Cats are happiest when they can move vertically throughout your house. Using cat furniture such as cat trees can fulfill this need, but what should you do if you have a larger cat?
Large Cat Furniture Considerations
Some cats are large because of health and weight issues whereas others are large because of their breed standard. Some cat breeds that tend to be bigger than the average domestic cat are Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest Cats, Bengals, and Savannahs. Since most cat furniture is made with the "average" cat in mind, you should research your purchases thoroughly to make sure they can hold up to your cat. In general, look for the following when shopping for items for your large cat.
- Avoid anything that is "fragile, delicate, or unstable" says Jackson Cunningham of Tuft and Paw, a manufacturer of furniture for large cats.
- Cunningham also says it's a good idea to find "a place that offers a good return policy because a lot of times it's just hard to predict what will work with bigger cats."
- Look for packaging information giving weight limits if available and know your cat's current weight and measurements when shopping. If you're shopping in person at a store, bring a tape measure with you to check sizing.
- Look for materials that are sturdy and able to handle a lot of wear and tear. Solid wood or some thick plastics are tougher than particle board although more expensive. Commercial heavy-duty carpet will hold up longer than lightweight carpet or soft materials like fake fur, plush coverings, and lighter fabrics. Sisal rope is stronger than sandpaper or cardboard scratch surfaces. Also look at the smaller construction details, such as whether they use nails, screws, or glue. Screws will always be stronger than nails and glue.
- Larger cat trees should come with safety straps to help anchor it to the wall or if they don't, you can purchase some at any hardware store or make your own with some sturdy rope or bungee cords. Even if the tree seems stable, if you have multiple large cats, you might want to put some extra weight on the base to keep it from moving.
Cat Tree Structure
When looking at a cat tree's features, "Most important is stability and size," recommends Cunningham. "A cat won't touch anything that's not stable," he notes, which is also a reason why one's couches and other large furniture items become prime scratching targets for cats. A cat should be able to climb up and down a cat tree, as well as jump off from it, without feeling as if the tree base is wobbly or about to tip. Likewise, the perches for resting should be large enough for your cat to stretch out comfortably and relax without feeling like too much of his body weight is dangling off the side. The perches should also support their weight, such as the Cat Tree King Queensplace which holds up to 88 pounds.
Scratching Post Size
A scratching post is likely to get a lot of use from an active cat, and a larger cat is going to put more wear and tear on one. Cunningham recommends buying one, "that is large enough for your cat to get a good stretch. Find the tallest scratching post you can find, at least 36 inches tall, for these cats but preferably taller." He also discourages large cat owners from buying scratching boards that hang loosely from a door or wall as these aren't stable and won't support the weight of the cat dragging their nails against it. Associated Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Katenna Jones concurs, "Vertical scratching posts should be taller than the cat is looking forward." The material on the posts should be able to handle the weight and extended usage of the cat's nails. Cunnigham suggests a post that is stable with material that is "indestructible" such as their Turrim and Lato posts.
Cat Beds for Large Felines
Most cat beds are designed again for the average cat frame. With a larger cat, Cunningham suggests looking at beds made for dogs. He says, "You don't want to purchase anything where your cat will be spilling off the sides, but ideally you want it small enough that it encloses the cat like a little nest." Another option is a heated cat bed, which if you can find one that's large enough for a big cat, these beds tend to be hardier as they're made of stronger material to house the heating element.
If you have more than one large cat in your household, it's optimal to have enough furniture items for each of them. This can be difficult if you live in a small space like an apartment. Cunningham recommends buying items that maximize your use of space while making your cats happy.
- Tuft and Paw "has a great wall scratching post that is really efficient on space, and it's extremely stable because it affixes to the wall." They are "also introducing a scratching rug later this year which isn't very demanding with regard to space."
- Another space saver is a perch that affixes to the window sill and can hold at least 40 pounds, or wall shelves that are screwed into the studs.
- Jones notes that many of her clients allow their large cats to roam along existing shelves and bookcases that are not designed for cats. If you do this, she strongly cautions to make sure that these are bolted securely to the wall and can handle the weight and physical activity of a heavier cat.
- Another option Jones recommends if you can't find anything that holds up to your cat's size and weight is DIY cat shelves. You can either build them yourself to your cat's specifications or hire a local contractor to help you.
Furniture for Your Big Kitty
Owning a bigger cat can be a bit more challenging as you'll need to find food, toys, and furniture that accommodate his or her size. Luckily, if you know what to look for and are armed with shopping knowledge, you can find high quality trees, beds, and scratching posts that work well in your home and for your feline family.