7 Simple Tricks to Stop Your Cats From Climbing on Everything

Use these seven simple tricks to keep your cat’s wall climbing from driving you up the wall.

Published June 14, 2023
A cat climbing on the top of a door

Does your cat climb the walls or scale your legs like you're their own personal Empire State Building? Cats instinctively love high places because it gives them a bird's-eye view of the world. But let's face it: not only is this disruptive to you (or your new curtains!), but it's not very safe for your kitty either. Keep your cat from climbing into places they shouldn't, like the tops of trees, shelves, curtains, and more, with these expert tricks.

Why Cats Like Climbing

Cats like sitting as high as possible because they love to be on top of the world. No, seriously. High places give cats a great vantage point where they can see any approaching predators or prey.

Outdoor felines often climb up trees or onto roofs to watch everything going on down below. Indoor cats usually can't get quite as high, but they'll still make their way to the top of your refrigerator, the tippy top of a bookcase, or even attempt to climb up your curtains.

And how do they get to these high places? They climb, of course. Cats are equipped with sharp claws that do a great job of gripping even vertical surfaces. Not to mention, they have incredible balance because of their light bone structure and long tails.

Need to Know

Most often, cats climb because they want to retreat to a high place, but they might engage in this behavior for a few other reasons, like attention-seeking, stress, or boredom.

How to Stop Cats from Climbing on Everything

Is your cat climbing the walls driving you up the wall? Keep your feline grounded (literally) with these seven simple tricks.

1. Offer a Climbing Alternative

If your cat doesn't already have a cat tree, get one immediately. Because climbing and scratching are natural behaviors for cats, it's important to give them a safe outlet to do both. And if your cat has their own "tree" to climb, they might not feel as compelled to climb your furniture.

Most experts agree even a single cat needs at least a few cat trees or climbing surfaces around the house. Don't worry; that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune. Consider making your own structures for your cat to climb up or installing secure shelves or perches they can jump to.

2. Keep Their Nails Trimmed

Short nails won't completely prevent a cat from climbing, but it'll definitely reduce the amount of damage they'll do If the nails are blunt. They won't tear through your curtains quite as well or puncture your leg when your kitten tries to climb your pants.

Quick Tip

Avoid trimming an outdoor cat's nails. Outdoor kitties need sharp nails for protection, or in the case they need to climb a tree to escape from danger.

3. Add Exercise and Enrichment

A tortoiseshell cat playing with a paper bag and laser pointer

A lot of cats climb everything because they're bored and looking to have a little fun. Offer your cat controlled playtime to keep them mentally and physically engaged. Try using a laser pointer, wand toys, a snuffle mat, or "cat TV." Your cat will feel so fulfilled and tired they won't even bother with unwanted climbing. Plus, providing your cat with undivided attention will prevent attention-seeking climbing.

4. Try Tactile Deterrents

Cats don't enjoy the feeling of things like tape or aluminum foil under their feet, so you can use these materials as a deterrent. Try placing double stick tape on the wall where your kitty loves to climb, or place foil at the base. This trick also works great to keep your kitty from climbing the Christmas tree!

5. Use Scent Deterrents

Unpleasant scents can also keep your cat from getting into places where they shouldn't be. Citrus is a smell that's particularly offensive to cats. Spray the area or object you don't want your cat to climb with water infused with a bit of citrus oil or lemon juice. If you're not into citrus, you can use dried herbs like lavender or rosemary, which cats can't stand, either.

Quick Tip

This trick works especially well for keeping neighborhood cats off your car. Just make sure your solution isn't too acidic and doesn't damage the paint.

6. Redirect Their Attention

Pets don't respond well to negative reinforcement like scolding, so instead of reprimanding them whenever they make moves to climb, just redirect them. Bring them to their own cat tree and praise them when they climb it. If they're food-motivated, giving your cat a treat can help reinforce the experience. With consistent training, your cat will learn what is appropriate to climb and what isn't.

7. Address Stress

It's possible your cat is climbing as a way to hide. Watch their behaviors to see if they climb whenever a particular housemate comes into the room or if there are any other triggers like a noise or a specific scenario.

You may notice other signs of stress, like changes in their body language, or behaviors like urinating outside the litter box, and even digestive issues. Take action to help reduce your cat's stress to make them more comfortable. Soon, they'll feel confident on the ground and won't need to stay high to feel safe.

Dangers of Cats Climbing Walls

What goes up must come down, but more often than not, the "down" portion is a lot harder. This is precisely why cats get stuck in trees so often. Most cats don't climb down because the hooked shape of their claws means they'd have to back themselves down bottom-first, which is kind of an awkward and unusual movement for cats.

Instead, they usually jump down. Jumping from a great height can be hard on a cat's joints and put them at risk of injury.

Fast Fact

Climbing to high places also puts cats at risk of falling, which is known as high-rise syndrome.

Prevent Feline Climbing by Encouraging It

It might sound counterintuitive, but the best way to keep your cat from climbing is to give them an outlet for their climbing instincts. Give your cat a few sturdy cat trees they can scale, so they'll stay away from your beloved curtains. With the right approach, you can have a harmonious household, climbing and all.

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7 Simple Tricks to Stop Your Cats From Climbing on Everything