Cat tree vs. cat gym, is there really a difference between them?
We use the terms almost interchangeably here in our cat furniture review posts, but are they really the same thing?
That’s what we’ll discuss today, along with some other commonly used terms for cat furniture.
We’ll also look at some of my favorite examples for each one.
You may also love: How to Choose the Best Cat Scratching Post Ever
Cat Tree vs. Cat Gym: Is there a difference?
Don’t worry, I’m going to explain.
FYI, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Is there a difference in the pet industry?
Do me a favor real quick. Head over to Amazon and type in “cat tree.” Take note of the first row of results. Now, do the same for “cat gym.”
While the actual products may be slightly different, you’ll notice one very obvious thing. They all look pretty much the same.
For the most part, cat furniture manufacturers don’t really differentiate between a cat tree and a gym. Well, CatsPlayFurniture does, but they’re relatively unique.
Most just use whichever word they think will make them stand out in search results. Sometimes they even include both in their title.
That’s not a slam against them and they’re not doing it to confuse you. We live in a keyword-driven world and have the attention span of gnats these days.
If you want people to buy your product, you need to get it on the first page of search results. That means using every keyword that you think people may use to search for it.
So, no, as far ecommerce goes, there’s really no difference between cat tree vs cat gym.
Is there a difference to cat owners?
While I can’t speak for every cat owner in the world, to me there IS a difference.
A cat tree is basically a structure that encourages your kitty to climb. A gym encourages both climbing and play.
Sometimes, you can find both in one structure. So, the companies that call their tree a gym and vice-versa aren’t lying. However, sometimes, a tree is just a tree.
If you’re still confused, don’t worry. We’re going to look at some examples of both, along with a few other commonly used cat furniture terms.
Use the table below for a quick peek at each item, then keep reading for more details.
What’s What in Cat Furniture?
Let’s start with the two that we’re discussing, then we’ll get into some other types of cat furniture.
For each one, we’ll go over the generally accepted definition by cat owners and take a look at an example of one that I love. Sound good?
Cat trees are basically vertical structures that encourage climbing.
Typically, they have perches, hammocks, and even little condos for your kitty to relax in.
However, as we saw in the floor to ceiling cat trees, sometimes they’re little more than a post with steps jutting out.
The Vesper, pictured above, is a good example of a fairly straight-forward cat tree.
Sure, it has a little dangly toy, but overall it encourages kitty to climb up and relax. Sounds simple, but it does the job well (and looks great to boot).
- Elegant yet practical line of cat furniture that satisfies the daily activity needs of fussy felines
- Cube cave with 2 platforms
- Soft memory foam cushions
- Great spot for your cat to play or rest
- Base: 22.1 x 22.1 inches; Height 47.9 inches
Cat gyms have the same basic features as a tree, but they’re larger and have a lot more going on.
These structures offer kitty plenty of opportunities to climb, leap from level to level, play, sharpen their claws and relax.
The Go Pet Club option above is an excellent example, with it’s huge levels, ladders, tunnels and more.
- Item may ship in more than one box and may arrive separately
- Color : Brown / Beige
- Overall Size : 42"L x 23.5"W x 87.5"H * 3 Big Condo Houses Size: 19.25"W x 14"L x 11.75"H * 2 Condo Houses Size: 12"W x 12"L x 10H * Size of 2 Top Perches : 13.25"Dia x 3"H * Size of 2 Tunnels : 10"Dia x 12"L * Number of Ladder : 1
- Posts covered by natural sisal rope * Covering Material : Faux Fur * Board Material : Pressed Wood
Cat Condos can either be a part of trees and gyms or they can be stand-alone structures. The look like little privacy cubes or caves.
They’re usually (although not always) covered in carpet, so they double as scratching posts (cats love clawing up carpet material, which is why so many trees are covered in it).
We have something similar to the Petmaker condo pictured here. The cat even looks exactly like my Alex!
- Spot clean or hand vacuum
- Particle board construction covered in 100% polyester plush fabric, sisal scratching surface
- 14 inch diameter x 20.5 inches high
- Recommended for all cats and kittens 10 weeks or older
- Color scheme: Gray
Scratching posts are probably the most straight-forward “it’s exactly what it sounds like” pieces of cat furniture of all.
They are, quite literally, posts that encourage your cats to scratch. Some, like the one above, include little dangle toys.
Others combine two posts onto one base and plop a hammock on top. However, their main purpose is to give your cat something to claw other than your sofa.
- Single-pillar scratching post for cats with replaceable dangle toy
- Sturdy base keeps post from tipping
- Helps keep your cat from damaging carpets, furniture, curtains, and more
- Natural jute fiber scratching posts help keep nails healthy
- Neutral color tones fit in with your home’s existing décor
- Durable, long-lasting construction
Window Shelves for Cats
Window shelves are also pretty straightforward. They are shelves that you can attach to your window so your kitty can sunbathe or enjoy taunting birds.
Sadly, I can’t use them in my home. I have ancient windows that open all weird and I’m terrified the shelf won’t stay put.
If I could, though, I’d go with the Kitty Cot. It’s a bit pricier than other models (you can find some for under $20), but the reviews speak for themselves.
- Mounts to Windows using Giant PATENTED USA Suction Cups
- Humane Society Approved and Easy to Clean with Soap and Water
- Made with Super Tough 3/4" PVC Plastic Pipe and Fittings
- We use only the BEST Outdoor and Rugged Fabric
- Our Support Cables are 1/8" Steel to last Forever
We’re heading back into slightly confusing territory here as we discuss wall-mounted cat shelves.
See, some are pretty much exactly what you think they are- wall-mounted versions of the aforementioned window shelf.
Others, though, are more like entire cat gyms. CatastrophiCreations makes an entire system that combines everything from shelves and hammocks to scratching posts to bridges.
The huge sets are pricey, but they do offer smaller sets, so you can build your own configuration.
- Hand-crafted beautiful, large, and sleek design
- Perfect play structure to bring out the acrobat in your cat
- A great way to correct furniture-scratching behavior
- Fabric can be easily removed for washing
- Gives cats an outlet for their climbing needs
I hope this helped clear up the difference between cat tree vs cat gym vs shelf vs condo vs etc and so on!
One last tip, if you’re looking for a cat gym and find yourself frustrated by all the cat tree results, try typing in “extra large cat tree” instead. Trust me, it helps!
Do you have any thoughts on the cat tree vs cat gym debate? Share below!
Last update on 2020-02-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API