If you are a cat owner, then you may have noticed that your pet has a particular passion for standing on the edges of high surfaces. It’s true that they’ll often perch in high places, including your shoulders, table tops, or windowsills. In this post we’ll take a look at why cats love to perch and why it shouldn’t concern any new cat owner.
So, Why Do Cats Love Perching?
There are actually a number of reasons why cats may perch in high up places and why they could prefer this location to others being offered:
- Territory Marking – Cat perching is a common behavior that’s often associated with the territory marking process. Cats are naturally territorial, and they mark everything they can as their territory. They may consider the high places they have chosen to perch on as likely territories of other cats in the neighborhood, so if your cat is frequenting these high spots they may be guarding against others who might be coming to take these spots away from them. Even in a safe, home environment, your cat won’t ignore its animal instincts.
- They’re Not Just Standing Still, They’re Moving – Your cat may perch in a high place, but this isn’t just about standing still – they’ll also move around and will tend to walk using all four legs at once. This movement helps them to keep their balance – they don’t want to fall in such an important place! It’s also important that your cat moves around regularly, as they’ll use their movements to keep an eye on the surrounding area and will also use this for other behavior, such as marking.
- Visual Marking – Perching on high places is also a form of visual marking. According to Wikipedia, your cat’s scent glands are located in their feet, so marking with these glands isn’t always the most effective way for them to claim a territory. Instead, they’ll often leave visual markers on these high surfaces to make sure that all other cats will know that this is their territory and not to be entered into. These markers can include scratching the surface or leaving urine or feces. If your cat seems particularly passionate about perching on certain high spots, it might be because of this visual marking.
- To Chill – Cats like to perch, and will often take high places just to relax. Some cats prefer cat trees to regular surfaces for this reason. Cats don’t like to be touched when they’re relaxing, so a cat tree allows them peace and quiet while still allowing them their personal space. Relaxing like this, in high places is quite normal behavior. It’s also fun. Cats, in general, are very playful animals, and perching in high places is just one of many hobbies they have.
- To Satisfy their Hunting Instincts – Cats also rely on perching for their hunting instincts. Much of a cat’s hunting style comes from stealth and surprise, along with pouncing on their prey when the time is right. – When cats are perched, they can get a very good view of the area around them, and they can leap down on unsuspecting birds or rodents without having to worry about being seen until it’s too late for the prey animal. According to CatBehaviorAssociates, being up high also gives the cat some protection against being ambushed by other cats or predators. That’s why you often see cats in higher up places (roofs, top of cars, up a tree!) when they are outside; they are simply giving themselves an advantage in battle 😉
- It is Just Routine – A post on Pet Wants suggests this behavior is also actually just part of the cats’ routine. If they have previously marked the area, they’ll simply return to ensure their scent is still there and, well, maybe they also like their own scent too.
- Playtime– CatBehaviorAssociates also suggest that climbing and perching up high is also just a fun way for your cat to get some exercise. There are plenty of toys and games for your cat to play with, but cats will often get bored of the same thing over and over again. A perch gives them a new way to let off some steam and can be a great way to keep them active and happy.
If Your Cat Perches on High Places – What Should You do?
The regular perching behavior of your cat shouldn’t cause any concern. Like most other cats, they’ll only tend to do it in areas that are safe from a predator’s perspective. If your cat doesn’t seem overly concerned by the fact that they’re perched up high, and if you don’t mind them being up there, then there is no reason why you should try to stop this behavior. If you’ve got no problem with them being up there, then it’s really just a matter of leaving your cat to get on with their own behavior as long as they are not in danger. Things get a little more complicated when your cat gets too comfortable with high places.
If your cat is perching in a safe, sheltered area like a cat tree, then you may not have any problem with them using high places to chill out. But if they are often perching on very tall things like fences, top of sheds, etc., then they might be capable of causing a bit of damage. Cats may climb anything – and if they can get up high enough and there is something in their way that they can jump from, then climbing becomes an option. This is something you may want to monitor, especially if your cat seems to actually enjoy the climb (as opposed to just merely going up there).
Cats can and sometimes do fall once they’ve made it to the top. It has been known for cats to get stuck from time to time and nobody wants to be in a position of needing to rescue it. But your cat may just love climbing is simply not aware of the risks we humans see.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong when a cat is perched on the top of something like a fence or tree. So, it’s really important to make sure that your cat is safe when they are up there:
- Never leave them alone in a high place. If you do have to leave your cat alone then always make sure they can get down or climb down (preferably with some toy around).
- Keep sharp objects out of reach – If you have any yard tools, gardening tools (like a scythe!), or anything else that is not in use that could be used to climb, put them somewhere where your cat does not have access to them.
- Make sure your cat is well-fed – If your cat loves to perch on high places, it can be that they are sometimes checking out the surrounding area for food sources, or just simply looking over their territory.
Whichever it is, if your cat doesn’t have access to food and water at ground level, then they’ll be more prone to perch in someplace high up. The best way to ensure you’re providing enough for your cat is by providing enough space for them and ensuring their areas are adequately sized.
Is Cat Perching Bad for Cats?
Perching is common in many cats and should not be considered a cause for alarm unless you’ve noticed that your cat is using these high places in an aggressive way against people, pets, or other animals. If your cat is more territorial than you expected it’s a good idea to consider buying them a cat tree or other surface where they can perch comfortably. If you notice them using these high places aggressively it’s important to seek the advice of a veterinarian before making any changes to your cat’s routine, especially if your cat is showing signs of aggressive behavior towards you or others in your household.