If you’ve landed here by searching, chances are you’re having a hard time figuring out how to get your cat to use a new cat tree.
It’s incredibly frustrating to spend $50, $60, even $100+ on a new cat condo only to have kitty snub it.
Don’t worry, there are a few tactics that you can try to entice your cat to use the tree as intended!
Before you return it as “defective,” check out these tips to get kitty to fall in love with his new tree!
How to Get Your Cat to Use a New Cat Tree
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Buying a new cat tree for kitty often goes one of two ways:
- You build it. They come. Easy peasy.
- You build it. They don’t come. It ends up in the garage with the other castaway cat furniture until it molds, rots, and gets thrown out on bulk pickup day.
With a total of 9 cats spanning the last 22 years of my life, I’ve dealt with both of those scenarios!
When I cleaned out my garage, I found probably close to a dozen cat condos, scratching posts, and beds that my cats rejected over the years.
That’s not counting the ones I took back or gave away! I don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve wasted on things my cats don’t like.
Below, we’ll discuss some things to consider before getting a cat tree, so it doesn’t end up rejected.
Then we’ll talk about things to do if you’ve already spend hard-earned money on a tree that your cat just doesn’t seem to like.
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Things to Consider Before Buying a Cat Tree
Buying the right cat tree is, obviously, the best way to get your cat to use it. Here’s what I think about when I’m hunting for a new one for my three kitties!
Think about how you want your cat to use their new tree.
Unlike plain scratching posts or beds, cat trees really serve multiple purposes. The best cat tree gives your cat:
- a safe place to satisfy their climbing urges
- a spot to sharpen their nails that isn’t your furniture
- a cozy place to take a nap
- a hiding place for when things get a little too scary!
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One thing I love about multipurpose cat trees: if my cat doesn’t like to use it for one of the purposes, I still have three more chances of getting him to use it!
My cat Zoe uses their cat tree to sharpen her nails, and occasionally to take a nap on the top.
Willow uses it to hide on the lower level to get out of the path of my crazy dogs.
Alex is my “if you build it, I will come” cat and uses it for all of the above.
2. Building materials
When it comes to choosing a cat tree that your kitties actually want to use, building materials matter quite a bit!
- Cats crave a feeling of safety and security, and a cheap tree that wobbles isn’t going to provide that.
- It’s worth it to spend a little extra on a tree made of solid materials, like real wood or strong PVC piping.
The surfaces of the tree matter just as much as the building material itself.
Look for soft carpeting on the sleeping and lounging levels, and strong sisal rope on the scratching posts.
If your cat hates sisal (one of mine does), carpeting or corrugated cardboard are also good scratching post surfaces.
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3. Your cat’s age and leaping abilities
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I couldn’t think of another way to put that, but basically, if you have a senior cat who doesn’t quite have the jumping skills of her younger days, you don’t want something too high.
Likewise, if you have a kitten who hasn’t quite mastered the art of jumping yet, you’ll want something that has alternating levels for easy climbing.
My boy Alex isn’t the best leaper. He was feral born and had a pretty bad eye infection when we adopted him. I think it messed with his depth perception.
While we joke about how “that cat can’t cat!” we also make sure that we take his leaping issues into account when we buy new furniture for him.
4. Your cat’s personality
It’s absolutely imperative that you take your cat’s personality- and not yours – into consideration when buying a cat tree.
You might think that a high, winding and elaborate tree is awesome, but your cat might take one look at it and freak out.
While you want something that isn’t an eyesore, you’re not buying fine art or a sculpture here!
The tree is for your kitty, not for you to gaze upon and think deep thoughts. 😀
- If you know your cat hates climbing, go for a shorter tree.
- If you know your cat likes to hide, find a tree with a little cave.
- If you know your cat loves to sleep high up, get a tree with a cozy platform at the top.
It’s not exactly rocket science, but you’d be surprised by the sheer number of cat parents who completely ignore their kitty’s personalities and then wonder why their cat won’t use the tree.
Now that you know what to consider when buying a cat tree that your cat will actually use, let’s talk about what to do if you already have one that they’re ignoring.
What to Do if Your Cat Rejects Their New Tree
Isn’t it sad when you spend two hours excitedly putting together a new tree only to have your cat snub it?
It’s like giving someone a gift that you pondered over for days only to find out that they returned it behind your back.
It hurts. Maybe it’s silly to feel dejected by a cat’s rejection of a piece of furniture, but we’re only human and it hurts.
Before you declare it a total waste of money, though, try these tips for how to get your cat to use their new cat tree.
1. Transition them into it
Like most cats, my kitties love boxes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ginormous furniture box or a squished pizza box, as long as it’s made of cardboard!
When it comes to learning how to get your cat to use a new cat tree, you can use this to your advantage!
Try this trick:
- Find a box that fits securely on one of the lower levels of your new cat tree.
- Place it in a spot where you know your cat will find it and fall in love with it.
- Wait until they’ve claimed it as their new sleeping spot.
- Move the box to the cat tree. Make sure your cat sees you do it.
- Leave it for a couple of days, then remove it.
I’ve used this trick and sometimes just putting the box there is enough to entice my cat to explore the new tree.
Other times, they kind of accept it once I remove the box.
Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work at all. So we move on to the next tip!
2. Move it to a new location
Location is everything when it comes to getting your cat to fall in love with a new tree!
When you decide where to put it, think about your cat’s preferences.
If your cat loves to be in the same room as you and you stick it in some far-off corner of an unused room, they’ll reject it.
If your cat craves solace and you stick it in the middle of a high-traffic area, they’ll reject it.
Before you declare the tree a loss, try moving it! This is also a way to get a cat re-interested in a tree of which they’ve grown bored.
3. Break out the catnip
If the first two tips aren’t working, or you just can’t move the tree to another spot, it’s time to bring in the big guys!
Never underestimate the power and draw of catnip.
I use a catnip spray to get my kitties interested in something new. It’s a lot less messy than sprinkling the real stuff all over the tree.
Just spritz a bit on the tree and watch them come running!
4. Bribe them with new toys
As shocking as it sounds, some cats just don’t care about catnip! My Zoe can take it or leave it.
You know what she does love, though? Paint brushes.
I kid you not, Zoe goes bonkers for those cheap paint brushes that come in those old-school kids’ watercolor sets.
When I want her to check out a new piece of cat furniture, I break out a brand new paint brush, show it to her, then put it on the tree!
Obviously, your cat may not be as into paint brushes as Zoe. The point is, use their favorite toy to get them to show interest in their new cat tree!
5. Give it time
If all else fails, there’s one more thing you can try before declaring the tree a loss: give it time.
Don’t assume that your cat hates the tree just because he won’t go near it the moment it’s assembled.
Don’t even assume it’s a loss if you cat still ignores it after a few days.
Unless your return window is super short, I’d give it a solid two weeks before deciding to pack it up and ship it back.
My cats have completely ignored new furniture for weeks, then suddenly decided it was their most favorite thing in the whole big wide world.
Knowing how to get your cat to use a new cat tree is mostly about knowing your cat in general. Some of these tips will work better than others.
Try them all, and if none of them work, either return or sell the tree and just stick with the cardboard box! 😀
Do you have any other tips for how to get your cat to use a new cat tree? Share below!
Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the writers here on CatVills. She’s been a cat lover most of her life and-at one point- counted five felines as part of her family. Today, she’s proud cat mom to two indoor kitties and caregiver for a slew of ferals.