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We have a tall climbing tree, which has the lowest resting platform quite high up. All but one of cats know how to climb down tail-first, but the 4-month old kitten comes down head-first. Climbing head-first is not easy, so he falls down often. Being that young, I would bet it hurts a bit, but he doesn't seem to mind. Anyway, is it possible to teach a young cat to climb down tail-first?

My idea with the tree was to offer a good continuous climb up without distracting platforms in-between. Should I change the tree / just let the kitten drop himself down like a rock / try to train him to climb down safely?

tall climbing tree

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  • add a little shelf halfway between the lowest rest and the floor – ratchet freak Dec 10 '13 at 19:05
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    Padding at the base might not be a bad idea... – John Cavan Dec 11 '13 at 1:27
  • Got 2 dogs and 5 cats here. Anything that isn't permanently glued on the floor tends to move around the house, so a sheet of padding is hard to keep in place. – Esa Paulasto Dec 13 '13 at 14:12
  • Can you have platforms facing in other directions? – John Cavan Dec 13 '13 at 14:28
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    I've never met a cat that I couldn't totally train to ignore everything I tell it to do... – John Cavan Dec 13 '13 at 21:51
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+50

In my experience (having owned over a dozen outdoor cats), they tend to learn this skill on their own through trial and error. It helps if they have siblings and/or other cats they can watch and learn from as well. Although I was unable to find any formal documentation or guides on "how to train your cat to climb down", I did find this one which details how one owner trained their cats to climb down through the use of a harness, patience, and treats; the basic gist being, have your cat climb the post, then physically move their paws backwards/down.

Personally, I would be hesitant to attempt to "force" your cat to learn through physical intervention because if its unpleasant for them, they may come to associate the climbing post with discomfort and avoid it altogether. If you are concerned with the cat injuring itself, you may do well to add some kind of padding underneath the post, or lower the platform some, though I would dissuade you from going overboard with such measures because if it becomes "easy" for the cat to simply leap off, then that will impede the speed at which they learn to climb down.

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  • Uh, oh, looks like I won't be adding extra platforms after all, like I had planned to do later this week. I'll try the teaching method, at least to see how he would react to it. And the rest of the time I'll just let him jump/fall down. He is growing bigger day by day, and I may have been too late with this question to begin with. – Esa Paulasto Dec 17 '13 at 22:26
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    One month later: Physically moving his paws in a down-climg pattern has not proven unpleasant to the kitten. I have now witnessed him climb halfway up and then descend tail first back down. I did not do the training lesson very often, and actually it wasn't even necessary to really grab his paws, it was enough to "tickle" his paws and he would already be moving them downwards. This answer here is a success! :) – Esa Paulasto Jan 17 '14 at 19:00

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