This is a bit of a silly post – the majority of which will be me gushing over my cat’s cuteness when he’s snuggling up in cat trees. Truth be told, it’s more or less an excuse for me to share masses of pictures of my adorable fella enjoying his new prezzies.
I’ll start at the beginning. My husband Thomas and I found Avery as a stray/feral cat in our backyard back in 2013 when we lived in Canada. We decided to keep him, and took him in within a single day of full-on interaction with him. It takes a while to get a stray cat to trust you, so by that point, we were falling for him for almost a month, and had been feeding him whenever he’d show up in our backyard.
We’ve moved countries twice – and that includes a cross continental move from Canada to the UK, as well as a less intense move from from England to Portugal roughly a month ago. And yes, of course we took our baby with us both times. We could never imagine leaving him behind.
For the vast majority of the years Avery’s been with us, he’s been living in small spaces – from one room in a house back in Canada to one studio apartment where Thomas and I worked and lived full-time in the UK. The experience taught me a lot about life with indoor cats in apartments – how it’s doable, though a lot more difficult than having a bigger space/full on house to work with.
Now that we’re finally in a house, the first thing I wanted to do was take advantage of the enormity of our new space (in comparison to the one-room spaces Avery’d been living in!) to spoil him a little (okay, a lot) with cat furniture I didn’t have the wiggle room for before.
When living in small spaces, I used to make sure Avery had plenty of spots he could spend time in by arranging human furniture in cat-friendly ways – placing a sofa next to a dresser, laying a sweater on the bottom shelf of a wall unit, that kind of thing. In our studio, I created a nap nook for him on the very top shelf by placing a lovely pet pillow Thomas’ grandmother made as a Christmas present for him one year. So he could reach it, I pushed tall dressers into the side of my closet, then put a step stool for him to get onto the dressers.
These methods work. They were highly effective in keeping him happy and busy moving from spot-to-spot throughout the day. They made the space feel bigger to him, since the larger space was packed full of so many different small nap spots he could hang out in. Still, I always really wanted to try out cat furniture – especially to see if it would do the trick for Avery as nicely as re-arranged human furniture, or maybe even better.
I can’t say that one system is actually better than the other. They both work out really well. Avery loved the living daylight out of his closet nook. He absolutely adored jumping from one human furniture piece to the next, and I can’t possibly explain in words how much he loved his nap nook in the closet. He did, and still would love these types of spots if I created them here. But I have to admit, there does seem to be something magical about cat trees…
Here’s part two of this story (sorry the lead-up took so long!). His first tree arrives in the delivery van.
We unpack it and put it up. It’s a large AmazonBasics one that I’d been eyeing for ages. It’s pretty sturdy, and I deemed that pretty important since Avery’s a hella tall fellow who’s not a fan of wiggling when he jumps onto things. I once made him a gorgeous lounging spot out of Ikea’s Marius stools and the sheepskin he loves to knead in. He’d sit in it if I placed him, but would never dare jump on it by himself. It seemed to me he couldn’t handle the idea that it would shift as he’d jump onto it. So when I bought a cat tree, I wanted something he’d be happy to hop on without hesitation.
We stuck the Amazon Basics tree, stuck it in the living room by the window, picked Avery up and plucked him on the scratch post on the bottom. He scratched. Then we moved him to the rounded perch on the very top. He sniffed a bit, then hopped off. At that point we were obviously more excited about the cat tree than he was. I expected he’d love sitting in it almost immediately. He didn’t. For days, maybe even a week, he used that cat tree as a scratching post and nothing more.
Yes, we picked him up and placed him on the top often. When we did, he’d stay for a bit, then run away. Eventually he’d stay for a medium-length nap then flee, but still wouldn’t go on the top portion himself. Oddly, on occasion I’d see him step onto the second level of the cat tree and have a little cat bread loaf sleep. But for the most part, he was still only using the tree as a scratcher.
I didn’t really mind this, but had a feeling this might change over time. Even if it didn’t, Thomas and I always planned on getting a second and third cat once we moved to a house, so I was fine with the idea that maybe the other cats would enjoy the tree – and may even teach him to use it by showing him how to as well. I added a slew of small cat trees that he could use as scratching posts or low-to-the-ground nap spots to his heart’s content, as well as one more tall cat tree I couldn’t resist buying (it was such good value!) to my Zooplus cart, and called it a week.
Obviously, the second you think a cat’s set his mind to something (like only using a cat tree as a scratching post!) that’s the second he decides to change it. I’d moved the AmazonBasics tree to my office, and while he’d been ignoring it for ages, typing away at my keyboard one day I turned to look at him, expecting to see him sitting on the window sill looking out, and there he was having a nap in the circular perch section right at the top of the tree.
Absolute win. I told Thomas.
Then it happened more and more often.
My brother from Pets Overload, who’d bought the very same cat tree, found that his kitten cub Kalista took to it right away, but that his older cat, Beau (a stray like Avery who I found and convinced John to take in, but that’s a story for another day) ignored that cat tree like the plague. We both knew Beau to be pretty darn sensitive to smells (as many cats are!) and so agreed it may just take a while for Beau to be comfortable enough with the tree smelling like it belonged to actually use it. This may have been the reason Avery didn’t initially take his tree, but I prefer to say that he didn’t really know what to do with it (besides scratch), or how awesome it could be to use.
That massive order of cat trees I made from Zooplus? The large cat tree arrived first. And you know what, as soon as Thomas got it up and plopped him onto it, he fell in love. Spent a good 2-3 hours sleeping snugly, staring straight out the window, enjoying his view. Happy as hell, he’d swing his tail from side to side (one of my favourite quirks of my lil’ cougar – always felt like this was a very dog like trait, rare for a cat to do, that’s ever so endearing!). It’s funny but he actually sways the circle perch slightly as he moves his tail, since it’s not the most sturdy cat tree in the world. But it doesn’t bother him one hoot. For my fickle-about-sturdiness cat? This is a crazy accomplishment.
Avery spent the entire evening on the new cat tree. Every so often, he’d walk over to the washroom to have a bite of kibble (I have a feeding station there), then waltz straight back to the living room, this time onto the circular sleep spot on the bottom of the tree. A nap here, a nap there; definitely love at first sight with this second one.
And so you know what, I think any tree we get from this point on, he’ll probably take to immediately. He wasn’t fussed about cat trees at first, but now he’s got a full fledged romance going on.
Avery definitely prefers the large napping spots to other features on cat trees (like dangle toys and tunnels). I’ve yet to try a cat tree with a hammock or with a little house for him to spend time in, so he might love those too, but he’s not yet taken to any tunnel (though I have one on his way that I think he might like), I think because he’s so large and they’re mostly too small for him. I hope he’ll adore the small, inexpensive trees I bought him that I’m planning to scatter around the house; I always want him to have a nook and sisal rope to scratch on no matter where he happens to be.
In terms of rearranging furniture vs having a cat tree – I think he loves the second tree as much as having 2-3 unique spots created for him with human furniture, because realistically, it has 2-3 spots for him to nap in integrated into it already. I feel if he could think and speak human, he’d tell me, “Why the heck did you ever waste money on cat toys? These are so much better.”
I am so happy for him. Am so glad things worked out. There isn’t much more satisfying as a pet owner than watching your furry thoroughly enjoy something you did or bought for just for them – to make them happy. It’s a small pleasure, I guess – possibly a silly thing that doesn’t deserve a whole article dedicated to it, but it’s enormously satisfying nonetheless. After 5 years of thinking, “My cat would probably love a cat tree,” and “If only I had the space!” – finally it’s done, and he’s utterly delighted..
How could that not immediately slather a smile on my face?