The Purrr-fect Cat Trees For Small Spaces, According To Experts

When shopping for a cat tree, there are a lot of things to consider — especially if you live in a small space. To find out what qualities are most important when shopping for the best cat trees for small apartments, I reached out to two experts: Valli Parthasarathy, DVM, a Portland-based cat behaviorist with Synergy Behavior Solutions and Marci Koski, Ph.D., a cat specialist with Feline Behavior Solutions.

According to Dr. Parthasarathy, your cat tree should be tall, sturdy, and heavy enough that it won't tip over. "The ability for cats to have different heights to rest is one of the most important features of a cat tree," explains Dr. Parthasarathy. As far as materials go, carpet and sisal rope are both durable choices that are perfect for scratching.

But traditional cat trees that stand on the floor aren't your only option. If floor space is limited, Dr. Koski, recommends considering other alternatives, like over-the-door trees or even "cat shelves" that attach to the wall.

Once you've found the perfect tree, think about the best place to put it. Dr. Koski explains that location is key to whether or not your cat will embrace their new playground. "Make sure to place the tree in a socially-significant part of your home — where you and your cat like to hang out," she says.

Also, Dr. Koski recommends a little encouragement: "If you want to get your cat to use the tree, try putting cat treats on the various levels, using a wand toy to lure your cat up the tree, or sprinkling catnip on it. Your cat will figure it out!"

Based on the ideas and recommendations by these experts, I've put together a list of the best cat trees for small apartments to help you get the most out of your living space.


The Overall Best, All Things Considered

Dimensions: 22.1 by 22.1 by 47.9 inches

What's great about it: Vesper is a brand that Dr. Koski recommends for the "modern look" of their products, and this particular Vesper cat tree is no exception. With 4.5 stars on Amazon, it features an elegant design of sleek New Zealand pine and rounded corners. It's tall with a sturdy observation deck on top, a cozy cat cave, removable memory foam cushions, and plenty of space for scratching. Dr. Koski says that "a comfortable spot for perching and napping is the most important feature of a cat tree; whether this is a high platform or a built-in cubby depends on what your kitty prefers."

What fans say: "This was a great solution for my small apartment, given its height and relatively small footprint. It is very attractive and seems to be built reasonably well. The stand is quite heavy so you do not have to worry about it shifting out of place or being tippy."


Runner-Up: Another Great Cat Tree At A Mid-Range Price

Dimensions: 20 by 20 by 32 inches

What's great about it: With more than 300 positive reviews, this popular cat tree is covered in plush carpet that your cat will find irresistible. It's constructed from sturdy, durable wood, so it's not wobbly, and it will stay put when your cat takes a giant leap. In addition to its three platforms, it has two pillars made from sisal rope, which both experts recommend for clawing. Best of all, it's offered at a reasonable, mid-range price.

What fans say: "We needed a smaller tree, to fit in the area where our cats would hang out. My two cats just love it!!! It is perfect for the small space. They both can play and sleep on this tree. They're both full grown and it's perfect for their size."


The Best Budget Option

Dimensions: 20 by 16.1 by 46.4 inches

What's great about it: This budget-friendly cat tree is tall and well-built, yet doesn't cost a fortune. It has three elevated platforms, as well as pillars made from natural jute fibers. The carpet is soft, and the sturdy construction makes it stable and durable. Dr. Koski says that while they aren't necessary, dangling toys like the one featured on this cat tree add more excitement for younger cats. The only drawback is that one reviewer noted that light-colored hair shows up against the dark carpet, so you may want to choose the beige or light grey if you have a light-colored kitty.

What fans say: "Our kitten loves it he plays on it all the time and started almost immediately. It's doesn't take up a whole lot of space so it's good for a smaller space because it goes up not out."


The Best Tension Pole Cat Tree

Dimensions: 30.25 by 12 by 89 to 114.75 inches

What's great about it: Both specialists recommend tension pole styles for making the most of small spaces. This adjustable cat tower is exceptionally customizable, with four comfy perches you can place anywhere on the tree. It also has a cozy hammock and easy-to-mount, spring-loaded branches.

What fans say: "The footprint of the tree is minimal which is important when you live in [a] small apartment. It's really sturdy ... It was very simple to put together and it doesn't wobble at all."


The Best Over-The-Door Design

Dimensions: 23 by 16 by 65 inches

What's great about it: Another style recommended by both specialists, this over-the-door cat tree has five spacious cubby holes for your pet to perch inside. It's constructed with tough, 300-denier waterproof fabric that will hold your cat's weight, and it features seven peepholes for their viewing pleasure.

What fans say: "This item is great for people who live in smaller apartments. It hangs securely on the door. All my cats love to play & sleep in this condo. It's a great product. The construction is sturdy and the material is strong. "


The Most Space-Efficient Option

What's great about them: According to Dr. Parthasarathy, floating shelves are another great space-saving alternative to a full-sized cat tree. This feline shelf set has 4.5 stars on Amazon and features hand-crafted shelves, steps, and hammocks you can attach to the wall, giving your cat a place to jump and play without taking up any floor space. If the full-scale play set is too much, try a standalone cat hammock or a window hanger.

What fans say: "This product is built well and my cats really seem to love it. We mounted the playground nice and high so the cats could look down on us (they seem to like that) ... Love the space saving design as it takes up no floor space like a cat tree."

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