How to Stop a Cat Climbing Curtains, Walls and More
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It is in a cat's nature to like heights. They love to climb up on furniture, curtains and even climb up walls. While this might be exploratory and fun for a cat, it can be disruptive and destructive for others in the home. Understanding why cats like to climb will help us to prevent them from climbing up to places they shouldn't. Since it is part of their nature, suppressing their instincts can cause problems. This is why AnimalWised explains how to stop your cat climbing curtains, walls and more, without harming our cat in the process.
Why do cats like to climb?
Before we can understand how to prevent a cat from climbing places it shouldn't, we first need to know why it do so. Furniture, curtains, walls and anything off the floor become irresistible to cats. It is as if the whole world is their climbing frame, something which isn't that far off the mark. The reason for their climbing is related to instinct and their wild ancestry.
The ancestors of cats were able to climb because they had a body perfectly designed for this purpose. They have retractable claws which grip surfaces easily, a tail which helps them maintain balance and an athletic body which allows them to be especially agile.
Additionally, cats have clavicles which are different from our own and those of other animals. These clavicle bones are ‘free-floating’. This means they are not directly attached to the shoulder bones. This morphological distinction allows them to move their front legs with great freedom, in almost any direction. This is also part of the reason cats will almost always land on their feet, something which helps when they climb from great heights.
Climbing to a place of height also allows them to observe their habitat better, even if this habitat is our home. In the wild, being up high allows them to both observe prey to hunt and watch out for predators to avoid being hunted. In the home, being off the floor allows them to avoid tripping over people and generally being away from the hubbub of a household. Many cats in the wild are considered (at least partly) arboreal. Climbing up trees allows them to stay somewhere safe, something particularly helpful when sleeping.
Should we stop our cat from climbing?
As we have seen, a cat's climbing behavior is natural to them. It doesn't climb your curtains or walls because it wasn't to be destructive. Vertical spaces are not only good for them to exercise their instinctive behavior. They also provide them with fun and entertainment. Cats like to play with toys, but they also like to run around and explore new places, something which satisfies their curiosity.
Being allowed to climb wherever they want lets them feel like they are in their own environment, something important to territorial animals like cats. If we prevent cats from climbing anywhere, we risk stifling their expression. This can lead to physical problems such as obesity, but also behavior problems and depression. Behavior issues include scratching furniture, meowing all the time or even pulling out their own fur. For these reasons, it is not good to stop a cat from climbing completely.
General tips for cats climbing
Now that we know we shouldn't stop cats climbing completely, we can still help to affect problem behavior with cats. We can do this with redirecting their climbing behavior to something less destructive, as well as by providing adequate environmental enrichment. Keep these tips in mind:
Scratching tree for cats
This accessory for cats allows us to both help avoid cats climbing walls and curtains, as well as prevent them from destroying upholstery and fabrics. Scratching posts are standalone pillars covered in a fabric which encourages cats to scratch them. Scratching trees are multi-level structures which incorporate scratching posts and covered platforms which allow the cats to rest.
Scratching trees often come with toys and other distractions to keep cats entertained. They allow the cat to keep their claws in condition, express their love for heights and climb for fun. They can jump, release energy, rest and express their feline nature.
Discourage places you don't want them to go
Although we want to direct cats to appropriate places to climb, we should also think of ways to prevent cats from going to places they shouldn't, including up high. To help stop cats from climbing places they shouldn't, we should make them uninteresting to them. One practical example is to use double-sided tape on the surface you don't want them to climb. The cat doesn't like the sensation, so they will avoid putting their paws on it and lose interest. We can do the same with smells cats hate, but it is not always possible if it causes our home to smell bad.
This trick can also be used to help keep cats off the back of the couch.
Don't encourage them
Another thing we need to do is to not encourage them to be in places of height. If your cat climbs up somewhere you don't want them to, but then pet them and given them affection when they are there, it will encourage them to do it again. They will associate the act of climbing as a reward. Instead, you should gently lift them up and place the, back on the floor. Then only pet them when they move away to somewhere more suitable.
How to stop cats climbing on the curtains
Cats often love climbing on curtains as they are made from material which feels good to claw. This is why we often see lots of scratch marks at the bottom of curtains. Also, curtains will move in the wind, making the, appear to the cat as if they are a living thing. To cats, curtains often appear as if they are a big toy they can play with. Together with the general tips above for preventing cats from climbing, we can:
- Shorten the curtains: if we ensure the curtains are not at floor level, it will help to prevent the cat from having access to the fabric. For this reason, they might not think to climb them.
- Tie the end: if you ties the end of the curtains and use a non-tasseled curtain tie, they might better avoid them.
- Use an alternative: if the cat still won't leave your curtains alone, you might want to choose an alternative such as blinds.
How to stop cats climbing up our legs
Has your cat ever crawled up your legs? The first time it happens, it might seem funny, especially if they are only a kitten. However, when a cat has sharp claws and climbs our legs, it can both destroy our clothes and hurt us. If it becomes a habitual behavior, it can be very bothersome. Often it happens because we have had food in our hands and the cat comes up to get it. Some of us even accidentally encourage them by giving them positive reinforcement when they climb our legs.
It is important we don't encourage our cat to climb our legs. When we are cooking and they come near, do not feed them. We need to ensure they don't try to climb our legs when we're in the kitchen as it can be dangerous for both parties. We also shouldn't shout or scold the cat when they do this. This kind of negative reinforcement can cause behavioral problems. Of course, we should never try to knock them off as this can cause injury.
How to stop cats climbing trees
Cats climbing tees can be fun for them, until they get stuck and are unable to climb down. Some cats may even try to jump and can injure themselves. Climbing trees is a natural behavior, they like to go up high so they can observe their surroundings. But climbing trees is also a risk for cats with outdoor access. Cats which have not been neutered are also more likely to climb trees as they look for another cat to mate with.
You may also be worried about the cat escaping or going somewhere they shouldn't. In these cases, you probably should keep the cat as an indoor animal. If there is a risk they will run away, it is best to simply not let them get out. You can erect a fence, but since cats are such good climbers, this may not actually be very helpful. Aluminium foil wrapped round the truck will likely stop the cat from climbing the tree, but it might look aesthetically very poor.
Cats which jump from heights and hurt themselves are said to have high-rise syndrome. This can be a very dangerous situation for your cat, so take a look at our article on high-rise syndrome in cats which can help shed some light on the subject.
How to stop a cat climbing the walls
Lastly, you may have a cat which likes to climb the walls. Certain wall surfaces or wallpaper can actually allow the cat purchase on the wall with their claws. Some cats simply have a lot of energy and climb the walls as a way to release it.
The best way to deal with the problem of a cat climbing the walls is to help them do so. Cat climbing walls and platforms are special accessories which allow the cat to climb up to special areas which allow them to express their climbing habits in a positive way. They can be attached to the wall and they come in various designs suitable for all types of home decoration styles.
Since we may not be able to stop the cat from climbing completely, climbing walls at least help us to redirect this behavior. We explain this further in our video below on why cats like sleeping in high places:
If you want to read similar articles to How to Stop a Cat Climbing Curtains, Walls and More, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.