Can Cats Climb Ladders?

Can Cats Climb Ladders?

Cats are renowned climbers. Their extendable claws enable them to grip tree trunks, while their strong rear legs propel them upward. They also have strong bones and flexible joints that facilitate running, jumping and climbing. While you normally see cats climbing trees and scaling walls, you may find yourself wondering if they can make it up ladders, too. In this article, we will learn whether cats can climb ladders, as well as some tips on enticing them to do so.

Can cats climb ladders?

Yes, cats can climb ladders just as they can climb on closets, shelves and trees. They are more likely to climb ladders if they can comfortably grip the steps. However, some ladders are not fit for cats, so if you are planning to allow your cat to climb one, try to opt for a ladder specially designed for cats. To make regular ladders more cat-friendly, cover the steps with carpet or soft cloth so that your cat can get a good grip. 

Reasons cats will not or cannot climb ladders

  • If they have weak bones or arthritis due to old age 
  • If they have health issues, such as missing a limb or being blind 
  • If they have been declawed

How to motivate a cat to climb a ladder

Place carpet over the ladder rungs. 

Cats are more likely to climb ladders if they can grip the steps, so cover them with carpeting. A soft cloth may also help your cat gain some traction. 

Leave the ladder out for the cat to investigate. 

After placing a cloth or carpet on the ladder, simply leave it out. Cats are inquisitive and they like investigating things for themselves. It is quite possible that a cat will climb the ladder eventually, without the need for coaxing, if it is not forced or watched by its owner. 

Climb the ladder yourself. 

Be the role model for your cat by climbing the ladder yourself. Your cat will be curious about what you are doing up there, and this might pique her interest in climbing it herself.

Encourage your cat to climb the ladder.

If your cat is hesitant to scale the ladder, try coaxing her and calling her name to encourage her to the top.

Help your cat climb the ladder. 

If your cat is hesitant, help her to climb the ladder. Take her legs and move them gently onto the rungs. If she is struggling and showing signs of annoyance, stop doing this immediately. Do not force your cat if she does not want to do it.  

Put the ladder in a safe place.

Position the ladder safely, over a soft surface, and make sure it does not lead to anything too high for your cat. Also make sure it does not lead to surfaces like counters or kitchen tables if these are forbidden areas for your cat.

Place treats or toys on top of the ladder. 

You could also encourage your cat to climb the ladder by placing treats or toys on top, such as a ball of string. Allow the string to trail down the rungs, and see if she follows the string up, rung by rung. 

Tap the top of the ladder. 

Encourage your cat to climb the ladder by tapping the top of it with your finger while calling her name. This is effective in encouraging some cats up a ladder. 

Consider clicker training. 

Teach your cat to associate the noise of a clicker with a tasty treat, and lure her to the ladder’s first rung. Click and reward her when she puts a paw on the rung. Your cat will eventually understand that she gets a reward for stepping on the ladder, and you can gradually progress to higher rungs.

After following the above suggestions, the best you can do is wait and see whether your cat willingly adapts to the ladder. Some cats associate ladders with toys, and will use them without the need for any encouragement or treats from you.


Cats are magnificent climbers thanks to their powerful legs and flexible bodies, and are experts when it comes to scaling trees, walls and other surfaces. It may surprise you to know that they can also climb ladders, and are more likely to do so if they can comfortably grip the narrow rungs. Opt for ladders that are specially designed for cats, and place carpeting or soft cloth on the steps so that your cat can get a good grip on them.

Image: / Olga Gubskaya