As all good cat-owners know, one of the keys to a happy cat-home is offering your cat a choice of levels on which to rest. Whether that means clearing shelves, installing steps on a wall, or just bringing in a good-sized cat tree, your cat will probably enjoy being above ground-level. For many cats, climbing behaviour is instinctive – it gives them a vantage point to watch for potential danger, and often offers a warmer place to rest.
At the Sanctuary, it’s also one of the means of keeping the peace – cats who might not get on with each other can find different levels on which to co-exist, and the feral cats, in particular, like to stay well out of the way.
All the space is set up with this in mind. In each of the main areas, cages are built with an extensive cage-top surface, well-equipped with bedding – and part of the morning clean-up involves volunteers and staff climbing up to check and change bedding as necessary. Every area has at least one cat-tree – often more than one – and we are most grateful to the donors who bring new ones in. Uninhabited cages are left open and provided with boxes and beds so that shyer cats have upper levels where they can hide.
In both the Double and Single-Wide, runs are set up around the room so that cats can choose to stay off the ground if they prefer. Some of the more feral ones may rarely venture down; food and water, litter-boxes and bedding are all within their reach.
When the gazebo was installed in the front courtyard, it didn’t take long before some adventurous souls made their way up through the central lantern and onto the roof; that access has now been blocked.
Some cats don’t wait for shelves or cat-trees – KitKat is one of our gate-greeters, and is quite ready to do a vertical take-off to land on an unsuspecting shoulder; she likes to be higher up than all the humans around her. If someone taller comes into range, she’s quite ready to transfer to the higher vantage point.
In all the pens at the back, the cabins contain several sets of shelves, well-equipped with bedding, so that cats can choose their preferred level. And out in the open there are also places where they can climb, and look out over the area with a greater sense of security.
One of the other functions of a cat-tree, of course, is to offer a surface for scratching – both to exercise the claws and to give the cat a chance to stretch their leg and back muscles. In many places around the Sanctuary untreated wood is used for stair and door posts, and there are a few places where there are signs that it will soon need to be replaced.
The best scratching post, of course, is the tree in the back courtyard, and it is well-used both for that purpose and as a vantage-point by a variety of cats.
Tanisha Vincent, Michele Wright