What is it about cats and being up high? The vast majority of breeds love to seek height, whether that’s up a tree, on a shelf, on top of the fridge or just about anywhere else elevated around the home. Having to spend half an hour every day looking up at the ceiling is par for the course for most cat owners. With the above in mind, have you ever wondered why cats are such prolific high-rise dwellers?
As is typical in any living animal, the main driver that encourages cats to climb is basic instinct. These instincts have been shaped and honed by centuries of natural evolution. Cats are descendants of Proailurus, a tree-climbing mammal that lived in Europe and Asia around 25 million years ago. Proailurus is considered by many scientists to be the first ‘true’ cat. In a harsh and rugged world, the Proailurus instincts were centred on survival and safety. Many of the behaviours that house cats display today can be traced back to their early ancestor’s simple desire to survive.
Climbing and being up high provides two crucial benefits that underpin basic survival. The first of these benefits is part of a defensive mechanism. Being able to climb to elevated positions allows cats to escape all but the most determined and agile predators. Whilst the natural dangers found today might not compare with those endured millions of years ago, the basic instinct remains even if it’s just to escape the intrusion of a playful dog or an inquisitive toddler. The second benefit that being up high provides is that it gives cats an excellent vantage point to observe their surroundings, feel safe and stalk prey. Whilst few house cats have any need to stalk to survive in the modern world, this evolutionary instinct is still observed in most cats every day.
Powerful Bodies, Lightening Reflexes
Over the millennia, cats’ bodies have become well adapted to climbing. Their light and muscular framework can generate a huge amount of explosive power. This power, combined with excellent balance and agility, provides the optimal combination for quick and efficient climbing. The final pieces of the climbing kitbag include sharp claws, good eyesight and lightning-fast reactions. All of these components combined ensure that a cat is a force to be reckoned with and is one of the world’s finest climbers.
Of course, cats also spend a lot of time sleeping and most will prefer to do so in high places. Once again, this trait can be traced back to a basic need to feel safe before relaxing into sleep.
It goes without saying that any cat should have the opportunity to practice these natural instincts at home. The desire to be up high is important to just about every cat and can play a vital role in their long-term health, happiness and sense of safety. It is no coincidence that cats will often go out of their way to find a high place of happiness. We, as cat owners, can provide an array of opportunities for them to play out these instincts and create an environment that is suitable for their every instinctive need.