Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide

So you're looking for one of the Best Cat Trees for your feline friend(s). Well, I can give you a ton of assistance with that. It’s Jeanie here along with my cats Roger and Doogle. We will go through the details on what you need to know about cat trees long before you see your first one. In fact, the three of us will share tips and maybe even a bit of insight to guide you through the process. I’m telling you that right now, simply because there are far more than two or three different types of cat trees out there.

If you are shaking your head at this point, I don’t blame you. The first time I looked at them I had no idea that there were so many cat condos. Nor was I aware of the different price ranges and accessories. So, why not sit right back with a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and let us do all the hard work for you? Here we go!

1. Cat Tree Functionality

Here’s where you have to put on your thinking cap. If your cat is an active type, then you really need to look at cat trees that will stimulate his or her mind. You also need a unit that fills many more needs and there are a few to consider.

Scratching Posts & Pads

When I started looking at cat trees, I knew I needed something that was going to satisfy Roger’s scratching needs. He doesn’t scratch the furniture now. But in case he did. I had it in mind that a cat tree with at least one scratching pole on it was going to hopefully distract him from turning to the furniture for his clawing activity. Lucky for me I discovered that most models have not just one but several scratching posts built into the design.

Since I have two cats, and although Doogle is not as much of a scratcher as Roger is, they both get to exercise that habit with cat trees. Especially the ones that contain multiple scratching posts. Some have pads that are covered in carpet or a soft plush material that are also great for scratching (like this one from Amazon). The posts are typically covered in sisal rope (the boys love how that feels) and others are wrapped in jute.

Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide - Songmics 58-Inch Multi-Level Cat Tree with Plush Carpet Scratcher
Songmics 58-Inch Multi-Level Cat Tree with Plush Carpet Scratcher (View On Amazon)

Interactivity & Engagement

Depending on how playful your cats are, you may want to explore cat trees that contain many points of interest to keep them occupied. The features that fall under this category are many. And include such things as little condos for them to hide or nap inside of, multiple levels for jumping and playing. As well as dangling toys such as mice and balls for endless hours of play.

What I needed most was a design that kept both boys interested and still let them either play together or apart. The multi-level design was best in my situation but may not be ideal for yours. Either way, you should check out the FurHaven Tiger Tough Cat Tree Range. They'll have one to suit any cat owners needs.

Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide - FurHaven Tiger Tough Multi-Level Cat Tree Range
FurHaven Tiger Tough Multi-Level Cat Tree Range (View On Amazon)

Sleeping & Perch Areas

Because both Roger and Doogle are relatively active. I find that after some rough and tumble play time on the cat tree they need space to just crash. You will find most cat activity trees that have flat platforms on them will also double as a napping area. All of them will be covered in a soft material for comfort. A few even have raised edges so your cat can rest its head on them.

Many cat trees also have a perch located at the highest location. This is great for cats who want to be able to see the entire room from a higher vantage point. Both of my cats take turns doing this and it keeps them relaxed and calm being able to have such a good view.

Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide - Songmics 67-Inch Multi-Level Cat Tree with Napping Areas
Songmics 67-Inch Multi-Level Cat Tree with Napping Areas (View On Amazon)

2. Cat Tree Construction

Because the average cat tree is intended for indoor use (some are just fine outdoors) you need to ensure that they are well-made from quality materials. Design is a huge factor as well because space becomes a premium if you have small rooms or live in a condo or apartment. This is why I always suggest doing some measuring before you shop to make sure you have the room for the style of cat tree you are looking to buy.

What Material It Is Made From?

You have a couple of basic materials to make note of. The main parts of the cat tree should be made from wood. Even pressed wood or particle board is good. Plastic is probably not going to be effective enough nor strong enough in the long run. Though I haven’t seen many made from plastic at all. The coverings should be soft and comfortable for your cats so you will see things like carpeting and faux fur as the main ones. Scratching posts are usually wrapped in sisal rope and some have jute. Any other materials other than a metal frame I would stay away from.

Traditional Carpet Design vs. Modern Wood

Well, I’ve kind of touched on this already. All cat trees used to just be made of carpet. While that was just fine, when wood was introduced into the design things really changed. The wood construction is not only stronger and more stable. It has opened up a whole new world of different types of designs.

While I admit that an attractive cat tree does little for the average cat, you do want one that doesn’t look ugly or trashy. Especially if it is in a place in your home where visitors can see it. This is why wood cat activity trees are a good choice as they can stand in a corner or mount on a wall and fit into your home décor.

3. Cat Tree Size

Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide - Refined Feline Lotus Modern Cat Tree
Lotus Tower (View On Amazon)

I’d be lying if I said that you don’t have to be concerned about size with a cat tree. Not only do they come in various shapes and sizes, you have to consider how many cats are using it and where you are going to put it in order to have enough room for you, your cat(s) and the activity tree. Here are a couple of points to keep in mind.

Modular Modern

These are what you probably would consider as a bit on the fancy side. A modern cat tree like this one (The Lotus Tower) has several modular parts to it. Such as different levels, several pads or platforms, a condo or two, scratching posts and even dangling toys. If you could picture a jungle gym for cats, then you’ll understand where I am going with this. A modular design has many different ‘stations’ to it and is designed to keep your feline friend(s) busy and occupied.

Traditional Carpet

This design is what I would call the ‘classic era’ of cat trees and Amazon refers to it as their Basic Cat Tree. They are far less involved than any of the other designs. What I mean is a carpet cat tree has some great elements to it but it lacks many of the features you would find in any of the other designs. For budget conscious cat owners, this is a good choice but you have to keep in mind that your cat requires a lot of stimulation. Without these added features, this style may fall short. Of course, if you had a cat like Roger who likes napping a lot, you may do well with a carpet tree.

Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide - Amazon Basics Carpet Cat Tree
Budget Carpet Cat Tree (View On Amazon)

Wall Hanging

I would call these the higher tech models simply because all or most of the parts of this kind of cat tree are mounted to the wall of the room it is in. One of the downsides to this is that you can’t just move it from room to room. However, if your cats are on the adventurous side (like my Doogle is) then one of these wall hanging styles could be a good choice.

I like the idea of my cats being on the wall and sleeping in a hammock or climbing from one level to another on a ladder. Depending on the space you have to work with and how brave your cats are, this is well worth looking at as a cool way to keep your pets busy. And add something funky and ‘living’ to your wall. If this is right up your alley then I highly recommend the Mod Complex Range from CatastrophiCreations.

Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide - CatastrophiCreations Wall Mounted Cat Tree Complex
CatastrophiCreations Wall Mounted Cat Tree Complex (View On Amazon)

Themed & Fun

What can I say? There are a number of pretty funky designs out there for cat trees. Some are themed to go with certain likes and dislikes. I like the ones that are made to look like trees with fake leaves on them. Like this one from CatHaven. Others are fashioned to look like small villages and well, if you find a theme that fits your home décor, then you may want to lean in that direction. There are cat activity trees that are really quite intricate in design that personally I think may look great in some settings. But may not measure up in the main purpose of having one.

What I mean is, while I want something that looks good in my home, it still has to be a cat activity tree that keeps Roger and Doogle interested and busy. A pretty tree or a fashionable tree may not fulfill the ‘cat activity’ part so it is important to carefully view the trees as if you were your cat. If you can imagine that at all. In our house, the cat trees we have and have had, all are big on function and fun. If my boys spend most of the day with these, then I know they are enjoying it.

Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide - CatHaven Cat Condo Tree
CatHaven Cat Condo Life-Like-Tree (View On Amazon)

4. Cat Tree Price

As you may have already noted on this website, cat trees come in many different price ranges. If you are on a budget, there are several affordable options available to you. Essentially, cat activity trees come in prices that I would classify as Budget, Mid-Range and High End. What I found amazing about all three categories is that although some features only appear at the higher end of the price scale, all cat trees have the following basic elements:

  • Scratching posts
  • Padded coverings
  • Platforms
  • Multiple levels

If you were to stop me on the street one day for advice on what your cat tree should have in or on it. I would list the four items above. So, with this in mind, you just need to determine how much you can afford to spend on your cats and match that with the list above. You will be somewhat amazed at what you'll be able to get for under $100. Just look at these great cat trees!

Now I must add one important point to this. Remember, the cat tree you buy is for your cat(s). The cost will have no bearing on what your feline friend is going to think about it. However, you do need to match the tree to your cat’s needs so you may find yourself spending a little more than you planned on in order to address this.

5. Final Considerations

The age and size of your cat needs to be factored into the selection process. You can't forget this because older cats just aren’t as active as younger ones. This means that you would be best to get a smaller cat tree that doesn't require a lot of additional climbing. The opposite would be true for younger cats. For example, both Roger and Doogle are close in age and are still young adults. They need a bit of a vertical playground so a tall activity tree with many levels and things to scratch, play or sleep with works for them.

If your cat is large or happens to be slightly overweight, the type of cat tree will have to suit the size of them. Plus, if you have multiple cats like I do, you have to find a design that will hold the weight of all the cats playing on it at the same time. There have been times when both of my boys are jumping around in their cat tree and since it has a large base on it, it doesn’t move. If I had a different design, the tree may topple over and damage something or injure one of my boys. All the best cat trees indicate how much weight they can bear so this would be the guideline to follow.

5. Best Cat Trees Smart Buyers Guide Conclusion

If I had anything else to add to this I would say that one of the best ways to determine if you have chosen the correct cat tree is to take your feline friend with you when you shop. If you can let your cat check out the trees with you, you can avoid some disappointment. I know when I first visited the pet store where I purchased our first cat tree both Roger and Doogle had a blast playing on more than one. They also virtually ignored some of the other ones.

If you can’t take your cat with you, see if you can borrow the cat activity tree and take it home to try out for part of a day. I suggest this because if your cat or cats don’t like the tree at all or are afraid of the size of it. You would have wasted money on something you are getting no use out of.

Hopefully I’ve been able to provide you with some great advice here. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me, Roger or Doogle for some further information. Additonally you can head over to Feline Culture for some more great cat tree reviews too.

Your Welcome and Good luck in determining the Best Cat Tree for your fur-family!

I Recommend Reading My Top 10 Best Cat Trees Reviews Below

10 Best Cat Trees Under $100

10 Best Cat Trees $100-$200

10 Best Cat Trees Above $200

Hello! I'm Jeanie and as the name implies I’m absolutely crazy about cats. I have two boys of my own, Roger and Doogle who are both extremely affectionate, love their tummy scratches and have too much energy most days in my opinion. I love all things cat related and really enjoy investigating and trying out all the different types of cat toys, trees and gadgets on my two mischief makers.