Cat Vertical Space 101: The Ultimate Guide


If you’ve been following my ramblings for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of providing cats with high quality vertical space. Stimulating, cat-safe vertical space can work wonders in keeping your cats sane, healthy, and help them get along better with each other (and you).

Along with adequate food and shelter, I’d rank vertical space one of most basic needs a cat owner should seek to fulfill.



The Importance Of Being Up High

Think about it—in the wild, you’ll rarely find a healthy cat resting on the ground.

Whenever they can, they seek higher ground (or a hidey-hole).


leopard in a tree

  • Being up high allows cats to survey their kingdom surroundings from a comfortable distance, without the fear of ambush by enemy forces and rogue kittens.
(Have I ever mentioned how neurotic cats are? Their skittish paranoia is actually a part of their weird charm, I think.)
  • Vertical space also dramatically increases your home’s cat-friendly real estate, expanding your cat’s domain and cutting down on the possibility of turf wars between stressed out kitties.
  • Also, it provides them with a passive source of exercise (and the motivation to do more of it), since fat kitties don’t get prime perches.



catastrophic cat mazeThat said, I’ve heard all the usual excuses: Cat trees are an eyesore. They’re expensive. They make me look crazy. My cats don’t need furniture, they’re perfectly content destroying all of mine.

To try to change your mind, I’ve scoured the interwebz for all the best (and coolest) cat vertical space solutions for every budget and aesthetic. I present them to you now.

From stylish and streamlined to innovative DIYs, it’s so much easier (and prettier) than you think to create a cat-happy home.



Let’s Begin!

When I say ultimate guide, I really do mean ULTIMATE. I spent countless eons combing the far reaches of the galactic cat empire to hunt down the coolest stuff to showcase here.


Feel free to warp directly to any dimension:

Classic Cat Trees   (Carpets n’ sisal rope)

Modern Cat Trees   (Sleek design & kitty chic)

Wall Mounted Cat Cities   (Epic cat superhighways)

Shelves   (Standalone perches)

DIY   (Homemade, do it yourself)

Getting your cats to use the space




The Classical Cat Tree

cat tree kitten

Everyone knows the carpeted cat tree with sisal legs. It’s the workhorse in the world of cat vertical space: comfy and functional, but hardly pleasing to the eye. But still, there’s definitely something cozy and homey about these, no? And cats sure dig them.

A couple good bets by good brands:




go pet club small tree

Go Pet Club Cat Tree – 52″

new cat condo small tree

Kitty Pad Cat Tree – 50″

petpals small tree

PetPals Contemporary Tree – 49″




Go Pet Club Condo – 62″

Armarkat Tree – 72″

Go Pet Club tree

Go Pet Club Condo – 59″




Go Pet Club Fortress – 72″

cat mansion

Kitty Mansion Tree – 73″

cat city

Kitty Mansion Metropolis – 92″



Slightly more contemporary:



Penn Plax Cat Life Climber – 39″

51 feline nuvo cat tree

Feline Nuvo Cat Tree – 51″

Penn Plax cat tree – 68″





Modern Cat Trees

meyou paris cat ball

Here’s where it gets a little more fun. These pieces add a whole lot of style to a cat tree’s functionality, and should elicit a bit more than a “Oh..I see you have cats” from your guests. (Expect something a bit more like “Is that a cat thing? ..It’s kind of… awesome.”)


sauder cat sphere

Sauder Cat Sphere

Refined Feline Lotus tree - Wayfair

Refined Feline Lotus tree

Vesper Cat Condo - Wayfair

Vesper Cat Condo

Sauder modular cat tree

Sauder Cat Shelf


Vesper mini condo


Vesper mini condo

baobab cat tree

Squarecat modern tree

Sebastian cat tower

Sebastian cat tower





Wall Mounted Cat Cities

Perhaps my favorite vertical kitty space solution of all is cat shelves. They’re just so incredibly versatile, and not to mention super epic looking. Plus, they don’t take up any floor space and can double as modern art. (That statement is barely satire — have you seen some of the stuff that passes for art these days??)

It’s like having a giant cat aquarium in your living room. Or a cutaway ant farm, except cuddlier. When I finally lock down a house of my own, you can bet your ass the first thing I’m gonna do is design the most badass cat wall jungle gym of all time (and post incessant pictures of its progress). Don’t tell my husband. He doesn’t know yet.

The foremost enabler of my wall-mounted cat city dreams is Catastrophic Creations. I discovered them recently thanks to a tip from a fellow cat-thusiast. (Thanks Jose!)

Just look at the possibilities…











The pieces are sold in modules, like so:


roman cat fort

The Roman Cat Fort – Cat Hammock Shelves

Vertical Play Structure


cc hammock ladder

Hammock / Ladder Unit

cc hammock

Tiered Hammock Unit




cc sisal step

Sisal Post Step

cc cat bridge

Indiana Jones Cat Bridge


And last but not least:


cc mario2

Super Mario Cat Complex – whaaaaat??? YASSSS.



Killll meeeeeee.




For something a little less intense, there are smaller, standalone pieces like these –


kitty cot

Original Kitty Cot Window Perch

Refined Feline Cloud Cat Perch


K&H Kitty Sill

curve cat shelf

CosyAndDozy Curved Wall Perch



LikeKittysVille Wall Mounted Lounges






As most cat owners know, you don’t necessarily need to drop a load of cash to please your cats. For such dignified little critters, cats are surprisingly low maintenance. Here are a few awesome DIY cat vertical space solutions, ranging from simple to uber crafty.


instructables diy cat tree

DIY Classic Tree by Instructables

real cat tree

Real Cat Tree Tutorial by Lax Cat Creations


cat hideaway hack

Ikea Expedit Shelving Unit Hack by Ikeahackers

ikea cat tower

Ikea Lack Table Cat Tower by Miss Caturday


diy cat steps

Cat Shelves Tutorial by thehipsoiree

diy cat window perch

Repurposed Serving Tray Cat Perch by diyshowoff






Getting your cats to love their tree

No cat tree in the world will be enticing to your cats if it’s shoved in a back room somewhere.

If you’re going to make your home cat friendly, commit! Think like a cat. Where are the best views in your home? Where does the sun shine the most gloriously? You’ll likely have the best luck placing your cat tree against a wall and near a window, or in a corner (with a sweet vantage point of your home). Cats love corners, since they feel more secure with their backs against a wall, and 2 walls are better than one.


cat in a cat treeIf you’re still having trouble getting kitty to warm up to their new climbing area, don’t despair. Sprinkle some catnip on it, tuck a few tasty treats on its shelves, and play with your cat with a wand toy near the space, enticing them to jump up onto the tree.

Give them a few days. Cats are notoriously wary of foreign objects, and more likely than not, you’ll catch them lounging on it before the week’s up.



Remember, it’s not hard to keep your cats happy.

Even if you don’t splurge on a state-of-the-art cat superhighway system, something as simple as a strategically placed bookshelf or armchair can work wonders in helping your cats feel safer, more comfortable, and more engaged with their home. Especially if your cats are strictly indoor cats (which I recommend), it’s important to ensure their environments are sufficiently enriching and stimulating.

Got any DIY ideas to share? How do you solve the problem of cat vertical space in your home?


Pin it!

Cat trees don't have to be gaudy and monstrous. Here are a few of our favorite picks that add beauty, as well as functionality, to your cat-happy home. #cats #cattree #catfurniture


…Onwards ho!

How to Add A Shelf To Your Shiny New Cat Tree

Sorting Through the Fabulous(ly weird) World Of Cat Toys

My Top 10 Most Indispensable, Bad Ass, Must-Have Kitty Things

15 comments on “Cat Vertical Space 101: The Ultimate Guide”

  1. Ellen Pilch says:

    Great post- you sure did a lot of research. I need to win the lottery, I love the wall stuff and know my cats would too. We have a few cat trees, but can always use more.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Thank you! And yeah, I have to work my way up to the wall stuff… they definitely aren’t cheap. :/ Hoping I can learn to become super crafty one day and make my own!

  2. We love our cat tree. And you’ve given the mom some ideas…those cat shelves are so cool!

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Aren’t they?? I flipped out when I saw them. They’re so artsy-looking too.

  3. Owner of Toulouse says:

    Does this notion of cats wanting to be up high change with age? Toulousey is turning 8 years old this May and he seems to love the couch & barely goes on his cat tree. I think the highway wall is an awesome idea, but what if he isn’t into it?

    Is there a way to test this without making a hole in my wall?

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      It’s very possible! Older cats’ energy levels tend to go down, but at 8 years old Toulouse should still be in his prime. If he used his tree a lot previously but not so much recently, it could be his age.
      Is the tree comfortable to rest on and easy/stable to climb? Does it offer him nice views of his domain? The practicality, sturdiness, and placement of a tree (from a cat’s perspective) are crucial in determining whether a cat will take to it. Try moving it next to a sunny window. At the end of the day, if he’s still pretty active and likes to climb things/explore his environment, there’s a good chance he’ll take to cat shelves!

      Oh, another caveat – I know of cats who really don’t like hammocks (or having to step on anything that doesn’t feel stable). So unless you’re sure Toulouse likes cat hammocks, it might be best to stay away from the stretchy hammock units. You can almost never go wrong, however, with a sturdy, padded shelf (especially if it curves in a bowl shape). I’ve never met a cat who didn’t like bowl-shaped surfaces.

  4. Tara says:

    Jut discovered your blog! We are a cat/dog family, but we just got our first kitten in years and years, and our first totally indoor cat (after an unfortunate accident took our last kitty). I love the idea of creating some of these vertical spaces. Thanks for such a great post!

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Oh no, I’m so sorry about your kitty.. :[

      But yes, creating fun vertical space for cats is my version of gardening. Haha!

  5. Ana@mcnt says:

    I have few cat trees. I love making them. You gave such great ideas. Mom would love it. Thanks

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Hey Ana, thanks for your comment! I agree- if you’re especially crafty, making cat trees (and cat-ifying a house in general) is just so damn fun.

  6. zoltanvampira says:

    love this blog

  7. Effi says:

    This is awsome !
    We tried a cat tree first but it took too much space of our tiny appartnment, and i was affraid to use the window perch causei read some cases the window broke and hurt the cat 🙁
    So eventually I came up with this cat hammock, my cat lovessss:

  8. carol smith says:

    I found a perfect functional solution using IKEA Hemnes bookcases and matching shelves that serve as steps. I put stair gripper carpet on each step/shelf to make sure not slippery. Pixie our hybrid Maine Coon loves this setup> She goes up there many times a day and peers down on us lowly humans. Inexpensive and very attractive.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Lovely idea! I’m a huge fan of IKEA hacks. Thanks for sharing!

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