photo of white and black cat resting on cat tree

Why Does My Cat Climb Me Like a Tree?

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Our cat’s claws need clipping, and I now have a hole in my sweater. It’s no wonder that the cat tree in our living room is so battered; its rope fraying and unravelling over the carpet. It’s easy to forget that something as small and as cute as our gorgeous girl can be capable of such predatory behavior! It’s time to get the clippers out, but why does my cat climb me like a tree?

Why My Cat Climbs Me Like a Tree

Cats are descended from tree-climbing mammals. It’s why they’re so good at scaling people, places, and objects. Think about it: they have strong back legs, sharp claws, keen eyes and unmatched agility. Their balance is superb, too. Going high also gives them a good vantage point to spot prey and to get advanced warnings about other predators. Cats feel safer when they’re off the ground with a view of the surrounding environment. That’s one argument for why cat’s like sleeping on the edge of the bed.

It makes sense that if you’re the tallest thing in the room, that they’re going to climb you. Think about it. You don’t look all that different to a tree from a small cat’s perspective. You have a trunk and branches and you’re standing still. Why wouldn’t they try and climb you? Kittens will also want to go high but they also have that need to explore and that mad energy that makes everything (even climbing) seem like a way to play. They’re curious, testing themselves and learning their abilities in much the same way that toddlers are into everything when they’re first moving through their environment independently.

Most Kittens Grow Out of It

Most kittens grow out of it when they grow into adulthood. As cats get larger it may be harder for them to hang onto you and climb. Creating high places in your home or apartment will help encourage them to climb without sticking their claws into you (and hopefully your furniture). Cat trees are a great way to do this. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can get ones that go from floor to ceiling and provide a better outlet for your cats to climb than your leg (hopefully). We’ll include some examples below to give you an idea of the available types.

Remember, we’re an Amazon affiliate so if you buy something using one of our links, we may make a small commission at no cost to you. The great thing about a cat tree is that adult cats love them, too. The climbing instinct never really go away and having that up-high vantage point will keep them happy. If you don’t want to put a cat tree in your home or apartment, then you can create other high places. This could be a cat window perch.

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One thing you can do, too, is to make sure your cat’s claws are clipped. Sharp claws will cause more damage to your furniture (and skin!). keeping their claws trimmed will make it less painful but also it gives them less of an anchor point when they’re scaling you.

There’s plenty of tutorials online about clipping claws. Your veterinarian will be able to do it, too, or you can go to a grooming studio. Some cats may need to be held, but others will let you do it quite happily as they sit still and relax. Just be careful not to cut across the quick of the nail because there’s a vein there that will bleed.  Scratching posts can help cats keep their claws shorter.  Outdoor cats will naturally find ways of keeping their claws shorter and sharper but indoor cats will need something to scratch.

You can also encourage them not to climb. When they get ready to do it try side-stepping so that when they jump on you they miss. You can also physically remove them from you and in a stern voice tell them you’re not happy and put them on the floor and walk away. Some people suggest hissing or clapping your hands, too. You can also keep a fishing line toy to hand. This acts as a distraction. They’ll see the moving toy and go for that instead. Fishing line toys are a great way to give your cat the run-around and burn some calories as well as energy. Kittens need a lot of stimulation and attention. You’ll be doing yourself a favour by playing with them.

If you have a cat tree, reward them when they climb up it with fuss and positive encouragement. You could also give them a little treat.

Cats regularly exhibit strange behaviors that we don’t always understand right away.  We’ve written some posts about these types of things before: why does my cat sleep between my legs? And Why do cats cry like babies in the night? Or why is my cat meowing so much after moving?

If this is your first cat or kitten, then don’t worry there’s plenty of other odd stuff they’ll end up doing as they get older. It’s partly what makes living with a cat so interesting.

There’s nothing to worry about unless you have a reason to be concerned. Talk to your veterinarian if it’s something you’re worried about.  Cats like climbing. Some cats like climbing more than others. Most will grow out of it when they reach adulthood but you can never generalise entirely with cats – they’re a rule unto themselves!

  • Buy a cat tree or create high places for your cat to climb and sit within your home.
  • Keep their claws clipped so that they can’t get as good a grip when they try to climb.
  • Tire out young cats as much as you can using toys.