This Buyer’s Guide walks you through how to make your home an amazing playground for your cats.
Here are a couple of very important points to keep in mind when designing a space for you and your feline friends:
- Safety is KEY. Your cats will be running, jumping and climbing on the furniture. EVERYthing must be affixed securely. This means finding studs where applicable and using the proper fasteners specific to your wall material.
- Use what you have. Most homes already have heaps of places that can be used by your cats. We’ve found that integrating the cat furniture into your existing set up can help make the design more cohesive rather than being “intrusive”. Plus, it’s cheaper if you don’t have to buy as much!
- Think like a cat when working out your design. Imagine your cat traversing the furniture. Ups must have downs. Spacing must be safe. And, in multi-cat households, it is critical to design routes that allow for safe passage and escape when required. The last thing you want to do is back your cat into a corner with no escape route!
- Showcase your cat! Remember that your home is your cat’s home too! Some people want to hide all evidence that a cat lives in their home and hide anything cat related in unused rooms. To be blunt, this is simply not fair. Cats aren’t toys that you can stick in a corner and ignore. They are living, breathing, sentient beings and need to be treated as such. Your home should work for them too! If you make the cat furniture stylish and conversation starters, it’ll transform your relationship.
How to Use Existing Elements in Your Design
Existing furniture and elements of your home can, and ideally should, be used when adding cat furniture to your home. Have a look around and see what you have that can be incorporated into your design. Look for elements such as shelves, entertainment units, book shelves, window ledges, cornices, stair cases, tables, desks, etc., etc.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ve included two examples to demonstrate ways to incorporate existing and new elements to make your home a stimulating environment for your cats.
In Example 1 we used our entertainment unit as the base for the design. We added a shelf above the TV (a highly contested sleeping spot)! We added two high shelves to bridge the distance between the entertainment unit and the cornice. And, we put artificial grass on the window ledges (a very popular lounging spot). We also secured coverings to everything for safety. That’s it! Cat playground extraordinaire!
In Example 2 we used the existing shelves and tables as the base for the design. The sisal pole is the key to the design. The shelves and sisal steps provide many places to jump onto and off of the pole safely. The rope bridge and barrel wall bed offer stimulation, connection and places to relax. That’s it! An amazing cat playground!
Create Your Cat Superhighway
The ultimate goal is to create a cat superhighway for your cats in order to stimulate and empower them. Cats need places to run, jump and climb. The obvious solution of how to create this space is to look up. Claiming the vertical space in your home is transformative for a cat for several reasons.
The first reason is physical. Although exercising on the ground is good, jumping and climbing is even better.
The second reason for a cat superhighway is security. We are, on average, about 7 times taller than a cat. If you imagine how you’d feel if you were living in a world where everyone was 11 meters (36 feet) tall, you get an idea of how the average cat feels. Since cats are both predators and prey they are always on the lookout for threats. And, however well meaning we try to be, we definitely fall into the threat category. Having a high space to escape to is essential for a cat.
And the third reason cat superhighways are amazing for your cats is confidence. You can see and feel the confidence a cat has when they climb up high and get to a secure, high space.
What Room(s) Should You Focus On
The simple answer is that you should consider the needs of your cats in every room that you spend significant time in! Cats are social creature and they want to be where their humans are.
The main design focus should be on the space you spend the most time. This is usually the living room or TV room. We highly recommend that your create your cat superhighway where you hang out the most. If your cat’s main play space is where you are relaxing and unwinding from your day it’s the perfect environment for nurturing your relationship with your cat. You can have dedicated play time in the space, of course, but by hanging out in the same space you can also have more intermittent and passive play with your cat like fetch, throwing toys into tunnels, bringing out the catnip, etc., etc.
You may also spend a lot of time in a home office so that should factor into your design if applicable.
The kitchen is an interesting place. You may spend a lot of time there but you don’t want cats running around for obvious reasons. We recommend that kitchens, and dining rooms if you use them, should have places for your cats to perch. Otherwise, they’ll “perch” on kitchen counters and dining tables! It’s important that your cats can hang out where the excitement is happening without getting in the way.
Bedrooms require bed space for everyone (cats included) but are generally for sleeping, not playing! We recommend that, where possible, cats be allowed to sleep on the bed. If this doesn’t work for you, a sleeping perch or cat bed will allow them to hang out with you. It’s critical for your cat’s mental health that they be allowed to be close to you. They are social creatures and need other heartbeats around them.
Generally, bathrooms, laundry rooms and garages don’t need any work. You don’t spend enough time in them!
The critical point is that wherever you hang out should also be set up for your cats. It’s only fair!
Spacing & Placement
The purpose of the cat furniture is to provide stimulation and challenge for your cats. But, it also needs to be safe! It is very important to consider the spacing and placement of the furniture to ensure that cats can easily travel around the various pieces. There also needs to be multiple access points to the furniture where possible.
Here are the general guidelines re: spacing:
- Vertical Distance Around 50cm vertical distance is ideal. The ideal working range is 30cm – 50cm. As you probably are aware, cats can quite easily get up on tables (~70cm) and countertops (~90cm). But you don’t want to take it beyond 90cm especially given that your cats will be jumping at height.
- Horizontal Distance Under 30cm is ideal.
These spacing examples show all the routes up and down the designs. Each route options is assigned a “Challenge Level” which indicate the level of challenge they provide for cats. Challenge Level 1 is Low Challenge. Level 2 is Medium Challenge. And Level 3 is High Challenge. There is always a route with a low or medium challenge level (i.e. 1 or 2). Challenge Level 3s are thrown in to add more challenge if the cat’s up to it. You’ll also notice that the cats created some new routes themselves (they aren’t that great at following instructions)!
Each piece of furniture has been assigned a Challenge Level to help you better understand how challenging they are for your cats. The Challenge Levels are based on both the vertical distance between two pieces as well as other factors such as the stability of the surface.
- Challenge Level 1: 0cm – 40cm. Flat level surfaces.
- Challenge Level 2: 40cm – 60cm. Surfaces that are a bit challenging (i.e. grades, shape, materials).
- Challenge Level 3: 60cm – 90cm. Vertical climbing surfaces.
Ideally, the mix of furniture should encompass all three Challenge Levels. As a general rule, though, the primary route should always be Challenge Levels 1 and 2 with Challenge Level 3 added as an additional option if the cat’s up to the challenge.
CHALLENGE LEVEL 1:
Description: Safe perches that cats can jump onto away from other animals, kids and adults. Can also be a place to perch or sleep on depending on the size of the piece. It is essential for a cat’s confidence and mojo for them to have safe places to escape to.
Furniture Types: Shelves, Tables, Desks, Countertops, Cat Trees, Window Ledges, Entertainment Units, Cabinets, Bookcases, etc.
CHALLENGE LEVEL 2:
Description: All the benefits of Challenge Level 1 furniture with the addition of providing an extra level of stimulation and interest. The bridges and walkways are an unique challenge for cats and keep their brains engaged. The sisal post has an amazing texture and balancing on it is very stimulating.
CHALLENGE LEVEL 3:
Description: Challenge Level 3 is the first two challenge levels on steroids. Running and jumping is amazing, but climbing to the top of a tall pole at top speed is out of this world. It is HIGHLY recommended that every indoor cat have access to a sisal pole to climb. The only thing that tires Pumpkin out is running up the pole. He literal does laps up the pole, around the room, and back up and again. Pickles and Peanut love the pole as well… but on a less obsessive level than their lil bro.
Furniture: Sisal Pole