Bush Dwellers and Tree Dwellers: Keys to Understanding Your Adopted Cat

Despite his somewhat whimsical name, Jackson Galaxy has quickly made a name for himself in the serious field of feline behavioral science. His insights into the cat psyche have allowed Galaxy to achieve amazing results with even the most difficult cases. Through his weekly television program, Galaxy has popularized the idea of tree dwellers and bush dwellers for cat owners across the United States. Developing a fundamental understanding of cat psychology can help you integrate adopted pets into your existing family structure more easily and can ensure a greater degree of harmony inside your home.

Tree Dwellers vs. Bush Dwellers

Most domestic cats can be categorized into one of two groups. Tree dwellers are more comfortable in elevated areas from which they can look down and survey their territory. Bush dwellers, on the other hand, prefer nooks and crannies close to the ground to allow them a more secure and stable retreat. Determining the category in which a cat most naturally belongs is usually a matter of close observation:

  • Does the cat typically run under beds, sofas and chairs in an attempt to hide? Are areas behind furniture and potted plants favored hangouts for the adoptive kitty? If so, the cat is exhibiting signs of bush dweller preference.
  • Cats that make impressive leaps from floor to shelf and enjoy lounging on the back of the sofa or perched on a windowsill are typically demonstrating their tree dweller love of heights and elevations.

Identifying your adopted cat’s preferences can go a long way toward creating a comfortable and safe environment for your feline companions.

Catering to the Cat

Once you have identified the preferred habitat for your new kitty, it may be time to landscape your home to provide a warm and welcoming environment. Tree dwellers will need secure shelves and elevated vantage points from which to survey their domain. Adding a few treats and toys to these areas can make them even more appealing for cats and kittens that may have spent weeks or months in a confined shelter environment. Snug kennels and covered pet beds can provide a comfortable retreat for bush dweller cats after a hard day of pouncing and playing.

Dial It Down a Notch

Especially during the first few weeks after the adoption, avoid rough play and overly intense petting. Both bush dweller and tree dweller cats need time to adjust to a new environment. By providing them with a little space and offering affection on their terms, these feline companions can develop a greater sense of trust in you as their owner and in the safety of their new home. Over-stimulated cats can sometimes lash out or exhibit avoidance behaviors. By keeping things calm until your new kitty has adjusted, you can make life easier for all parties involved.

Walking your cat on a leash and harness can provide added exercise and increased confidence, especially for adopted pets that may have become somewhat institutionalized in the shelter setting. Making the effort to understand your cat and to provide the exercise and environment most suited to his or her needs can provide both of you with the right foundation for a lifetime of happiness and companionship.