I am an Affilate!

I hope you enjoy any product or service that I recommend. :) Just so you understand, I may take a share of any sales or other compensation from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks if you use my links, I really appreciate your support.

Why Doesn’t My Cat Climb? (Fear or Inexperience?)

If your cat is not climbing you may be wondering why this is happeing and if some cats just seem to be like this…

Why Doesn’t My Cat Climb?

Not all cats are fond of heights and some are even uncomfortable with them. With younger cats it is sometimes simply inexperience and as their curiosity eventually gets the better of them then they might seek out higher vantage points.

So, now you know. But, how can you encourage your cat to climb? Do indoor cats need cat trees? Why does my cat dislike high places? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

How can you encourage your cat to climb?

A black cat staring

A black cat staring

 A cat tree can be a wonderful way to introduce your cat to climbing. Place one nearby and encourage your cat by petting them when they are resting on the tree and you can even place bits of string to dangle from higher levels to encourage them to explore upward.

Alternately, if your cat has some favorite dry treats then you can put one on each level of the cat tree so that they will be tempted to go and take a look. Just be sure to reinforce with the petting and you might even hold off on petting them for awhile when they are NOT on the tree.

A little of your approval can go a long way and this might encourage your cat to play there more.

Do indoor cats need cat trees?

A cat lying down.

A cat lying down.

Indoor cats do not need cat trees. But, they are an excellent way to keep your cat stimulated and content. Various designs feature things like hidey-holes, dangling toys, and scratching posts and beyond the play value, they also offer your cat aa excellent view of the room or even a nearby window!

Some owners take it a step further and set up a bird window-feeder which is affixed to the outside of the glass. By placing the cat tree or tower close to this then they give their cat a tantalizing view of the birds outside.

Just be sure that the tower is close enough that your cat can press up against the glass to look, rather than attempt a potentially dangerous leap to get those birds!

In the meantime, you can place a box on the floor and drape a sheet over it for them to play in, if you like. Your cat might just prefer keeping their feet on the floor or on the couch and that’s completely fine. All cats are different!

Why does my cat dislike high places?

Likely your cat is just not much of a natural climber but if your cat dislikes a specific high place, then you should look closely at the area surrounding it. Cats have excellent judgement for determining if a place is safe to land on following a long jump. If the area nearby is plush, your cat may just view it as ‘uneven’ and therefore unsuitable for jumping to.

If you place your cat in a high spot and they show fear, then your cat may actually be afraid of heights, but more often a cat placed in a spot like this will simply jump down and this likely means that they just prefer staying low and on the floor.

How can I get my cat to use its cat tree?

The easiest way to get your cat to use the cat tree is to start by placing it close to you. This gives your cat a good view and puts them nearby for our next step, which is interaction.

By petting your cat to encourage climbing and then playing with them on the different levels of the tree, your cat will associate the tree with fun and play.

This also helps to get your cats scent in the tree, which will increase their comfort levels when playing inside. Finally, we’d mentioned strings and treats before, but we forgot to mention the secret weapon when it comes to happy cats.


By sprinkling a little catnip in various levels of the tree you can encourage your cat to spend a lot more time there.

Can I teach my cat to climb a yard fence?

Theoretically you could teach your cat to climb a yard fence, as it’s mostly a matter of showing the cat that they are quite equipped and capable to climb that fence. The easiest means would likely be to place something like a bin or two nearby, up against the fence, so that the cat has a means to ascend to the top.

While they might wobble a bit at the top of the fence (or possibly fall back down into the grassy yard), in most cases their innate sense of balance will kick in and they’ll realize that they can walk around the top of the fence.

Cats can also scale a wooden fence with their claws quite easily, but they generally only discover this by accident – usually by falling into a yard with an angry dog! A safe way to teach this might involve having a family member on each side of the wooden fence and a toy on a string being dangled and quickly pulled up and out of reach.

The cat may eventually decide that they are going to get that toy and claw their way up before they even realize that they are climbing the fence.

Should I be concerned if my cat does not climb?

You should not be concerned if your cat does not climb. It is completely normal for some cats not to climb. It may have something to do with how much climbing they did as a kitten.

If they climbed a lot at a young age, then they will be more comfortable with it and more inclined to climb up when they want a better view of the room or something you’ve placed up high that has gotten their interest.

Other cats prefer to stay on the floor or go maybe as high as the couch, but leave your countertops alone and will never climb your drapes. This is completely normal and you might consider yourself lucky – a climbing cat can get into all sorts of interesting trouble!

How can I teach my cat to climb a ladder?

This is largely a matter of simply motivating your cat to climb the ladder, as they could certainly climb it any time if they really wanted to. To make the ladder more appealing we could start by making a more cat-friendly surface.

Affixing a cloth to the ladder by means of some Velcro tape or affixing small strips of carpet to the ladder steps can make it more attractive to your cat by providing extra traction. The easiest ways to get your cat to climb it after that would be to either climb it yourself and try to coax your kitty up or to place toys and treats strategically on the steps.

You might even line those steps and then simply leave the ladder alone and unintended. Cats are notorious for their curiosity and the fact that this carpeted or cloth-covered ladder is just suddenly there may prompt them to investigate. Just be sure there’s nothing near the top that you don’t want your cat to topple!

Why can’t domestic cats climb down a tree?

Domestic cats CAN climb down trees, they just often lack the experience to know the technique or they are simply afraid of the height which they are presently occupying. Some domestic cats do indeed carefully claw their way down, but more often you’ll see a technique that many cats learn when they are kittens.

Climbing down in reverse.

Cats who got stuck in trees when they were kittens often learn that by getting a good grip on the bark and dangling, they can climb slowly down a tree in relative safety. Cats are very strong, as are their claws, so they can climb down, most of the time they just don’t know how.

What cat breeds do not naturally jump on things?

Short-legged breeds of cat are less likely to jump up on the furniture and other places you might not want them to go – but it is still a possibility.

Breeds such as Persians, Munchkins, and Himalayans have shorter back legs but these legs still have plenty of spring in them. Basically, your odds are better that they will stay on the floor but there are no guarantees!

Older cats tend to stay closer to the terra firma, so you might consider giving an older cat a home if you are hoping to keep your shelves safe but again – no guarantees. Cats tend to go where they like. Period.

Lindsey Browlingdon