How To Get a Cat to Use a Cat Tree

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If you’re reading this, we can only conclude that you’ve already invested in a cat tree for your feline friend, congratulations!

This elegant piece of furniture should make a world of difference by spicing up your cat’s playtime and napping experience.

Despite purchasing a fully furnished cat tree for your furry friends, you may still be struggling with scratches on your couch or redirecting them from the kitchen cabinet.

One thing for sure is that you are not alone. Many pet parents struggle to introduce their cats to new changes in the environment, even when the changes are designed to make their lives easier.

But the good news is that there’s something you can do to convince your cat to make that first jump on the multi-leveled cat tree without being coerced.

Keep reading this post to learn how to get a cat to use a cat tree by assessing the potential problems why they’re not using it and offering practical solutions to change your cat’s attitude.

Why Won’t My Cat Use the Cat Tree?

A cat tree is supposed to be a dream come true for many household cats. This piece of furniture provides them with an opportunity to scratch, nap, rest, and play without stepping outside.

But for one reason or the other, your feline friend may show huge reluctance to use the newly bought cat tree.

Before jumping into the solutions, you need to understand the possible reasons why your furry friend is not interested in perching on the fancy piece of furniture.

1. Fear or anxiety

Cats can be sensitive to the slightest changes in the environment, and this may cause the build-up of emotional distress and anxiety.

Adding a new piece of furniture to your home will significantly change the previous home arrangement that your cat was used to.

Some cats can also experience fear and anxiety because of the imposing structure of the new large tree placed in their favorite corner.

This can cause them to develop a negative association with the cat tree, making them stay away from the furnished area.

Stressed cat on a sofa
Image Credit: Alice from Unsplash

If you adopted your cat from an animal rescue center, there’s also a possibility that they have a past negative experience with cat trees.

Adding such a structure in your home makes them remember the past trauma, and this may instill fear and anxiety in addition to avoiding the tree.

Experiences such as territorial aggression or fights on a cat tree will make the affected cats develop a negative association with the structure.

Cats who have had accidents on cat trees may also be reluctant to make another jump on such a structure due to the associated past trauma.

2. Wrong placement

Your cat may refuse to use a cat tree just because you placed it in an undesirable location.

As you may already know, cats can be finicky, and they prefer maintaining specific spots within the house for entertainment and rest.

If you go ahead and place your newly-bought cat tree in areas where your cat hardly visits, they will most certainly avoid using it.

Some cats may prefer having their tree placed along the corridor where they can see their human family while perching, while others prefer an isolated corner for privacy.

From my experience, most cats would prefer having their tree placed in the window area to give them a view of what’s happening both within the house and outside.

3. Lack of interest

Every cat has their own preference and individual personality which we can do very little to change. It’s indeed possible that your cat is avoiding the tree because they don’t have a soft spot for it.

Such cats are always interested in playing on the carpet and other floor-level surfaces. They can hardly be seen perching on bookshelves or kitchen cabinets.

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4. Mobility issues

Your cat’s reluctance to use the cat tree may be related to certain conditions such as age or health problems affecting mobility.

Cats with physical limitations such as arthritis or hip dysplasia will certainly prefer to sleep on the carpeted floor instead of making that risky jump on a cat tree.

How To Get a Cat to Use a Cat Tree

If your cat is not using the cat tree for any of the above reasons, you should try to convince them to make a jump or scratch the posts with love.

Here’s how to introduce a cat to a new tree:

1. Get a tree that suits your cat

We can assume that you’ve already bought a cat tree, but does it really suit your cat’s preference and behavior?

An imposing cat tower may be intimidating to the cat and they may avoid using it altogether.

Make sure to choose a cat tree that complements your cat’s behavior and enriches their surroundings for an overall better experience.

Beautiful cat in a tree
Image Credit: Freepik

Consider the activity level of your cat and what they’re likely to do when they get bored.

If your cat loves to retreat in quiet places, you should pick a tree with an enclosed condo to satisfy their natural desires.

Cats who love to sprawl and cuddle will thrive on cat trees covered with plush materials such as faux fur or household carpets.

All cats love to scratch but some may do it more than others. You should know your cat’s scratching preference and get them a cat tree with sisal-covered scratching posts.

Your cat may be picky about the type of scratching surfaces they need or the placement angle of the scratching posts.

Prioritizing your cat’s individual preferences will ensure that they get a cat tree that they will actually use and not stare at.

2. Find the right location

Most household cats will typically want to lounge in areas frequented by other members of the family.

Placing a cat tree in a secluded place with little to no interaction with the human family may not work for such furbabies.

In the same breath, some timid cats prefer retreating to isolated areas, especially after having a busy day chasing birds in the yard.

The good thing is that you can know where your cat prefers having their furniture by simply observing where they move to when in need of a rest.

You may have to experiment with a few locations to see the ones that work well for your feline friend. In general, most cats would love hanging around the window area.

This gives them a clear view of the outdoor activities such as flying birds and swaying trees.

3. ‘Catify’ your cat tree

After finding the right location to station your new piece of furniture, your next step should be to enhance it with other accessories of interest to your feline friend.

Adding items such as a food bowl, water bowl, treats, and interactive toys may make all the difference by attracting your feline to use the tree.

It’s a good idea to feed your cat from the lower shelves of the tree. This helps in making the place as worthy as possible.

Hiding your cat’s favorite treats on various corners of the cat tree can instigate their sense of smell and run over the structure to dig out the hidden goodies.

Improving the structure according to your cat’s preference makes it charming and leaves a positive first impression which goes a long way toward making them feel at home.

You can also try sprinkling or rubbing some catnip on the platforms to entice your cat to hang around the tree area for an extended period.

Most cat trees come with one or two in-built dangling toys to get your cat started. But there’s no harm in attaching a few more feather toys or hanging balls to make it more interesting.

4. Place their favorite bedding on the tree

During nap time, you can encourage your cat to sleep inside the hideaway spots by furnishing it with their favorite bed or blanket.

This will create a sense of familiarity, and the cat will appreciate the new piece of furniture as part of their environment.

Double check that the bedding is placed in a comfortable spot, where your cat can have a quality sleep time without worrying about their safety.

How To Get a Cat to Use a Cat Tree
Image Credit: Huy Phan from Pexels

Ideally, it should be inside the enclosed condo or in the middle platform, to make it more likable for the nervous furbaby.

If your cat responds positively by snoozing on the tree, you can reward them with a few tasty treats and a pat on the back.

Offering positive reinforcement during this training will get the cat to associate the cat tree with good things such as comfort accompanied by some savory treats.

5. Play with your cat on the tree

The other way you can help your cat is by interacting with them on the tree.

Having enough playtime with your cat in their new condominium will create a positive association and help them feel more comfortable.

Pet your cat while around the tree and sway a fishing pole toy on the various platforms across the tree to awaken their natural hunting instincts.

You can also use a laser pointer cat toy to encourage your furbaby to chase the moving light from the base of the tree to the topmost perch.

Your cat will soon recognize the value of the tree and that they’ve been missing a lot. This will help to alleviate their fear and raise their confidence to use it more.

6. Keep it clean and well-maintained

Cats are highly hygienic animals, and they distaste staying in areas filled with dirt, grime, or foul odor.

Make sure to clean the cat tree thoroughly to remove any persistent dirt and neutralize the unpleasant odor.

A clean cat tree is more welcoming and makes your cat feel at home, without worrying about staining their lustrous coats.

Maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene of your cat tree is not only about enticing your feline friend to use it.

It also keeps your home free from dirt, pet allergens, fleas, and the potential growth of microorganisms.

How Long Does It Take a Cat to Use a Cat Tree?

Getting your cat to use the cat tree will most likely not work overnight. It may take your cat a few days while some cats can get convinced after a month or two.

There’s no general time frame for when we can expect all cats to adjust and start hugging the newly bought furniture at will.

Give your feline friend some time to adjust and let them work out the puzzle at their own pace. Forcing them to use the tree will do more harm than good.

Compelled occupancy will create a negative impression and your cat will see the tree as a source of punishment rather than a fountain of joy.

Will A Cat Use a Used Cat Tree?

Most cats should have no problem with using a secondhand cat tree. It would only take a few days for them to get used to the smell of the previous cat, and mark the new territory to claim it.

However, salvaging a cat tree comes with the possible health risks associated with the previous owners.

If you have to get a secondhand cat tree, we strongly recommend that you buy it from a trusted source.

Your close friends or family members are better placed to sell you a previously owned cat tree since you can inspect it from the point of sale before hauling it over to your home.

best cat trees for large cats
Image Credit: Petrebels from Unsplash

Sourcing a reconditioned cat tree from a trusted person is also beneficial because you already know the status of the cats who have been using it before.

Scrutinizing the cat tower before purchase will let you know if there are any fleas, microorganisms, or other germs that may negatively impact your cat and the household at large.

Even with obtaining a cat tree from a trustworthy person, it is always a good idea to deep clean the entire structure and disinfect all the nooks and crevices.

Thorough cleaning will help eliminate the risk of possible contamination and neutralize the strong feline odor that could otherwise offend your cat.


The process on how to get a cat to use a cat tree should be gradual, rewarding, and carried out at the cat’s pace.

Start by monitoring your cat to discover some of the possible underlying reasons why they do not want to use their newly acquired piece of furniture.

Once you have the root problem, you can work on ways to convince your cat to use the cat tree and enjoy their stay while on it.

Never force your cat to stay on the tree no matter how displeased they seem to be. This will only make matters worse by creating a negative impression of something that’s supposed to be good.

Instead, you should shift your focus to make a bland tree as charming as possible for your cat’s natural interests and preferences.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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