A kitten climbing the curtains is normal behaviour as they explore their world and test different objects to climb. But there’s a lot of cat behaviour that’s normal, such as biting and scratching, that we don’t want to encourage.
It’s important to take the right steps to teach your cat not to climb curtains. As they get older and heavier, they can cause extensive damage to your home, as their weight can pull curtain rods right out of the wall.
What age do kittens stop climbing curtains?
A kitten will stop climbing curtains around the age of 7 – 8 months, if you’ve trained them properly. When a kitten isn’t properly trained to stay away from the curtains and is simply scolded each time they climb them, it will continue their behaviour.
Each cat is different but kittens typically calm down between 6 – 9 months of age. Our two kittens started to calm down around 6 months, but they were still exploring new territory and liked to play in the curtains.
My new curtains had several claw marks in them up until about the 7 – 8 month mark. I had implemented the steps and tips explained in this article and finally felt I could trust my kittens to be alone around my curtains.
Some cats climb curtains their entire lives. If you want to break your cat of this habit, you must implement the right steps and be consistent.
Why do cats climb curtains?
Cats climb curtains because they’re exercising their natural instincts to climb and get a better view of their surroundings. In some scenarios, a cat may climb curtains to escape another animal or a person as a form of play, or because they’re fearful of them.
If you haven’t provided your cat with a cat tree, or objects that are appropriate to climb, they’ll resort to climbing curtains or other pieces of furniture.
Your cat may be climbing the curtains to burn off their energy, or even to get your attention.
Determine which reason below makes the most sense for your cat, so you can implement an effective solution.
1 – Natural instincts
Cats have a natural instinct to climb. If your cat was in the wild, they would be climbing trees. They may do so to find a safe spot to sleep, to escape predators, or to get a good view of their surroundings and hunt prey.
Although your cat may not need to hunt for their food or escape predators, their natural instincts give them the urge to climb objects and get to the highest point in a room.
2 – For a better view
Cats love to look outside, and your curtains may be the best way for them to reach the height of the window. Or, to get a view to the outside from the highest point possible.
3 – To explore and play
If your cat is still a kitten, it’s likely they’re simply climbing the curtains to explore new territory. They may have a cat tree in front of the window and ample objects to climb, but they still want to test out the curtains.
The exploratory kitten phase can be frustrating but know it’s short-lived, especially if you implement the right techniques.
Cats and kittens also have a lot of energy to burn; some more than others. They burn that energy through play. If your cat doesn’t have enough appropriate ways to burn energy, they’ll find ways to do so (most of which you won’t like).
And what better way to exercise than to climb the curtains?
4 – To get your attention
If you jump up and run to them every time they go near the curtains, you’re giving your cat exactly what they’re looking for; your attention. When a cat’s needs aren’t being met (e.g. food, clean water, clean litter box, playtime, love and attention) they’ll often act out to try and get your attention.
5 – A health issue
It may not seem like there’s a correlation between your cat climbing the curtains and them dealing with a health issue, but cats express their anxiety, pain, and stress in odd ways.
Any behaviour that is unexplainable or out of the ordinary is best addressed with a vet visit.
When our kitten started peeing behind the couch and at the base of the curtains, we thought he was rebelling against the deterrents we set up to keep him away from the curtains.
It turned out, he had some sort of a urinary issue, which we determined, after the vet prescribed medication didn’t help, was caused by some houseplants. Although the vet said it was highly unlikely the two questionable plants were causing the issue (blood in the urine), he immediately started getting better after we removed our houseplants.
I think this story helps show that cat behaviour and health issues don’t always seem linked. But often, a health issue is at the root of unexplained and hard to correct behaviours.
How to stop a cat from climbing curtains
The following steps will help you train your cat or kitten to stop climbing the curtains
Step 1 – Vet checkup
If you feel you’ve already tried everything, you’ve introduced a cat tree, but you’re not making any progress, a vet visit is a good idea.
Your cat may be dealing with an underlying health issue that’s causing them to act out.
It’s also a good idea to check in on your cat’s living conditions. Every cat needs:
- A healthy diet
- Clean water
- Clean litter box
- Love and attention from you
Your cat can’t communicate with you if they’re upset about a dirty litter box. They’ll find ways to express their displeasure any way they can. That might be peeing outside of the litter box and being destructive in your home.
If your vet has given your cat a clean bill of health, try focusing more of your attention on your cat and fulfilling their basic needs.
Most problems are solved by making their environment closer to how they would live in the wild. E.g.:
- High-protein low-carb diet
- Fresh water every day
- Moving objects to hunt and play with
- Objects to climb
- A clean spot to urinate and deficate each time
Although a wild cat wouldn’t get much attention from humans, your cat does also need your love and attention.
Try spending more time with your cat and giving them more attention when they’re in the room with you. Talk to them in a loving tone, make eye contact with them, and give them plenty of pets and scratches.
Step 2 – Get a cat tree
Your cat is expressing their desire to use their claws and climb when they’re making their way up your curtains.
Although your cat may also enjoy digging their claws into your furniture, there’s not much height to it.
Invest in a tall cat tree that has long runs of post they can dig their claws into and climb.
If your cat seems to love the curtains because of the view out the window, place the cat tree in front of the window so they have a place to sit and look out.
However, if your cat isn’t using the curtains to look out the window, it may be more beneficial to place the tree a few feet in front of the curtain they typically climb (or most commonly climb).
Putting it on their path to the curtains may be enough to distract your cat from them. Just keep the cat tree far enough away from the curtains that they won’t attempt to jump onto them from the cat tree.
Help your cat get to high surfaces
If you can’t spend money on a cat tree at the moment, see if you can move some furniture around in your home to give your cat a way to get to a high level.
If you have a tall bookshelf, try adding a couple of levels next to it so your cat can jump onto a table, then maybe a sturdy box or even a chair on top of that table to get to the top of a bookshelf.
Your cat doesn’t get to use their claws in this scenario, but the higher vantage point may be what they’re looking for.
If that does the trick and your cat stops climbing the curtains, you can install floating shelves or a cat climbing system on a wall (which will be more visually pleasing than boxes or stacked furniture).
There are floating wall products specifically for cats, such as this one:
However, you can also use regular floating shelves and position them so your cat can jump from one shelf to the next.
Even though our cats have lots of ways to look out the windows, they prefer the perches on top of their scratching post and cat tree.
Step 3 – Teach your cat “yes” and “no” signals
Teaching our kittens, Charlie and Arthur, the difference between “yes” behaviour and “no” behaviour has been game-changing.
They have very different personalities, with Charlie being more defiant and stubborn. Although Charlier requires a bit more effort, he does still respond well to our positive and negative reactions to his behaviour.
The key is that you need to be consistent and repetitive.
Teach your cat what “yes” behaviour is by speaking to them in a higher pitch, excited/loving tone every time they do something you like. Also, use the same phrase, such as “good job” or “good girl/boy”, in each scenario.
When you say “good job!” when they use their litter box, scratch the scratching post, or get down from the counter, they’ll immediately recognize that they’re doing something good when you tell them “good job!” for climbing the cat tree.
Teach your cat what “no” behaviour is by expressing the same reaction to any “bad” behaviour. Scratching the couch, jumping up on the counter, climbing the curtains, etc. should all get the same response. For us, a clap of the hands and a “nooooo” in a deeper more stern voice does the trick.
Step 4 – Reward good behaviour
A good behaviour should also warrant a reward. It doesn’t have to be cat treats all the time; we simply give our kittens lots of attention when they’re doing something we want them to do. We may also go over and give them a pet on the head or get close so they can rub against us.
A bad behaviour should receive as little attention as possible from you. If they’ve climbed the curtains. Clap your hands, say “no!” and if they don’t get down on their own, remove them from the curtains with minimal interaction.
If you take your cat off the curtains, hold them and talk to them, and then place them at the top of their cat tree, you’re rewarding their bad behaviour with your attention. You’re also not letting them take the action you want them to take: climb the cat tree.
Instead, you may set them at the base of the cat tree and walk away.
As soon as they start to scratch or climb the tree, go overboard with positive attention. You may even offer them a treat when they make it to the top.
It’s important to show sharp contrast in your reaction between the action you want them to take and the one you don’t.
Never punish your cat.
You simply need to express your displeasure through the tone of your voice, and by giving limited attention.
But it’s very important to then give your cat the attention they need when they exhibit “good” behaviour.
If you punish your cat for their bad behaviour by ignoring them for extended periods of time, they’ll most likely find more ways to act out in an attempt to get any form of attention from you.
You want to give limited attention to their bad behaviour and plenty of attention to their good behaviour.
Step 5 – Deter
During the training phase, it’s also helpful to incorporate deterrents to help break your cat of their bad habit.
There are a few ways to deter your cat from going near the curtains.
Ssscat is a good deterrent when you have a stable surface to place the can on. I’ve also found, it works best in well-lit areas. It’s motion-activated and will shoot a short burst of air when your cat gets near it.
Our cats now recognize the Ssscat devices and will steer clear of them. So we don’t even need to turn them on anymore (which saves on having to buy refill canisters).
Double-sided Sticky Tape
Cats don’t like the feeling of stickiness on their paws. So double-sided sticky tape can help deter them from some areas.
I like to put the sticky tape on placemats and then place those at the base of the curtains. If you keep your cat away from the area they use to get to the curtains, they won’t be able to climb them.
I don’t recommend placing sticky tape directly on your curtains. Although the stickiness may keep them off the curtains, the glue may leave a residue on your curtains.
We used sticky tape directly on a railing to keep the cats off it, but when we removed the tape a month later, there was glue left behind. It came off with some cleaning, but I’m not so sure that would be the case with fabric.
A scat mat is a mat with hard plastic spikes. They won’t hurt your cat, but they will make it uncomfortable for your cat to walk on. If you place these at the base of your curtains, you cat won’t be able to get near them
Before you consider a cat repellent spray to keep your cats away from the curtains, consider that most don’t have good reviews. And if you’re planning on making your own spray using essential oils, be sure to research if they’re safe for cats.
Many essential oils are toxic to cats, even when used as a room spray and then are inhaled by your pet (source).
I’ve found a combination of sticky tape and Ssscat to be the most effective.
Our kittens could (and did) get at our curtains from both the ground and from the back of the couch and a cabinet.
So I put sticky tape on placemats and set those on the floor surrounding the curtains. This prevented our kittens from getting at the curtains from the ground. If you have a cat that leaps onto the curtains, you may need the sticky area to extend further to keep them a few feet away from the curtains.
On the other side of the curtains is behind the couch. So I placed sticky mats on the floor, then used a one-sided sticky tape on the back of the couch.
Be careful when using double-sided sticky tape on your furniture or another surface. It can leave a residue when you take it off after several weeks or months. It could even ruin the finish of your furniture.
I used these ones on my furniture. They’re clear and only sticky on one side. They’re designed to stick to your furniture, but I didn’t want to risk glue being left behind when I took them off. So I put the sticky side facing out. They come with upholstery pins that hold the sticky sheets in place.
Then I use a can of Ssscat on the window ledge and the cabinet.
This prevented our kittens from sitting on the back of the couch, or on the cabinet, and clawing at the curtains.
The following are a few other tips to try when dealing with a cat climbing the curtains.
Your cat may be climbing the curtains to get out pent-up energy and/or to play and have fun. You can redirect that energy to a toy.
Spend time each morning and night (at minimum) playing with your cat and using a wand, or another toy to get them running, chasing, jumping, pouncing, etc.
It’s not enough to throw a toy mouse on the ground and expect them to play with it for hours.
Your cat needs to be stimulated.
Play with your cat every day and give them positive reinforcement while you do.
Let your cat signal to you when they’re done playing. When they lose interest in the toy and/or flop down, it typically means they’ve had enough playing for the moment.
Increasing playtime with your cat can solve many issues. It may be just what your cat needs to stop their desire to climb the curtains.
Keep nails trimmed
Trimming your cat’s claws won’t stop them from climbing the curtains, but it may help limit the damage they cause.
Temporarily take curtains down
Remember that kittens will be kittens and they want to explore. It’s best to keep curtains up and train your kitten so they don’t continue the bad behaviour as adult cats.
But in some cases, it may be best to take the curtains down until your cat grows out of the hyper kitten phase.
It may also be appropriate to take the curtains down if you’re having a hard time breaking their habit.
If you’ve given your cat a tall cat tree in front of the window, but they still prefer the curtains, try removing the curtains.
When the only option they have to look out the window is the cat tree, they’ll start to use it.
Once they’re in the habit of using the cat tree for scratching, climbing, and looking out the window, you can re-introduce the curtains.
Hopefully, they won’t have an interest in climbing them anymore because they’ve formed a new love for the cat tree.
Remember to give them positive reinforcement every time they use the cat tree.
This will strengthen their desire to use it, even when the curtains are back up.
Cat proof curtains
If your curtains have been destroyed by your cat, replace them with cat proof curtains. Although there isn’t a product called “cat proof curtains”, there are materials your cat won’t be able to get their claws into.
We have a microfibre couch that is still in pristine condition after 15 years with one cat and almost a year of two kittens. Cats can’t get their claws into it because it’s not a woven material.
Look for microfibre curtains as your cat won’t be able to climb them or destroy them. These ones come in a variety of colors:
But there are many options here depending on the features you’re looking for: size, color, budget, blackout, etc.
Velvet may be another option. It is woven but it’s very tightly woven. This one comes in several colors:
And you can find several options for velvet curtains here, depending on the features you want.
What not to do
Never punish your cat for their “bad” behaviour. They’re an animal and are simply expressing their natural instincts. They’re not trying to be bad.
Punishing a cat never works. You end up breaking your bond with them and their behaviour will worsen.
Try to get to the bottom of why they’re climbing the curtains, offer the right solutions, and spend more time rewarding good behaviour.
Your cat craves your love, attention, and praise. So if you’re not giving much to them, they’ll continue to act out in an attempt to get your attention.
When you do give them love, attention, and praise, and they’re able to make a connection between the type of behavoiur that elicits positive attention, they’ll make an effort to do more of the things you appreciate. For example: every time I use the scratching post I get positive attention = I’m going to use the scratching post more. It’s a win-win.
Don’t declaw your cat
Please don’t declaw your cat in an attempt to save your furniture. It’s extremely cruel and painful for your cat. It would be the equivalent of cutting the ends of your fingers off. Just as you need the ends of your fingers, your cat needs their claws.
If you’re considering declawing your cat, please Google why it’s considered a cruel surgery.
And perhaps try claw caps. They’re almost like fake nails for cats. They’re glued on over claws and have a dull end that prevents them from ruining furniture or scratching people.
They’re temporary and must be replaced as the nail grows out. But it’s a much more humane solution than declawing.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are other common issues cat owners deal with.
How to stop cats from scratching curtains
To stop your cat from scratching curtains, place a scratching post in front of each curtain. Implement the same techniques to stop bad behaviour (scratching the curtains) and reward good behaviour (scratching the post).
You can follow the steps in this article to get your cat to use the scratching post over your curtains or furniture: How To Train a Kitten to Use a Scratching Post
How do you stop cats from attacking curtains?
Spend more time playing with our cat if you want them to stop attacking the curtains. When cats attack curtains, rather than climb them, they’re exhibiting playful behaviour. They want to hunt and chase objects that move.
The air coming in from the window, a vent below the curtains, or your cat playing in them may be creating movement in the curtains. Which your cat then wants to attack.
You can redirect their attention to a toy that’s appropriate for them to attack. Spend time playing with your cat and moving a toy around to mimic the prey they would hunt in the wild.
Why is my cat obsessed with curtains?
Your cat is likely obsessed with curtains because attacking and climbing them gets your attention. Your cat craves your love, attention, and praise, and when they don’t get enough of it from you, they’ll engage in behaviour that turns your attention away from the TV or phone, and onto them.
Try spending more time with your cat. Play with them for at least 15 minutes both morning and night, but give them more time if you can.
In between play sessions, give them lots of positive attention. Praise them when they’re doing something good (like scratching their scratching post of playing with a toy instead of a curtain).
You may also try talking to your cat when they’re in the room, giving them eye contact, and lots of pets.
Why does my cat go behind my curtains?
A cat will go behind the curtains when they’re feeling playful and want to hide. It may also feel like a safe spot for them if they’re feeling scared, stressed, or anxious.
If their behaviour seems more fearful or stressful than playful, it’s a good idea to take them to the veterinarian clinic. It may be that they’re dealing with an illness that’s making them feel off and encouraging them to act strange.
When the behaviour seems more playful, you can increase how much time you spend playing with your cat each day. This will help direct their energy away from the curtains and towards a toy.