Give Cats Their Own Spaces

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger explains the importance of vertical territory.

Q: I live in a small apartment with two cats who squabble with each other. Luckily they’ve never hurt each other. My best friend told me I need cat trees. My apartment is tiny; I don’t know if I have room. Why would a tall cat tree stop my cats from arguing?

A: Vertical territory (tall cat furniture, window perches, high-placed shelves and other pieces of tall furniture) can help keep peace between cats. Cats use vertical territory to broadcast their position in the hierarchy to other cats and resident animals in the household. Cat hierarchies are dynamic and flexible. A cat who is sitting on the top shelf of a cat tree in the morning may switch positions with another cat later in the day. It is less stressful for everyone in the household for cats to demonstrate their status through their relative seating positions instead of through aggression or other territorial displays.

When choosing the best vertical solutions for your cats there are a couple of factors to consider. Cats don’t like being in situations where they can be cornered. Unfortunately, many cat trees are configured so that they provide only one way up to the top level and the same way down. Potentially, a cat can be trapped on the top shelf by another cat with no exit. A good solution to this problem is to either find cat furniture with shelves that are configured in such a way as to allow cats multiple access points or to position the cat tree in locations near other furniture that the cats can jump on. Additionally, when buying cat furniture, check that the base is solid and that the tree is stable so that rambunctious cats can’t accidentally pull the tree down. Shelf size is also a consideration. Cats who love to either stretch out or cuddle together appreciate shelves that are large enough to accommodate them.

Small living spaces can accommodate vertical territory. Window perches and secure shelves at different heights provide solutions in small areas. Having a high shelf that runs the perimeter of the room may also be an option. Access points can be provided either by cat trees, book shelves, cabinets, etc. Another possible space saving answer is commercially available cat furniture made up of 12 inch cubes configured into steps that wrap around corners.
Vertical territory isn’t the whole answer to resolving differences but is an important part of the solution for smoothing over ruffled fur.

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Cats