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Friday, May 24, 2024

This Safe, Sturdy Cat Decor Won't Shed In Your Living Room

Pet products are not nice to look at. Carpet-covered cat trees and plastic toys don't particularly blend in with decor. They're also often cheaply made. If anything is uglier than a cat tree, it's a cat tree that's raggedy and falling apart. 

Living with two cats in small apartments, I've learned that when everything you own is on display, you want it to look good. I wanted them to be built well, with longevity in mind, and of course, I needed my cats to actually like them.

Do Your Cats Need Fancy Furniture?

Your cats need a few things: a clean place to go to the bathroom, fresh food and water, and a whole lot of love. They don't need a $600 litter box enclosure.

Cats are notorious for playing with the packaging the very expensive item came in instead of actually using that very expensive item. If your cats only want the balled-up tissues that my cats love, give those trash goblins what they want. And what I personally like in style, you may hate—but it's a place to start if you'd like to freshen up your space.

For a more definitive list of what your pets might need, check out our guide to the Best Pet Supplies. We also have guides to the Best Vet Telemedicine and the Best Pet Cameras

Table of ContentsSafety AdviceCat TreesCat Beds and ScratchersLitter Boxes and EnclosuresDishes and ToysSafety Advice

I spoke with Russell Hartstein, animal behaviorist and founder of the Los Angeles dog training facility Fun Paw Care. He pointed out that some furniture, whether cheap or expensive, could potentially be held together with toxic materials like formaldehyde glue. Where possible, I asked each of the companies to confirm the materials used and have provided their responses below.

When looking for products for cats (and for any pet!), keep an eye on small parts that could be a choking hazard if it comes undone. Make sure everything is attached properly to hold weight, especially for pieces that require at-home assembly. Keep an eye on things that are glued on, like the rope often attached to scratchers, to make sure pieces of the dried glue aren't exposed. Even if the glue is nontoxic, you don't want your pet eating that.

Cat TreesAffordable and Solid

Catit Vesper Boxes and BasesBuy at CatitBuy at Amazon

Thankfully, you don't have to spend a ton on a cat tree to get something that looks pretty good. My cats lounge on Catit's small Vesper Box ($70) while I work (I keep it next to my desk). It has a bottom semi-enclosed area for some privacy, a middle seat with a scratching post and toy, and a top bed. All three levels have furry pads that Velcro in. They come in several different configurations and color options.  

The Vesper furniture is made from fibreboard with a laminate finish. My cats have been using it since 2020 without anything degrading. Catit does offer replacement parts to extend the furniture's life. I've used a bunch of things from Catit now, including different water fountains and it's a generally well-regarded brand. It also offers a 30-day return window if you cat ends up not liking it, and you can find products at Chewy and Amazon too.

Catit assured me all the Vesper furniture is made with toxin-free materials, and it follows the formaldehyde emission standards (TSCA Title VI compliant) for composite wood products put forth by the EPA.

Runner-UpMau Cento Tree ($289)

The Mau Cento Tree ($289) gets the most compliments of any furniture I own. Beyond being pretty, both my cats love it equally. I often find them both fast asleep in each basket, or my little girl Eely slumbered in the fuzzy cave. They leap on and off, scratch the designated scratchers, and play with the pom poms. It's very expensive, though parts are replaceable.

Each piece is made from real wood (sourced ethically from trees that “no longer bear fruit” according to the company), and the brand donates 5 percent of earnings to animal welfare and environmental conservation organizations and plants a tree for every order. Mau shared test results with us that showed no lead, cadmium, or formaldehyde were detected in the products tested—this included plush bedding, sisal ropes, metal frames, particle board, tree trunk, plywood, and other woods and fillings. We were happy to see this, though the brand did not explicitly state that the furniture was nontoxic. 

Cat Beds and ScratchersThe Prettiest Cat Bed We've Tried

Tuft + Paw Happy Camper Cat Bed$249 at Tuft + Paw

It is unbelievably cute to see my little cat Eely poke her head out if I happen to disturb her slumber. The panels have wood veneer on one end and grey felt on the other. I set it up with the felt on the outside, but you can put it together the other way too. The top and bottom are completely open, and a super plush pillow acts as a nice bed. I'd crawl into this if I could fit. Like Catit above, Tuft and Paw is TSCA Title VI compliant. 

Tuft and Paw products are stunning and we recommend a few here. The prices are steep, and if you were to outfit your entire cat home with Tuft and Paw, you'd spend over a grand before blinking. The brand emphasizes its dedication to crafting high-quality products, working with cat behaviorists to help design each of its items. It starts with an idea, then designers conceptualize that into a few options. Behaviorists are consulted throughout the rest of the process. About the Happy Camper Bed, founder Jackson Cunningham told me, “Initially there was only one entrance hole, but after discussing with the behaviorist, we decided to add a second opening hole and make the top open, because cats feel safer with more visibility and extra ‘escape routes’."

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On every product page, there's a drop-down menu that explains some of the costs included in getting a product to market. That doesn't include the salary of its employees and other costs, but it at least puts cost into perspective. For this bed, materials cost $87.15, labor and storage cost $24.90, duties (aka importing) cost $14.94, and transportation costs $37.35.

The biggest bummer with Tuft and Paw is that it doesn't offer returns for even slightly used products if your cat ends up hating it. 

Runner-Up

Whisker Cat Silo$199 $119 at Whisker$199 at Amazon

Whisker is the company behind the famous Litter-Robots (we love the Litter-Robot 3 Connect and the newest 4 model) and it offers a bunch of nice-looking furniture too, even including some dog crates. I tried this Silo, with sisal scratch pads on the outside, and a pillow inside for lounging. Cats can sit inside or on top, or you can use it as a side table and keep the top for holding some light decor (emphasis on light).

Similar to Catit options, this isn't as beautiful as some other options out there, but I personally love the gold accents. My cats ultimately didn't take to it the way I'd hoped, but that's the name of the game with felines. Whisker also doesn't take open furniture back. The sisal pads are vegetable-dyed, which the brand says is done for the safety of pets, and composite wood is used to better withstand scratches and avoid splinters. Whisker is TSCA Title VI compliant. 

Window BedsKitty Cot Window Perch ($45)Tuft + Paw Cloud Nine Window Hammock ($79)K&H Pet Products Kitty Sill ($37)

Cats love lounging in the sun, so beds that sit on the window make perfect sense. I've been using the K&H Pet Products Kitty Sill Fleece ($37) beds for years. The beige fleece blends in pretty well. If your windows don't have sills for them to sit on, there are options with suction cups to stick right on the glass.

Suction cup cat seats always make me nervous, especially because my cat Huxley is a hefty boy. But the options from Kitty Cot and Tuft and Paw are secure, as long as you thoroughly clean your windows and give the cups time to really stick. 

Tuft and Paw's Cloud Nine Window Hammock ($79) is nicer-looking than the Kitty Cot ($45) with its black powder-coated metal base and soft dark grey felt. I'd recommend adding something soft to both—both offer blankets or pads for an extra cost, but I wish they could be attached even with snaps or velcro, so they don't slip around if a cat leaps onto it.

The Best Scratcher

PetFusion Cat Scratcher Lounge$55 at Amazon$80 at Amazon (Large)

Not every piece of nice cat furniture needs to cost several hundred bucks. I've used a few of PetFusions's loungers and they held up really well under ferocious cat claws. They also look cool and are strong enough to support my weight (sometimes ya gotta reach something up high, you know). Cats can scratch one side to oblivion and then you just flip it to a perfectly clean side.

Don't have that much space to spare? The Boots and Barkley Tunnel Cat Scratcher ($20) from Target is really interesting to look at. I haven't used this particular one, but I have bought my cats tons of Boots and Barkley products over the years, including its Wave Scratcher ($15). It's not as cute, but my cats love it. 

A Couch with Scratch Pads or a Cushion

Work in Progress Cat Couch$225 at Work in Progress

The Work in Progress Cat Couch ($225) is adorable and can be used as a scratcher, a bed, or both. The base price includes a cardboard scratcher that can be flipped over and then replaced (then you can recycle the old one). Or you can get a really pretty cushion for an additional $110. One of my cats immediately scratched and lounged on it—cats often lounge directly on cardboard scratchers, so you don't have to get the pillow right away. 

Like some of the other products on this list, I think it's expensive given its simplicity. However, Work in Progress (WIP) is a small business. If you can afford it, it's nice to support small businesses like this, rather than a major company like Petco or Walmart. The Cat Couch is manufactured from Baltic Birch wood in Arizona. It's finished and sealed, meeting the Greenguard low-emissions certification, so it should be safe for pets. The cushion is filled with polyester and the cover is a linen-cotton blend.

TV Scratchers

I've been saving pet beds made from vintage TVs on Pinterest for years, hoping I'll come across the perfect one at a garage sale or antique store. Iheartcats.com has an easy-to-follow tutorial, but it can be dangerous to take a TV apart so you should consider asking a professional for help if you want to go the DIY route. If you want a home made version that doesn't involve an actual TV, the Etsy store MakerWorksLLC sells an $8 instruction manual with printable plans.

A safer and easier option is to get a scratcher crafted to look like a TV. For example, Wayfair has a pricey bed option ($60) that's really pretty, but we haven't tried it.

Litter Boxes and Enclosures A Great Basic Litter Box

Tuft + Paw Cove Litter Box$199 at Tuft + Paw

My cats are perfectly fine using plain old storage bins that I've cut an entry out of and sanded down the sharp edge—it cost me maybe $10 and took just a few minutes to alter. There are litter boxes disguised as plants or hidden inside side tables, but Tuft and Paw's Cove litter box ($110) takes a simple litter pan and elevates it.

It's hefty, so it won't move around if your cats like to kick. Speaking of kicking, the detachable shelter keeps litter and pee inside—just in case your cat has a high stream. The box has a dedicated space for the included scoop and dustpan, the latter of which you can buy separately if you need to replace it. However, I wish you could purchase the shelter separately. Weirdly, this box doesn't fit into either of the brand's litter box enclosures. If you want to enclose your a la carte litter box in what looks like a piece of retro furniture in your living room, the Rifiuti Litter Box Enclosure ($699) does the trick. The Haven Encloser ($699) does include a plastic litter box.

The Best Litter Box Enclosure

Archie & Oscar Rena Litter Box Enclosure$110 at Wayfair

Putting a litter box inside a piece of furniture meant to conceal it can give your cats some privacy, conceal odors, and hide little turds from your guests.

Tuft and Paw's litter box enclosures are some of the most beautiful pieces of furniture I've seen, but they're pricier than a lot of us can afford. WIRED writer Louryn Strampe has tried this Rena Litter Box Enclosure ($167) from Wayfair though, and you can often find it for around $150ish. It simply isn't as pretty as Tuft and Paw, but it doesn't look like a poop receptacle either, and there's ample space on top for some decorations to further blend it in with your house.

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Strampe said her cats took to it right away, and they seem to be as relieved as she is that they no longer make eye contact while they use the toilet. It's her favorite piece of cat gear. My only recommendation is to keep on top of keeping it clean. Concealing odors is nice, but if it holds in too much smell, your cats won't use it.

This is made from manufactured wood, and given that it's from a large supplier like Wayfair, we couldn't find test results. However, the EPA's TSCA Title VI compliance is required for “composite wood products sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the United States” as of March 22, 2019.

Dishes and Toys

Cat Person Mesa Bowl$45 at Cat Person

Cat Person's Mesa Bowl ($45) looks kind of like a piece of art you'd find at the MOMA, and Strampe loves it. For $45, you'll get a bowl, stand, and tray. For adult cats, it's best that they eat from elevated bowls to avoid neck strain. And it was designed wide to avoid whisker fatigue. The downfall is it's made of plastic, which can harbor bacteria and lead to cat acne. (Some cats get acne without ever using plastic. It's a plague that affects humans and animals alike, unfortunately.) 

We reached out to Cat Person regarding toxicity and did not hear back. Strampe also really likes the Serve and Store Set ($12) that comes with a dry food scoop, three wet food spoons, and three wet food lids. Her cats eat the brand's wet food too.

Cute Toys

Cat Person Toys$7 at Cat Person

If I could make these toys big enough for me to snuggle with, I'd definitely squeeze Georgia the Chicken while I fall asleep. They're attached to a string and full of catnip. 

Cat Person has a few other nice-looking products that we haven't tried yet. The litter box scoop holder ($28) is quite pretty, and that's hard to say about a litter box scoop. Those two were designed in collaboration with fashion designer Jason Wu. We haven't tried Tuft and Paw's toys, but unsurprisingly they're also beautiful. I particularly like the fishbone ($39).

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