One of the strongest personality traits exhibited by cats is curiosity. Not only do they want to know what’s going on inside their homes, they’re also curious about the world outside their windows.
If you’ve ever lived with a cat, you’ve noticed they like to be up high where they can survey their surroundings. They’re often found on top of the highest object in the room, such as the refrigerator, the top step of a flight of stairs, or along the back of the couch. Why do cats like to perch this way? Let’s find out!
The Root of the Behavior
Centuries ago, the ancestors of today’s domesticated cats were both predators and prey. A natural perch, whether in a tree, or at the edge of a high cave, provided a vantage point that allowed cats to avoid predators while looking for their next meal. A high perch was the key to survival, and the cat's claws were just as adept at climbing as they were in taking down prey.
Modern-day felines have carried this trait down through the centuries, and although they don’t need to track and capture their food in a home setting, their instincts tell them they still need to sit high for their survival. Cat perches in a home allow domestic cats the same safe place to survey their territory, while being close to their human guardians.
There may be another reason why perches are still so purrtastic for domestic kitties. Ancestral cats were solitary creatures that lived alone except during mating season. As cats were domesticated, they were forced to ditch the lone cat lifestyle for life in a pack. Studies about cats’ social behavior have shown that they do form attachments with their Pet Parents, but still need to be able to set boundaries around their bonding behavior. Cats may also use perches to create some distance between themselves and other members of the household.
Whether their Pet Parent provides them with their own special perch or they rely on the furniture, this habit is ingrained in today’s cats, too.
Encouraging the Behavior
While cats’ perching behavior is mostly about survival, it also is a form of entertainment that keeps them from getting bored, anxious, or depressed. Besides wanting to sit at the same level as the fish tank and be mesmerized by the lazy, looping aquatic show before them, they also like to watch birds, butterflies, and insects right outside their windows. A perch that brings them up to window level is the ideal way to occupy their curious minds, whether that perch is the couch or a table, or a fancy cat tree with fake leaves and scratchable “bark.”
Boredom and anxiety can lead fur babies to misbehave. A simple feline entertainment center like a perch encourages them to stay busy and out of trouble. This doesn’t mean they won’t still hide under the couch until your vulnerable ankles come into view, but a distracting perch can occupy them for hours while they watch the world go by. Consider planting some flowers outside their window to attract colorful butterflies or bees, or installing a bird feeder within Kitty’s line of vision from their perch by the window. Several perches in different locations within a room can provide a variety of views, and keep boredom at bay.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Perches can be found at most furniture retail outlets and online, but they can be pricey. If you’d like a perch or two in your living or other room, consider a do-it-yourself perch. All you’ll need is a board, some brackets and screws, and heavy duty anchors. The shelf can be painted or covered with fabric or other non-slip material to make it fit in with any decor and offer more comfort for the kitty. To get them to try it, try sprinkling a few treats or a little catnip on it. A cat who likes to sit atop furniture or appliances may feel safer on a climbing tree made just for them, with fake fur or another form of padding to make them cozy.
Perching shelves can also be attached to the wall near a window, affixed to the windowsill, or to the wall just below the window. A collection of shelves can be placed so Kitty has a “climbing wall.” The possibilities are practically endless for ways to provide your favorite feline with exercise, entertainment, and a sense of security. Shelves or a free-standing cat tree may also keep the back of your sofa relatively hair-and scratch-free.