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Why Do Cats Like Heights?

Cats prefer hanging out in high places to protect themselves from threats and maintain a good vantage point.

November 16, 2022 4 min read
Why Do Cats Like Heights?

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know there are certain things they need to be happy. Cats require nutritious food, access to clean water, and a place up high to perch.

Cats have no qualms about climbing a tree or lounging on top of the refrigerator. This is because they actually enjoy heights and the comfort being up high provides them. This instinctual need to sit in high places is a behavior deeply rooted in the feline’s biology.

Just like how wild cats would perch in trees to hide from predators or hunt their prey, domestic cats are hard-wired to climb and maintain a vantage point above all others.

What Is High-Rise Syndrome?

While cats are known to be agile, they can suffer injuries when attempting to reach high places. Due to the frequency of these injuries, the veterinary community has coined the term “high-rise syndrome” to describe the injuries that cats sustain when they fall from a height of more than two stories.

Cats that suffer from high-rise syndrome can encounter a wide range of symptoms, such as visible wounds, blood loss, vomiting, misaligned limbs, swelling or bleeding of the mouth, jaundice, abdominal distention, and painful abdominal masses. Animals that sustain such injuries require immediate veterinary care.

High-rise syndrome can occur when cats become startled, such as due to loud noise or an unexpected event. Some cats will attempt to jump from a steep height due to a strong prey drive, such as a cat that jumps to catch a flying bird. Cats can also suffer height-related injuries when windows without secure screens are left open.

Why Do Cats Like High Places?

You’ve likely noticed that your cat likes to be in high places, such as on a bookshelf or kitchen cabinet. There are several reasons why cats are drawn to high places. If you have ever been curious about your cat’s peculiar behavior, keep reading to find out why cats like heights.

1. It’s Instinctual

Cats often prefer high places over lower ones as it makes them feel safe. Their natural instincts tell them that getting to a higher place will help protect them from predators and other threats. For example, cats may seek a high location to get out of reach of children or other household pets. When up high, cats can better observe their surroundings and keep an eye out for dangers.

2. They Enjoy Solitude

While some cats enjoy the company of their humans, many prefer to be alone. It’s important to remember that their ancestors were solitary animals, and although modern cats often develop a need for companionship, they are biologically rooted to enjoy time alone. Even a mother cat will seek a high place to rest to temporarily escape her needy kittens during weaning time. Getting up to a high location away from people and other animals helps provide solitude.

3. It Provides Entertainment

Like other domestic pets, cats can get bored easily and may get into trouble when under-stimulated. Shelving, cat trees, and other tools that allow them to jump and play provide a source of entertainment. Not only is jumping up to high places a physical workout, but also a mental exercise that allows cats to see the world from a new perspective. They have the opportunity to explore their surroundings in a new way that is interesting and engaging.

4. It’s Warmer

Most people know that heat rises. Many cats enjoy spending time in high places in the home simply because it’s warmer. Your cat may lie on top of the refrigerator as he enjoys the warmth that the appliance creates, especially during the cooler months of the year. Cats may also climb higher to reach windows if sun rays are shining in that provide a source of warmth and comfort.

5. It Establishes Hierarchy

Just like a king sitting on his throne, your cat may enjoy being high up as it makes him feel more powerful and in control. There are several ways in which cats attempt to display their position in the household and one of those ways is to achieve height. This is especially common in homes with multiple cats as one cat may try to establish his role as the most dominant by remaining in a high place above all the other cats.

How Can I Keep My Cat Safe?

It’s natural to feel concerned about your cat’s behavior, especially if you’re familiar with high-rise syndrome. The good news is that your cat can climb safely in your home by taking just a few simple precautions. Consider these tips when setting up your home for your pet:

  • Provide your cat with a cat tree. Cat trees are a simple and safe climbing option for indoor cats. A sturdy cat tree will allow your cat to jump and climb with multiple perches at different heights.
  • Install window perches and shelves. Many cats enjoy jumping and climbing on sturdy shelves securely attached to the wall. Window perches allow your cat to sit and look outdoors from a location off the ground.
  • Ensure that vertical spaces are safe. In addition to being sturdy, you’ll want to ensure that any surfaces that your cat climbs or jumps onto are safe. Consider covering these surfaces with non-slip material.

Cats depend on their ability to jump and climb to an elevated location to feel safe and explore the world around them. By following a few simple precautions, you can keep your cat safe and happy while allowing him to indulge in his instinctive behavior.

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