Kittens are tiny balls of fluffy energy whose antics bring smiles of joy to their owners. Still, kittens have many things to learn as they grow and develop, and that includes the best ways to get around your home. The first time you see your tiny kitten showing interest in a tall set of stairs can be daunting for both you and your pet. It is likely to leave you wondering if your kitten is able or even should climb the stairs? Well, by the end of today’s article you will know for sure.
So, can kittens climb stairs? With supervision, most healthy kittens between 6-8 weeks old can start to explore and learn about climbing stairs. This skill takes time to master and will become easier as your kitten grows. With exposure to stairs, most kittens get the hang of climbing stairs by around 12 weeks of age.
The climbing of stairs is certainly a skill that needs to be learned.
It’s also something that you will likely need to facilitate, or at least encourage.
You’ll also need to do so in a way that helps them to learn to do so safely.
We’ll be getting into the finer details of ‘training’ later. So stick around for that.
But first, let us begin by exploring how capable kittens are with stairs.
Are Kittens OK With Stairs?
While kittens may not be graceful, most of them can find their way up staircases and learn, with guidance, how to get down. The biggest threat to kittens is staircases that have high drop-offs on their sides or wide banisters the kitten can fall through.
Most breeds of kittens are surprisingly small, and it will take them several times up and down your stairs before they can navigate them with confidence.
Kittens are extremely curious and playful creatures who will view stairs as one more interesting place to explore.
Kittens may also attempt to climb up and down stairs if they see their owners disappearing around corners at the top of and bottom of staircases.
The first few times your kitten attempts to use the stairs, it is likely that it will not jump high enough to move from stair to stair or will do a bit of tumbling.
Most of the time, a small tumble or misstep is no big deal – kittens are surprisingly flexible and are built to handle their rough and tumble play style.
Still, it is a good idea to supervise your kitten around new stairs to see that they are getting up and down them safely.
Not to mention a small kitten can get into a lot of mischief if it accesses higher or lower levels of your house that nobody is on to monitor them.
When your kitten first learns to use the stairs, it is likely to come with a few chuckles.
Your kitten may climb a few stairs, stop, and then climb some more.
They may go up a few stairs and realize they are higher than they thought and find their way back down.
As your kitten grows and learns its way around your home, it will master using the stairs to get exactly where it wants to go.
What Age Can Kittens Climb Stairs?
Kittens can start exploring stairs with supervision by the time they approach eight weeks old. Some kittens may be ready to learn to climb stairs around six weeks, and others may not be interested until a few weeks later.
Before 6-8 weeks of age, kittens are developing coordination for basic walking and running on flat surfaces and are not prepared for jumping up and down stairs.
Also, most kittens are quite small, so even a simple stair is a huge obstacle for them to climb up and over.
While eight weeks is a good estimate of when your kitten can start using stairs, this age is dependent on each individual kitten.
In the same way that people develop at different rates and have different interests, so do kittens.
Also, even though your kitten may start to use the stairs at eight weeks, you should expect it to take a couple of weeks for them to master the climb up and down.
By 12 weeks old, most kittens who live in homes with stairs and who have had access to try using the stairs are likely getting used to moving up and down the levels of your house.
At this age, kittens have already developed strong coordination and strong muscles for jumping, running, and stair climbing.
Should Kittens Climb Stairs?
Kittens who have stairs in the home where they live should learn how to use them with help and supervision from their owner. Kittens learning to climb the stairs should have some time each day to climb but not be expected to repeatedly climb up and down the stairs for long periods of time.
Only If Supervised
Kittens should not have unsupervised access to stairs when first learning to climb because they could fall down or off the sides of the stairs.
Unsupervised kittens can also get into mischief or trouble while exploring new levels of your house.
While climbing stairs is a great skill, kittens shouldn’t be left alone to explore the stairs until you have seen them successfully use the stairs on multiple occasions.
Depending on the style of your stairs, many have one side with a railing or drop-off, which can be dangerous for an uncoordinated kitten.
Only For Brief Periods Of Time
Climbing up and down stairs is a big task for a small kitten and can lead to tired or strained legs if your kitten is forced to do stairs for an unnatural amount of time.
Let your kitten be the guide on how much time is spent exploring and learning to climb the stairs in your home.
If you need your kitten to go up or down stairs and they appear tired or unwilling to climb the stairs on their own, it is certainly OK to pick them up and carry them from one level to the next.
On the other hand, a little time spent climbing on the stairs each day will not hurt your kitten and will serve to increase their coordination and confidence as they move around your home.
How To Help Kittens Climb Stairs Safely
As mentioned earlier, there are a few things you can do to help your kitten stay safe while climbing stairs.
These things include supervising your kitten on the stairs, blocking off stair drop-offs, and keeping your young kitten off the stairs when you aren’t around.
Let’s look more closely at how you can manage the risks that come with learning to climb the stairs.
Remain Nearby & Offer Guidance
In order to learn how to go up and down the stairs in your home, your kitten will need opportunities to practice and explore the different stairs where they live.
As an owner, you should show your kitten the stairs at a time where you can be nearby to make sure they don’t have falls that are too far or get tired and stuck halfway up or down the stairs.
Supervision is very important when a kitten first learns to use the stairs.
If you see your kitten getting too close to a side drop-off or your kitten has taken a few tumbles down a stair or two, you can help them by guiding them away from the edge or cushioning their tumble.
Even outdoor cats practice climbing and exploring with supervision.
A mother cat will purposely take her kittens to a new space for exploration and sit dutifully nearby as her kittens climb.
If one gets stuck in a tight spot or needs help, she hops right in with mouth and paw to get the job done.
Encourage & Praise
You can encourage your kitten to try using the stairs by walking up a few steps and calling to your kitten.
When your kitten reaches you, bend down and pet and praise them.
Then move up a few more stairs.
Another method is to place a favorite treat or toy on a stair that is slightly higher or lower than the stair your kitten is on.
This encourages your kitten to explore and use the stairs while getting rewarded for their effort.
If your kitten gets too tired or needs a break, pick them up and return to the stairs later. This same method can be used when teaching your kitten to go down the stairs.
Once your kitten is successfully going up and down the stairs a few times a day with you watching, you can begin to give them opportunities to use the stairs on their own.
Block Stair Drop Offs
Stairs come in many different styles and heights.
In homes, many stairs have banisters and railings that protect people from accidentally falling as they use them.
For kittens, these railings are often not enough protection to keep a curious young feline from getting hurt.
Kittens can slip through the smallest of spaces and may not realize that stairs do not continue past the rods of a stair banister, which leads to dangerous falls.
When your kitten is young, it is smart to block off the edges of your stairs with a more solid option.
For people on a budget, you can use simple household materials like cardboard attached to your banister rails to prevent your kitten from sliding through.
Some pet companies also sell special gates and materials that can be purchased to line areas that owners do not want their small animals to access.
As your kitten grows and has had time to explore the stairs with you close by, you are likely going to be able to remove edge-blocking material.
Just make sure to be nearby as your kitten discovers where the end of the stairs are, and a big fall begins.
Keep Your Kitten Off The Stairs When You Aren’t Around
Even with supervised practice and things in place to block drop-offs, the stairs are not the best place for an unsupervised kitten.
As your kitten grows and gains confidence (along with size!), you will be able to give them more open access to the stairs.
While your kitten is still young, block stair access when you can’t be around.
The best way to block stairs is with a solid door.
This is true for basement stairs or stairs that lead to the outdoors.
Kittens are able to sneak through small spaces and will eventually learn to jump quite high.
By having a solid door blocking stairs, you are guaranteeing your cat won’t access the stairs without help.
If you need to leave your home, make sure your kitten is in a room or space that they cannot leave and start climbing up and down the stairs without help.
When a kitten is still very young, a baby gate or pet gate placed at the top or bottom of the stairs is often a good deterrent for curious kittens.
A tiny kitten dreaming of making the trip upstairs to explore is quite the sight to see.
With owner supervision, practice, and some positive encouragement, your kitten can learn to find its way both up and down the stairs where you live.
You will likely find that as your kitten grows into its body and skills, it soon is faster at traveling the stairs than you are!
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.