Why Do Cats Like High Places?

Most cats enjoy being in high places. Whether it’s a high shelf, a window perch or the top of the refrigerator, your cat may feel more comfortable in the upper half of the room where he can keep an eye on the world around him.

Instinct plays a large role in determing this classical feline penchant. Cats are tree-climbing mammals that descended from Proailurus, the first true cat, about 34 million years ago. Early cats were hunters and many of them lived in the rain forests. Their claws enabled them to climb skillfully, escaping into trees for safety or climbing to lie in wait for prey. In other words, climbing had survival value and became hard-wired as a way of life for cats.

Our cats climb for safety and just for the fun of it. They will sprint up and down a tree — or your draperies — with the same skill their ancestors used in the forest. Their flexible musculoskeletal system gives them exceptional coordination and balance and enables them to jump. Strong muscles in the hindquarters and back enable a cat to leap several times his own length, either horizontally or vertically. Also, claws are as important to cats for anchoring and leverage as grappling irons and crampons are to rock climber.

Watch a cat before he leaps onto a high place. He leans back and stares. He seems to be calculating angles from where he is to where he’s going. Then without taking his eyes from the intended spot, he becomes airborne. But he doesn’t land with a thud. Making a graceful jump, and he seems to hover momentarily before his paws softly touch down. Then your kitty makes himself comfortable, turns around a few times, tucks in his paws, and enjoys the panoramic vista from his lofty safe haven. Life’s not so tough at the top.