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Feline Vertical Space

by Dr. Carla Case-... on Mon, 03/04/2013 - 9:29am

Submitted by Beth Massey

Office Manager at Case Veterinary Hospital

 

As I walked into my house last week, I was startled to see Omar, my oldest cat, sleeping on top of my kitchen cabinets!  He knows very well that he is not allowed on the counters and he obviously broke that rule to climb up there.  I thought for sure I had enough vertical space in my house, however Omar’s actions stated otherwise! 

According to feline behaviorists, cats need vertical space to thrive and feel safe especially in multi-cat households.  This will decrease fighting and tensions between housemates.  When a cat feels content with his vertical space, scratching furniture and urine marking will generally stop. Having a higher vantage point can give timid cats adequate warning of another cat’s approach.  This can also enable more dominant cats to claim the highest spot as a show of status. 

 What exactly is vertical space?  Giving your cat a tall piece of furniture or shelving is a good example. Cat furniture can be made or purchased at a pet specialty store and will encourage cats to exercise as they climb up and down the posts.  A window shelf specifically made for cats works well because it offers both vertical space and bird watching entertainment giving the cat daily enrichment.  

My cats like to lounge on the backs of our taller chairs and bar stools however those are few and far between when you have three cats.  They also have a “cat tree” in one of our downstairs room but they rarely use it.  I moved it into our living room yesterday and they seemed to enjoy having it in that location.  Most cats want to be around their human companions and in the rooms that we frequent.  This alone cut back on the normal nightly scuffles.  They are now also able to separate themselves from our rambunctious puppy which alleviates a lot of tension.  We are also adding a couple of perches on our screened in porch to provide some much needed vertical space.  I am hoping these changes will curtail Omar’s need for cabinet climbing! 

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