Cat tree materials play a huge role in the tree's performance. Modern cat tree companies like ArmarKat, Go Pet Club, Kitten Mansion, You&Me etc. provide the highest quality materials in their products. That is the main reason why they are so popular among cat owners.
You want the most realistic and natural cat tree materials for the tree's construction. It should represent a real tree as much as possible. If a cat tree fails to do this, then the purpose of an indoor cat tree is failed. Why would an indoor cat tree take all of your free space, if your furry felines refuse to use it? You should avoid purchasing cheap cat trees from your local Pet Supply stores.
They usually come in fully assembled and the salesmen swear that they previously used those types of trees for years. It is their job to sell those unwell cat trees to uninformed cat owners. When I first adopted my exotic shorthair Garfield, I bought one of those inexpensive plastic trees from the local store. The cat tree's materials were so bad that they damaged my lovely cat's nails.
Ever since then, he hates cheap plastic cat trees. Don't get me wrong. What I am trying to say is that poor quality materials for at trees can make your felines completely resent climbing, scraping and jumping on it. I truly believe that high quality dense plastic trees are the future of the cat tree industry. I will talk about that in a second.
Nowadays, there are various types of materials used in cat trees. I even saw some modern cat tree companies experiment with using carbon fiber. There aren't any carbon fiber cat trees on the market today, but they are in the process of creating. I think that that would be completely revolutionary.
Carbon fiber is known to be very tough, yet cheap. So, we would have very sturdy cat trees that are very inexpensive. That would be possible if they use the carbon fiber at the right places. To be honest with you, I don't think that it would be the only materials used on it. Cat trees are meant to resemble a normal outdoor tree.
So, I will stick with the basics here. The cat tree materials I will write about are proven, and have been used by the greatest cat tree companies with great success. There is a constant innovation in the tree's design and in the manufacturing process. Now, you can find deluxe cat trees at a very reasonable price. That wasn't a possibility 10 years ago. By far, the best cat tree materials are:
At the time of writing, wood is the best cat tree material. It is can be scratched on, provides great rigidity and balance, isn't expensive and is relatively lightweight. That is everything you need for in a cat tree material. Also, if used correctly, it looks very natural and realistic to the cat's eye. Modern cat tree companies are now mass-producing their products.
Back in the day the only way you could get a wooden cat tree was by going to the woodworker. He could design a custom cat tree, but the price was extremely high. Nowadays, we can get the same quality at a such a cheap price for a luxury material like wood. Cat trees are created with various types of wood. You can find a tree constructed by pressed wood, plywood, E1 grade wooden board etc.
However, they are actually all the same. The only difference is the crafting method. I personally think that cat tree manufacturers use this as a marketing trick. Cat owners don't realize that all the wood used on cat trees is somewhat the same and does the same function.
For some strange reason, felines actually love cat trees created with cardboard. If you ask me, I think that it provides a nice scratching area and the brownish colorway gives it a more natural feel. It is tough and soft at the same time.
That is why there are some cat trees with cardboard scratchers. However, the cat trees that are fully created with cardboard, simply suck. They won't last you for a long time.
Usually cardboard is used as a DIY (do it yourself) cat furniture. I've had some great childhood memories creating cardboard cat houses and towers using cardboard. The sad part was that they broke very quickly. Cardboard material for cat trees isn't rigid, but is very lightweight. Cardboard trees can be easily transported.
However, you shouldn't expect it to be able to handle big amount of weight. Forget about using it for bigger cats. I'd personally use them only for small kitten who weigh very low, and also don't tend to scratch the surface. You can find cardboard trees at the local pet supply store.
Some cat owners automatically associate plastic cat trees with bad quality. That is far from the truth. Some modern cat tree companies like Prevue Pet Products created some extremely sturdy and effective cat trees. Even though they may not look like traditional wooden cat tree materials, they are loved by the felines.
Some cats don't like the looks of traditional cat trees. They love something more unique and fancy. This is where plastic cat trees come into play. Usually the main construction, like the posts, base and condos are created with plastic. There is a faux fur material or carpet placed over the plastic, so it will provide more natural feel for the cats. I haven't found a good cat tree that was constructed exclusively by plastic.
The ones I found performed poor. They were actually those poor quality cheap plastic cat trees at the local stores that come fully assembled. I look at them as learning experiences. After you do the mistake of purchasing them, you'll realize that you get what you give. Cat trees that use only plastic for their overall structure are sometimes more durable, rigid and balanced than their main competitor - wood.
If placed properly, and at the right spots, plastic cat tree material can beat wood in many cases. I believe that the next generation of cat trees will be eco-friendly, and built mainly with plastic. There is a big potential in plastic. It's extremely tough and the cat tree's assembly won't need some nails and screws. And on top of all that, they are more affordable than wood.