Satisfy Your Curiosity: Your Guide to Cat Toy Climbers, Tunnels, & Scratchers

Cute funny cat playing at home

Key Points

  • Cats use scratchers to sharpen and shed the outer sheaths of their claws and release energy.

  • Cats climb high to get to a place of safety and survey their surroundings.

  • Tunnels allow cats to hide and practice their stalking and hunting skills.

Climbing, hiding, and scratching are part of a cat's instincts. If you wonder how to encourage your cat's desires, satisfy your curiosity with this guide to cat toy climbers, tunnels, and scratchers. This guide lets you understand why cats need these interactive cat toys and how they satisfy your cat's natural habits. It also lets you see the physical and mental benefits of climbers, tunnels, and scratchers.

An indoor cat doesn't have the fulfilling entertainment of outdoor activities. Their wild ancestors climbed trees and found places to hide and hunt. If your cat seems bored, they need objects that enrich their lives.

Let this article guide you to finding the perfect climbers, tunnels, and scratchers for your feline.

Cat Toy Climbers: Reaching New Heights of Fun

If you live in a small house or apartment, you may think you don't have room for a cat to exercise and expend their energy. Unlike a dog, a cat doesn't need a long, open space to run. Cats use their claws and ability to jump.

Creating a vertical space allows a cat to practice their instinctual need to climb, providing much-needed exercise. In the wild, cats climb trees to seek out prey and survey their surroundings for potential threats. Cat toy climbers offer a safe and controlled way for indoor cats to satisfy this instinct by providing a sense of territory, security, and a bird's eye view of their domain.

Wall-mounted climbers use vertical wall space to create climbing opportunities. These climbers are space-efficient and add an aesthetic element to your home. Be sure to securely install wall-mounted climbers and shelves to prevent accidents.

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Freestanding climbing trees are standalone structures designed for climbing and perching. They often have multiple levels, platforms, and scratching surfaces with plush surfaces and caves for napping.

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These trees provide a multifaceted play and relaxation space for your cat. Consider factors like stability, height, and material durability.

Cat Tunnels: The Thrill of Secret Passageways

Cat tunnels are another way to provide cats with a venue for exercise. While dogs enjoy long leisurely walks and runs with their owners, cats use quick bursts of energy in short distances.

Cats are naturally drawn to enclosed spaces, another advantage of a cat tunnel. It provides a sense of security and privacy, allowing them to observe their surroundings while remaining hidden.

Fabric tunnels are lightweight, collapsible, and easy to store. They often feature enticing textures and may include additional elements like peepholes or crinkles to further engage your cat's senses. The Ripple Rug is one example of a fabric tunnel. Fabric tunnels provide a safe space for play and exploration.

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Plastic tunnels offer a more rigid and durable option. There are various configurations, including straight, curved, and multi-level designs. Connecting plastic tunnels to create intricate tunnel systems provides a dynamic environment for play.

These tunnels are a great playground for multiple cats to hide, stalk, and chase one another.

Cat Scratchers: Keeping Claws Happy and Healthy

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. The obvious benefits are in sharpening and shedding the outer sheath of their claws and stretching their muscles, but they extend beyond the cat's physical health.

Veterinarians Dr. Lisa Restine and Dr. Lynn Buzhardt write for VCA Animal Hospitals about other lesser-known reasons cats scratch. They say cats "scratch to mark their territory, both visibly, with claw marks, and invisibly, by leaving the scent from their foot pads. In addition, cats may exert their authority or play with a swipe of their paws to establish their place in the household."

Allow your cat to express their natural behaviors without using your furniture by getting your cat a scratcher. There are a few different types available.

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Cardboard scratchers are popular choices due to their affordability and effectiveness. They are typically made from corrugated cardboard, providing an appealing texture for scratching. They are easy on your cat's paws and hold little resistance.

Many cardboard scratchers come in incline or curve shapes, offering different angles for your cat to explore. Some models have refillable compartments for catnip to draw their attention. The Bergen Turbo Scratcher includes a ball track around the outside of a circular scratcher. Your cat bats the ball, encouraging them to interact with the scratcher.

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Sisal rope or fabric scratchers offer a more durable alternative for vigorous scratching. These scratchers have sturdy frames covered in sisal rope or fabric material.

The supporting posts of cat trees and towers are often lined with sisal rope. This helps your cat climb to the top but doubles as a scratching post. Sisal scratchers offer a satisfying texture for claw maintenance and withstand extended use.

Scratchers can be freestanding, wall-mounted, or door-hanging, providing versatility in placement. If your cat scratches at a door frame, hang a scratcher on the doorknob. Place a post near your sofa as a suitable alternative.

DIY Cat Toy Climbers, Tunnels, & Scratchers: Crafting Enrichment at Home

If you're on a budget, make your own cat accessories. Some are fairly simple, while others are more complicated.

A sturdy wall-mounted shelf can also serve as a cat climber. Drill into a stud and use strong screws or bolts when attaching it. Line the shelves with carpet so your cat can grip the surface when they jump onto them. They may slip off varnished wood.

Find shelves that are wide enough to accommodate your cat comfortably. Bolt the shelves at different heights, with one low enough that they can access it.

If you're handier and more ambitious, make a tower using wooden posts and platforms. Choose good quality wood and use bolts to hold the pieces together. Wrap the posts in sisal rope so your cat can access the platforms or stagger them in a stair-step pattern. The bottom must be wide enough to not tip over while your cat is on it. Anchoring it to the wall provides more stability.

Scratchers are simple projects. If you have several cardboard boxes, cut them into one or two-inch strips and put them tightly together in a shallow box. Use non-toxic adhesive on the bottom to keep them in place.

A vertical scratcher can be a post wrapped in sisal rope and screwed to a platform. You can also wrap the legs of an old wooden kitchen chair in sisal rope to provide four scratching posts. Use a small nail to hold one end, wrap the rope around the leg, and tack the other end at the top.

Cardboard boxes make great cat tunnels. In a YouTube video posted on September 27, 2023, the author of this article, Brandon Ellrich, shows his cat inside the tunnel.

You may have to toss a few treats inside to encourage your cat to explore it.

Tips for Introducing Cat Toy Climbers, Tunnels, and Scratchers

If your cat isn't used to climbers, tunnels, or scratchers, they may need an introduction. Cats typically love to climb and put themselves in a position of height. If your cat is hesitant, be patient. Use treats, praise, and affection to create positive associations with these toys.

Put treats on the tower's platforms to encourage your cat to climb. Do the same inside a tunnel. Catnip works well for scratchers.

Reward your cat's natural curiosity and playfulness, reinforcing the idea that these toys are sources of enjoyment. This positive reinforcement strengthens their attraction to these objects.

Engaging with your cat in and around these toys provides physical activity and strengthens your bond. Play sessions create opportunities for shared experiences and mutual enjoyment. Participating in interactive play makes you an integral part of your cat's playtime routine.

Playtime Ideas and Techniques

Playing games with your cat encourages them to use their new toys and scratchers. Use a feather wand to get them to climb the tower to the top. This stimulates physical activity and engages your cat's natural hunting instincts.

Incorporate toys or treats into a playful hide-and-seek game within the tunnels. Toss a toy ball inside the tunnel and watch your cat chase it. This activity taps into your cat's love for enclosed spaces and encourages exploration. It also provides mental stimulation and a sense of accomplishment.

Use interactive toys to redirect scratching behavior towards appropriate surfaces like scratchers. Many scratchers have toys that dangle or have textures that resemble prey. You can also add a small plush toy or ball attached by some string. These elements entice your cat to play while satisfying their need to scratch, providing an enriching activity for their physical and mental well-being.

Recognizing Signs of Engagement and Contentment

During playtime, observe your cat for signs of engagement. Look for behaviors like pouncing, climbing, swatting, and exploring. If they play with it, they like it.

After a satisfying play session, your cat may exhibit relaxed body language, contented purring, and a sense of calm. These behaviors show they thoroughly expend their energy and enjoy the experience. Pay attention to your cat's energy levels and cues during play. If you see signs of fatigue, disinterest, or over-stimulation, allow them to rest and recharge.

You want to keep the experience positive but not exhausting, especially during hot or humid weather. Sometimes, cats don't know when to quit when they are having fun playing.

Rotate Climbers, Tunnels, and Scratchers

Cats thrive on variety and novelty. Introduce new variations of climbers, tunnels, and scratchers to keep playtime fresh. Roll up the tunnel and put it in a closet for a week. When you bring it out again, your cat is ready to play.

Set the climber up near a window if your cat becomes bored. This lets your cat lounge and enjoy entertainment from birds and other outdoor activities.

Offer a diverse range of climbers, tunnels, and scratchers to cater to different play preferences. Some cats prefer climbing; others like tunnels or scratching. Know what your cat likes and find the product that fits their preference.

Providing various options ensures you stimulate different senses and keep your cat mentally and physically engaged. Physical activity is especially important for an indoor cat to prevent obesity.

Caring for Cat Toy Climbers, Tunnels, and Scratchers

Regular upkeep is essential to ensure the hygiene and safety of these toys. Use pet-safe cleaning products or mild soap and water to wipe down surfaces. Pay special attention to any nooks or crevices to place treats.

Some fabric tunnels and covers for certain parts of cat towers are machine washable. Use a vacuum to pick up loose hair, rope fibers, and other debris. Inspect cat toy climbers, tunnels, and scratchers regularly for damage or loose parts. Pay attention to areas receiving the most activity, such as scratching surfaces or attachment points.

If the sisal rope comes loose, it may no longer be safe for your cat to climb. Replace the rope or the post. Some companies offer replacement parts for towers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to three common questions and concerns about climbers, towers, and scratchers.

Are Cat Climbers Safe for My Large Cat?

Always read the manufacturer's label before purchasing any cat product. There is usually a recommended age, size, or weight for the tower or climber. If you think your cat is too large, anchor the climber to the wall or floor to provide more stability and prevent your cat from tipping it over.

Can I Leave My Cat Alone With Their Cat Tower?

When your cat first uses a cat tower or climber, watch them to make sure it's stable as they jump and climb. If you notice wobbling or tipping, take measures to secure it before you leave them alone.

Is Sisal Rope Safe for Cats?

Sisal rope frays when broken, so it's generally safe for cats. Other types of string and yarn unravel in long strands. If your cat swallows it, they can choke and cause abdominal and digestive problems that may require surgery.

Enriching Your Cat's Life Through Playful Exploration

Give your cat a chance to explore their indoor world in a new and exciting way. Cat climbers, tunnels, and scratchers allow them to release energy, act out natural behaviors, and stimulate their minds. These products also give you a chance to bond with your cat. It's fun to watch your cat run through the tunnel and climb to the top of the tower or just nap on one of the climber's platforms.

When choosing any toy, consider your cat's age, size, and ability. For example, a shorter tower may be more appropriate for a senior cat with arthritis. There's a wide variety within each category of cat products, so find one that suits your cat and your lifestyle perfectly.

Satisfy your curiosity about climbers, tunnels, and scratchers, and satisfy your cat's need to use them.

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