Many feline owners wonder – how long does a cat tree last? The answer helps evaluate product value and plan ahead.
However, there’s no easy answer because it depends on the tree’s quality, your pet’s peculiarities, and the number of cats using it.
Typically, price corresponds with quality. If you want a durable cat tree, be ready to pay extra – some premium cat trees cost over $1,000, but they are worth it and last for a lifetime.
In contrast, cheap cat trees usually have a shaky construction and low-quality materials that deteriorate quickly.
Learn how to choose a durable cat tree to ensure your pet’s comfort and safety and save money on frequent replacements.
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The Tree Material
The cat tree material is the primary factor affecting its lifespan, determining how resistant the construction will be to abuse. The most common cat tree materials are sisal rope, carpet, and sisal fabric.
The base can be made from plywood, plastic, or solid wood, either covered with fabric or not. Fabric for condos and platforms varies from cheap to luxurious, the most popular being faux fur and corduroy.
The best cat trees have a wooden base because solid wood is heavier than any plastic or plywood, ensuring construction rigidity. Plus, it’s environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and resistant to extreme temperatures and humidity.
Plywood base is equally safe for felines but might deteriorate quickly in the coastal climate. Plus, it can break if the cat tree tips over because the material isn’t as rigid.
Plastic durability depends on its type, but cat trees with a plastic base generally aren’t a good idea because this material can increase cancer risk in the long term.
Sisal is an eco-friendly material derived from the Agave sisalana plant. Sisal rope can last over five years in single-cat households because it’s very stiff. Often, the cat tree breaks sooner than the sisal rope needs a replacement.
However, not every cat will appreciate a tree with sisal rope because of its horizontal dents. Sisal fabric is a great alternative – it’s a bit softer and allows for longer vertical scratching but can also last several years without replacement.
Carpet is the least durable material which might need a replacement every year or two, depending on your cat’s activity and carpet quality.
Faux fur isn’t as durable as corduroy, although many cats favor it for softness. Consider cat trees with removable covers to prolong their lifespan.
The Tree Construction
Even cat trees from durable materials can break fast if the elements aren’t assembled properly. Poorly designed cat trees aren’t uncommon on the market, so you should know how to check the construction rigidity.
Ensure the base is heavy enough to keep the tree from tipping over. The taller and broader the tree, the larger should be the base. Extra large cat trees sometimes bolt onto the floor and ceiling for ultimate stability.
A wobbly construction is a big “no” for a cat tree. Firstly, your cat maybe hesitant to use a shaky tree. Feral cats claw and climb tree trunks that don’t shake, so a wobbly construction feels unnatural.
Housecats prefer clawing furniture because it’s stable. The more a cat tree resembles an actual tree, the better.
Secondly, if the construction appears shaky in the store, imagine how poorly it will perform in the long term. After a year, the cat tree elements will likely detach from the base and fall apart.
All major cat tree parts should be attached with nails or screws rather than glue.
The Number of Cats
A premium-quality cat tree can last for over a decade in a single-cat household. However, cat tree lifespan is significantly shorter in multi-cat households because of multiplied abuse.
Cats love using cat trees as a playground. They chase each other, leap, climb, roll over, and hide in condos. Consequently, the construction becomes shaky faster.
Plus, multiple cats scratch the sisal rope or carpet more, which leads to faster deterioration. Sometimes, cats living with other felines engage in destructive scratching because of territorial conflicts.
Fortunately, if the construction is durable, you can only replace the scratching area instead of buying an entirely new tree.
Condo and base covers also need more frequent replacement if you have several cats because they collect more fur, skin oils, and stains. You can prolong their lifespan with regular cleaning.
Still, even with proper care, a cat tree needs a more frequent replacement if you have several cats. To estimate the lifespan of your cat tree, divide its average lifespan by the number of cats.
For example, if a premium-quality cat tree can last ten years in a single-cat household, it will only last for five years in a house with two cats. And if the cat tree is of low quality, it might last only a few months.
The Cat’s Activity Level & Habits
Your cat’s activity level also plays a role in how long the cat tree will last. Lazy and senior cats that primarily use the tree for sleeping and occasional claw trimming don’t damage the construction as much.
If your cat isn’t particularly active, the cat tree can last for many years, sometimes even decades.
On the other hand, if you have an extremely energetic cat that loves to climb on the tree, play with it, and leap on it at full speed, you might need to replace it every couple of years.
As a rule of thumb, owners of British Shorthair, Persian, Birman, and other calm cat breeds replace their cat trees less frequently than owners of exuberant breeds like Abyssinian, Oriental, and Burmese.
The older the cat, the lower its activity levels, so kittens and young adult felines need new trees more often. However, this also depends on your cat’s habits and personality.
For example, some cats engage in destructive scratching that helps them relieve anxiety. In that case, the cat tree will need more frequent replacement.
Or, some cats have an odd habit of licking blankets and other soft items, which leads to their quicker deterioration.
Signs Cat Tree Needs a Replacement
Because there is no one-size-fits-all answer for how often to replace a cat tree, you should know the signs cat tree is too old.
Pay attention to the tree’s look. If the covers are torn and stink, the scratching area is frayed, and the base is scratched, your cat will appreciate a new tree.
However, the signs aren’t always that apparent. The tree might look ok, but its construction becomes wobbly over time. Regularly check your cat tree’s stability by shaking it, applying medium pressure.
If you can easily shake the tree, try bolting the base to the post before buying a new one. Often, the problem has a quick and free fix.
Even if you see no issue with your cat’s tree, you may notice your pet avoiding it, although it went crazy over it before. In that case, try to identify the root of the issue.
Maybe your cat has become bored of using the same tree for several years, or it doesn’t like its smell, or the scratching post has become uncomfortable.
Sometimes, cleaning the tree or replacing the sisal rope is sufficient. But if you struggle to make the tree appealing to your cat again, consider replacing it.
You should definitely replace the cat tree if you lost a pet due to feline infectious peritonitis because the virus has an extremely high mortality rate and can live on surfaces for many months, even after cleaning.
How to Pick a Durable Cat Tree
Learn how to choose the best cat tree to ensure its safety and durability. A cat tree with multiple condos, scratching posts, and ladders for only $50 might seem like a real bargain.
However, cheap products often turn out to cost more in the long term because of their short lifespan.
Although a high price doesn’t always indicate equally high quality, avoid buying dirt cheap cat trees. Consider options from middle and premium segments from durable materials.
The best cat trees have a solid wooden base and sisal rope or sisal fabric scratching areas. The covers can be made from any material, but they should be thick and washing-machine friendly.
Avoid cat trees with non-removable covers. You will need to regularly wash fabric-covered surfaces because they collect dust, debris, saliva, hair, and other organic matters.
Alternatively, you can find a cat tree with wooden platforms and put cat beds of your choice on top. Some cat trees have extra accessories, like toys. Toys with feathers have a very short lifespan.
Choose cat trees with toys from sisal rope or durable fuzzy fabric. Lastly, check the tree’s construction stability. A cat tree in its assembled state should be too heavy for you to lift.
You also shouldn’t be able to shake the scratching post even a bit when applying moderate pressure. If you have a large cat, consider floor-to-ceiling cat trees.
If you have multiple cats, choose a bigger tree. The condo and scratching area number should equal your cat count.