Early on in the pandemic, Mi-Anne Chan grew tired of staring at the beige cat tree in her two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, New York. She had been tackling DIY projects during lockdown, so, inspired by the designs of the company Cat Haus, an idea was born.

Chan allocated a budget of $150 toward upgrading her cat Bootsy’s home. Over the summer, she spent about six days filming the process of stripping and replacing the carpet scraps. She consulted Marci Koski, a cat behaviorist, and learned that Bootsy prefers sisal rope as a scratching post. (A disco ball was also installed to satisfy Bootsy’s lust for shiny objects.)

“The goal was to not have it be so hideous,” Chan said. “In a small apartment, a cat tree takes up so much real estate, so you need to have something cute.”

For some time now, aesthetically pleasing cat trees have been popping up on social media. Some may feature vegetable-dyed scratch pads or organic catnip leaf, others a Greek marble base. Behind this reimagination of feline furniture are companies like Cat Haus, Tuft and Paw, Rinn, Petfusion, Litterbox, MiaCara, Tateno and Cattsup.

Lora Lombardi, the founder of Cat Haus, began building cat furniture when her gray tabby cat, Tuesday, started scratching all the furniture in her new apartment. Lombardi, who is based in Portland, Oregon, takes a sustainable approach to her pieces, building patchwork cat towers out of repurposed materials.

“I decided to make her a cat scratcher that wasn’t boring, soulless, beige or from a MegaCorp,” she said.

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One of Axelle Vertommen’s graphic cat scratchers. (Courtesy of Axelle Vertommen)

When Axelle Vertommen couldn’t find a scratching post that fit with the interior of her home in Antwerp, Belgium, she decided to create her own out of cardboard. In 2018, the interior architect and furniture designer started developing the “gattorre,” a collection of four postmodern scratching posts that cost 275 euros (about $325) each.

In 2001, Kenneth Yuzva was running a carpet company in Los Angeles when he realized he could merge his knowledge of rugs and carpets with 3D design skills to make custom animal furniture.

In 2003, he founded Hollywood Kitty Company and expanded his carpet business into a makeshift pet furniture factory. Instagram has helped grow his business, and since the pandemic began, Yuzva, who is now based in Cleveland, Ohio, has seen a 20% growth in his orders.

One of Jessica Portillo’s cats perches on a scratcher from Hollywood Kitty Company. (Jessica Portillo via The New York Times)

For $899 and a wait time of over a year, customers can get their own “enchanted forest kitty sanctuary.” The piece, which takes Yuzva 250 hours to build, features seven levels and can accommodate more than 20 cats.

“I can’t really guarantee that carpet is going to last 100 years, but I do everything I can to get these things to be as strong and well-built as possible,” Yuzva said.

Jessica Portillo purchased one of the “sweetheart mini scratchers” from Hollywood Kitty Co. in 2019. Portillo, who lives in an apartment in Brooklyn, wants any piece of furniture she buys to match the pink décor of her apartment.

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Portillo didn’t mind spending $179 on her cat scratcher because cat trees are “already expensive, so you might as well get a cute one.” She said the heart-shaped piece has become a favorite of her two Persian cats, Sunny and Rodney: “They don’t go anywhere, so I would rather get them something nice where they’re happy, too.”