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Cats and Trees: A Love Affair

Thereís no greater friend than a tree- so weíre celebrating Arbor Day by answering an age-old question about cats: why do cats climb trees? Cats seem naturally enticed and delighted by the prospect of climbing, but the question remains as to what motivates this natural sense of excitement. As it turns out- there are quite a number of benefits to climbing trees and a reasonable explanation for the way that cats get caught up in their climbs.

A catís body is built for climbing. Strong backs and muscular hind legs make jumping simple and claws remove a strong grip from the equation. Natureís design for felines is no accident; catsí ability to climb gives them both a method of hiding from larger predators and easier access to avian prey. Climbing trees also gives cats a better view of their environment, which can benefit them as both hunters and potential prey.

Although this view explains the behavior of climbing for cats in general, it does not provide an all-encompassing explanation. Individual cats climb for a variety of reasons. Instinct inspires imagination and ambition that can provide sufficient cause for adventurous ascents; unfortunately, cats arenít always prepared for the consequences of their curiosity.

What Goes UpÖ

For many felines, the logistics of descent are often an afterthought of an exciting, spontaneous climb. Cats are indeed built for climbing; however, they are also built for falling. Cats are can twist and maneuver in the air to reduce the impact of a fall. Itís not farfetched to think that the same cats that evolved to climb high into the trees developed this ability as their mechanism for descent. It also lends credence to the idea that cats climbed trees to attain the positioning needed to leap down onto unsuspecting prey, whether that prey is a bird on a lower branch or a mouse on the ground.

So, if cats are capable of jumping down from absurd heights- why do so many seem to find themselves trapped atop tall trees? The answer is surprisingly counter-intuitive: the trees arenít tall enough. Cats that reduce the impact of falls do so, in part, by increasing their wind resistance to slow their fall. This is an action that requires time to have an effect on the catís velocity. The cat not only needs to have the time to actually contort its body, but also for the wind resistance to slow its fall to a reasonable speed.

Another factor which prevents cats from climbing down is their weight relative to their claw strength. Cats climb upwards largely via leaps and leg strength. To climb down this way would require a set of breaks that cats simply donít have. Cat claws are sufficiently sharp to help a cat pull upwards but cannot assist with halting the full velocity of a descending cat. Additionally, fear may be a factor for some cats who simply arenít ready to take the leap of faith. This is perfectly reasonable, since surviving a long fall doesnít mean that the landing wonít hurt.

Dealin' with Tree Cats

Some cats are more comfortable in trees than others and some cats will stay in a tree until descending is necessary. If your cat appears to be stuck in a tree, itís recommended waiting for a period of 1-2 days before trying to force its decline. Remember that many cats love to climb and simply hang out in trees. However, if your cat is trapped in a tree, thereís no need to call the fire department- professional services are available to help rescue cats from trees.

If your cat is prone to dangerous climbing habits then it may be necessary to help your cat transition to the great indoors. For these cats, you can provide a safe alternative to outdoor trees with an indoor climbing structure. Indoor climbing structures don't house the prey that drives some cats to climb- but they do provide a surface for scratching and a way to climb or exercise safely. An artificial tree or climbing structure can also help prevent cats from climbing on furniture, which protects both your furniture and your cat.

Does your cat love to climb? Let us know about your catís adventures in the comments section!

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