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Last updated on Nov 13, 2019

The Best Cat Trees

A proper perch for your resident leopard ​
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How We Chose the Best Cat Trees

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1 month of research

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41 cat condos compared

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4 top picks

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.

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How We Chose the Best Cat Trees

Accessible to cats of all ages

The best cat tree is one that will serve your family feline for many happy years. For young cats, leaping several feet straight up is no big feat — kittens possess possibly the most boundless energy of any creature on the planet — but for older cats, jumping can be painful or impossible. We spoke to animal behaviorist Dr. Meghan Herron, a Veterinary Clinical Sciences professor at The University of Ohio, who told us, “A geriatric cat is not going to be able to jump super high so you need to have stepping points” to make a cat tree usable long-term. We looked for models with step-ladder access to the first level.

Vertical space

Cats, with both predator and prey instincts, feel safe and in control when they are up high. Dr. Herron pointed out that a high vantage point is one of the central purposes of a cat tree. While apartment-dwellers might be interested in a compact cat tree, chances are your cat won’t go for a cat tree unless it’s the tallest option in the room. And there goes the whole attempt at distracting Fluffy from the plush sofa or the kitchen counter. We scouted for trees that stand at least three feet off the ground.

Scratching options

There’s so many reasons why cats love to scratch: It’s part of their natural grooming (they can’t shed the outer layer of their nails any other way), it allows them to fully extend and stretch their back, and it’s a way to visually mark their territory. That’s right — cats like leaving big gaping tears in your furniture. It’s kind of the point.

Because cats like to get a good scratch in as soon as they wake up from a nap, we looked for multiple scratching options made with natural rope. Cat’s dual love for napping and scratching is what makes cat trees so great — it offers a cozy spot to snooze and then jute- or sisal-wrapped posts to claw.

Accommodates large cats

One of the most widespread complaints of cat-tree buyers is that the perches, enclosures, and climbing holes are sized for kittens. As internet memes colorfully illustrate, cats like to stuff themselves into small boxes and the four-inch tunnel between window and blinds, but it’s a little pitiful to see a cat sitting on top of the condo she wants to sleep in. We kept an eye out for cat trees with adequate dimensions verified by at-home photos, and crossed out designs with repeated call-outs of being too small for sleep and play.

Trustworthy craftsmanship

A brief foray into the cat tree market is a great primer on the world of ODM — original design manufacture. Company A produces a generic design on the cheap; Company B purchases those ready-made goods, slaps on a label, and sells them under its brand. As we gathered the stats on cat trees and cat condos, we saw the same handful of designs cropping up over and over. These similar designs were accompanied by similarly split reviews: Some customers thought their cheap cat tree served the purpose; others found the shoddy workmanship a bit of an eyesore or, worse, a hazard to their pets. We took a skeptical stance on identical trees from different labels and marked a heavy red “X” on models with safety concerns like exposed hooks or construction complaints like tearing carpet and unraveling rope.

The 4 Best Cat Trees

    Basic Cat Tree
    Amazon

    AmazonBasics Multi-Level Cat Tree

    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.

    Deluxe Cat Tree
    Cat Tree King

    Cat Tree King Corner Cat XXL

    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.

    Multiple Cats
    Playtime Workshop

    Playtime Workshop Bigfoot Cat Tree

    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.

    Minimalist Cat Tree
    Tuft + Paw

    Tuft + Paw Ozzy Cat Tree

    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

    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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