Do All Cats Like to Climb? And What Causes This Instinct

It’s common in movies and cartoons to see firemen or superheroes rush to rescue a cat that’s stuck in a tree.

Also, there are a ton of videos online showing cats climb up high spots and many cat owners will admit they often find their cats hanging out on top of a countertop, a refrigerator, or a high shelf in a closet.

All these scenarios have led most people to believe that cats, in general, like to climb to high places. But is it really true? Do all cats like to climb? In this article, we dive deep into research to find out the answer.

Do All Cats Like To Climb?

Not all cats like to climb. It really depends on the cat’s personality, instinct, behavior, and survival. An indoor cat may enjoy climbing up on the refrigerate to see what’s going on around them.

While an outdoor cat may climb a tree because it’s crucial to her survival. Many pet owners will buy an outdoor cat tree for their feline because it gives them a sense of security while being outside.

Why Do Cats Like to Climb?

To get to the bottom of our main question, we should take a step back and understand why cats that like to climb stuff do it in the first place.

It’s in their Instinct If we travel back in time to when all cats were feral animals, we’ll find out they had to do whatever it took to survive in the wild. This means they had to hunt their food and avoid becoming food themselves.

Cats’ ancestors used to climb trees to better scan their surroundings to find prey, as well as to avoid being attacked.

Such predator instincts stuck with cats until nowadays, so they just love to climb and sit in high places where they watch everything without being interrupted. It gives them the chance to “stalk” their toys, humans, or fellow pets without being detected.

It’s Stimulating

Cats also like to climb because it’s stimulating. For starters, climbing and jumping are great exercise outlets for your cat, both physically and mentally.

The acts of stretching, leaping, and balancing improve their muscles’ strength as well as movement and perception skills. If your cat stays cooped up in limited spaces or doesn’t run around much, then this kind of exercise is essential for their overall health.

Not to mention, climbing can be super fun for your cat. It’s challenging, intriguing, and entertaining.

It’s Safe

Climbing up to high spots can also provide a sense of safety and security for your cat when it gets stressed. If your cat has a stable cat tree, they will likely climb on it as opposed to climbing on your kitchen counters.

For example, if your home has recently experienced significant changes such as a new child or a new pet, your cat might seek safety in high hiding places that are far away from the commotion.

Do All Cats Like To Be Up High?

As you can tell by now, the reason why cats like to climb is mainly because of their primal nature as hunters. But house cats in today’s world don’t need to hunt prey or hide from predators since we provide them with all the food, water, and protection they need.

Still, the urge to manifest this hunting instinct does exist within cats. However, not all of them will demonstrate it in the form of climbing.

Some cats will simply play at ground level as a way to satisfy their need to hunt, especially if they’re from a breed that’s marked by short legs.

Take Persian and Ragdoll cats, for example. These cats absolutely love to play, but they prefer to stay grounded due to their natural body types – short bodies supported by short legs.

On the other hand, cat breeds such as the Siamese and the Abyssinian just love being active and they show it through a lot of climbing and pouncing to satisfy their hunting instincts.

From here, we can conclude that cats can be generally divided into two categories: those who “hunt” by climbing, and those who “hunt” grounded.

If you’ve ever watched Jackson Galaxy, Animal Planet’s cat expert, you’ll know that one of his frequently visited concepts explains our conclusion perfectly. Jackson often mentions the difference between cats who are “tree dwellers” and cats who are “bush dwellers”.

Tree Dwellers vs Bush Dwellers

Tree dwellers are cats who need vertical space to thrive. They’re cats that like to jump up on counters, climb bookshelves or curtains, and sit on top of the refrigerator.

To accommodate these cats’ need for vertical territory, Jackson developed the term “cat superhighway”, which is particularly important to have in households with more than one cat.

Cat superhighways allow multiple cats to share territory on more than one level, without bumping into each other and possibly causing a fuss.

But what exactly is a cat superhighway? Well, a good cat superhighway will include the following elements:

  • Several lanes with alternate routes
  • No dead ends
  • On or Off ramps
  • Rest stops and lookout points

As for bush dwellers, these are cats who prefer to stay low to the ground. They tend to seek out places that are hidden, such as under a sofa, under a table, or even under a bed.

Bush dwellers are typically skittish cats who are excitable and easily scared. Such cats may even demonstrate aggressive reactions depending on the trigger.

Bush dwellers will require plenty of hiding spots where they can get away to feel safe. Besides using existing furniture such as tables and sofas, you can set up cat tunnels, cat cubes, or covered cat beds.

Do Cats Need To Climb?

Not necessarily, if your indoor cat enjoys laying on the top of the couch and doesn’t show any interest in climbing on elevated spots, that’s fine. That being said, if you want to encourage her to climb and get some exercise without tearing up your curtains, drapes, or climbing on your counters, you may want to consider getting her a cat tree.

Related: Best Cat Tree For Senior Cats

Cats have a mind of their own and they can’t be forced to do something they don’t want too.

Wrap Up

While many cats will manifest their hunting instinct by climbing to high places, other cats just prefer staying low to the ground where they satisfy their primal nature by playing and hiding under furniture or inside structures such as cat tunnels.