity is the most prevalent form of malnutrition seen by veterinarians, and increasing your cat’s activity level is the solution. Just like humans, cats once had to exert energy in order to capture food, but now neither of us have to lift a finger (or paw).

If your kitty needs to drop some weight, it’s time to re-introduce the hunt. Try putting some of their food (or even just treats) in food puzzles or food dispensing toys. Create scavenger hunts with Hansel-and-Gretel crumbs to their food bowl located in different areas. Put the cat tree to work as a feeding place that takes a climb. All of the above can lead to a happier, healthier, more fulfilled cat.

Keep in mind: Cat size and weight varies greatly depending on breed and gender — male cats tend to weigh two to four pounds more than female cats within any breed. A Siamese adult female might weigh eight pounds, her male counterpart 12, and the male Maine Coon down the street a whopping 18. The best way to gauge your cat’s physique is by feel. You should be able to feel your cat’s bones easily, though they shouldn’t be visible.

What do I do with an overactive or aggressive cat?

Mental stagnation is at the root of most cat behavior problems. Dr. Herron points to “inappropriate play behaviors or excessive play aggression” as clear signs that the owner needs to provide extra outlets for mental and physical energy. Dedicating more time to playing with your cat is the first and most important step, but providing toys they can play with by themselves is also key. These are toys that are filled with catnip, mounted on a wall, or built with springs or moving pieces to encourage pouncing and chasing. And there’s always the cat-approved standbys of a paper bag and a cardboard box.

What about other behavioral problems?

If something seems off with your cat, and clocking in more play time doesn’t help, it’s time to visit your veterinarian. Issues that tell you to make an appointment include chronic regurgitation of food and other eating disorders as well as overgrooming.

If the issue is your cat relieving itself outside of the litter box, you might be able to solve that problem at home. First off, move the box to wherever your cat is habitually eliminating. Where you currently have the litter box (for example, next to the washer and dryer) may be too loud and stressful.

The golden rule of litter boxes: You should have one for every cat, plus one. That means a one-cat household is a two-litter-box household. Beyond that,

  • Use unscented, clumping litter
  • Scoop twice a day
  • Change the litter at least once a week

The Best Cat Trees: Summed Up

Amazon-Basics Multi-Level Cat Tree
Cat Tree King Corner Cat XXL
Playtime Workshop Bigfoot Cat Tree
Tuft + Paw Ozzy Cat Tree
Best Basic Cat Tree
Best Deluxe Cat Tree
Best for Multiple Cats
Best Minimalist Cat Tree
Length x width x height
31.5" x 29.1" x 70.5"
26" x 22" x 80"
24" x 22" x 59"
21" x 17" x 44"
Colors
Beige, Dark Brown, Grey
Beige, Black, Burgundy, Dark Green, Gray, Pink, Sage (all mixed with Ivory)
Beige/Cream
Natural birch, white birch
Step ladder
Scratch posts
Fabric
Fleece and rope
Carpet and rope
Fleece and rope
Birch and rope

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