When I first wrote this article in 2009, there were very few pictures and videos of cats climbing walls. I’m referring to the outside walls of buildings, usually rough cast walls or pebble dash walls so that their claws can grip. But nowadays in 2022, they are literally hundreds of thousands of videos and still images of domestic cats climbing walls. There are some astonishing examples. The videos on this page are relatively modest in comparison to some. They were more or less chosen at random as examples. I have seen domestic cats climb 30-foot walls. I have also seen cats fall off. Domestic cats are not infallible when it comes to climbing and their balance. I have seen a mother cat climbing a vertical wall to about 10 feet while carrying her kitten in her jaws. The video below is even better.
I almost forgot to add that when you watch these examples it reminds us that cat caregivers need to try and build into their home some opportunities for their cat to climb vertically. It is so instinctive for a cat to go upwards that they need some opportunity to express that natural desire. It is called enrichment and enrichment makes them happier. It’s a simple formula.
Mother and offspring
Below is a video from YouTube which reinforces one’s admiration in the domestic cat. You see the mother with her kitten in her jaws climbing up a tree and a metal frame and then carrying out other manoeuvres which look utterly precarious. When you watch the video, you believe that she is going to fall at any time but she doesn’t. What I don’t like about the video is that the video maker is laughing at the same time. Personally, I would have been underneath that cat just in case she did fall. Nonetheless a good example of the beautiful athleticism of the domestic cat combined with the commitment and courage of a mother.
It’s instinctive and they start climbing when very young. These guys are well motivated.
This video is particularly nice in some ways because it doesn’t just show a cat climbing a pebble dash wall, like a mountaineer, but also manoeuvring across other obstacles and then climbing down again. It is a dramatic example of domestic cat athleticism and agility. But it is not exceptional by any means.
The domestic cat is designed for this sort of athleticism. Most of their muscles are fast-twitch fatiguing muscles which allows them to use explosive bursts of energy as illustrated in the video when the cat jumps up and climbs straight up that pebble dash wall. But they tire quickly. And their skeleton is flexible which also aids in running more quickly and effecting athletic manoeuvres easily.
People who declaw their cat always justify it some way or another. For instance, they say that their cat can still climb trees just as before! No way. Cats that have been declawed might be able to climb certain trees with bark that allows what remains of their front toes to grip it, but they will never be able to climb naturally again and they certainly wouldn’t be able to do what we see here.
I am afraid I cannot attribute the above photograph to its author/creator as I don’t know where it came from. Please come forward.
This cat’s magnificent claws and athletic ability have allowed it to climb this vertical wall to a staggering height. All he or she has to get hold of is the rough texture of the wall. This picture really does show us how amazingly athletic cats are. Perhaps we forget this sometimes, especially if the cat is cosseted and kept indoors permanently. When challenged though they can show exceptional skills.
The problem for this cat is getting down. It probably shimmied down backwards and then jumped the last 5 feet or so.
I am reminded of a cat that I lived with many years ago – Missie. Half or a quarter Norwegian Forest cat she would climb 30-foot trees with ease and come down head first all the way down! Totally awesome. She could jump to the top of a large fridge freezer from a sitting position. I miss her terribly.
An active indoor/outdoor cat doesn’t need its claws trimmed in my opinion. My old lady cat did because she became very passive and her claws don’t wear down. Claws that are not used enough can become ingrowing into the paw pad unless they are trimmed.
Does a visitor have a story about their cat’s climbing ability?
Here are some pages about cats’ claws:
Declawing Cats – huge page with links to over 130 pages on declawing cats.