How Much Space Do Cats Need?

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How much space do cats need to be happy and well-adjusted? Some owners might say about the size of a shoe box since even the largest cat will happily squeeze himself into any tiny box it encounters.  But in reality, their space requirements are somewhat larger than that.

How Many Square Feet of Space Do Cats Require

It depends on the size of the cat and their individual habits. Some breeds, like the Maine Coon, need substantially more space than others because they’re huge.  And certain breeds are more playful and energetic, so they need more room to run, chase and jump.

Wide Open Spaces? Yes and No.

When we are looking for a new home or apartment, we often look for wide open spaces. However, our cats do not have the same requirements.  Cats don’t do well in a home that has a very open plan—large or small.  Our feline friends need to have places to hide and they need spaces they can call their own.

Large open living areas make cats very uncomfortable.  In the wild our cat’s ancestors needed places to hide and lay in wait for prey to happen by. Wandering through large open spaces make our now domesticated cats feel exposed.  And so, they look for small enclosed areas.  This is apparently the reason cats find boxes so irresistible.  I’ve long also suspected that boxes remind cats of when they were safe as tiny kittens in a box with their mother and litter mates.  It turns out I was right.  Small spaces are also warmer for cats since they can heat them with their body heat.  So, we might think that cats really do need no more space than what an average size box affords.  It’s not quite that simple?

Apartment Living

Cats certainly seem like the perfect apartment dweller. They don’t need to be taken for potty breaks outdoors or walks since their exercise requirements are far different than dogs. Cats get their exercise in short bursts of energy. Just as they would if hunting.  Most apartments have cupboards and closets to hide in. And often there’s a spare room that a cat may adopt. The perfect situation is a cat that has never known any other living arrangement. If he/she has lived in an apartment since kittenhood it’ll never know there’s a different way to live. Bringing home a new cat who is used to spending time outdoors is not a good situation. It will not like being cooped up in an apartment and may develop behavior problems.

If you have an apartment you should ensure that the main living area (living room or family room) is at least 18 square feet.  For two cats it should be 36 square feet. For one cat the entire apartment square footage should be at least 500 square feet.  For more than one cat you should have more square footage. Many use the one bedroom per cat as a rule of thumb.

5 Apartment Cat Tips

The Perfect Situation

Cats are more than happy to roam around a large house.  They have more space to chase a feline or canine companion.  There’s more room for cat furniture. This gives a cat, hopefully, a spare room of its own.  This is the best of all possible worlds. However, a cat can be perfectly happy sharing a room with a human as along as the human uses it only for sleeping.

A spare room in a small house is the perfect situation.  The cat can lay claim on the spare room and his/her territorial instincts will be satisfied. The litter box can be here, and he or she can eat here since cats like privacy when they use their litter box and when they eat. Be sure to keep the food and water well away from the litter box. If not, they will stop using the litter box.  Imagine having to eat next to an unflushed toilet! They don’t like it any more than we would. In fact, it’s the number one reason for a cat to break training.

In this room your cat will always have a place to get away and hide or escape to when frightened.  The room can be filled with its very own furniture including a cat tree at the window, so he/she won’t miss kitty television (it’s a never ending reality show).  Exercise towers can give needed stimulation.  If there’s more than one cat they will play together on these.  Do they have to have a room of their own to be well-adjusted? No, it’s not mandatory but it does give them the space they need and when the cat is happy everyone’s happy.

If you Can’t Built Out Build Up

Please don’t think you can’t have a furry friend or friends because you can’t provide the ideal set up.  If your cat is loved, shown lots of affection on a regular basis, fed well, is warm in winter and cool in summer, has a window for entertainment, toys, a continuous supply of clean water and a clean well placed litter box he or she will be happy even if your house or apartment isn’t the Taj Mahal.

Cats need places to retreat to and will get stressed if they don’t have that. But if necessary, think layout rather than space. While it is true cats need somewhere secluded to hide out even a kitty tower with a kitty condo can help in that regard. The Internet is filled with kitty towers, trees, beds, and other furniture of every size, height and price range.  They need high places to make them feel secure, safe, and keep the stress levels down as well.

The Great Outdoors

If you bring home an adult cat that is used to going outdoors, that is where he or she will want to be. Once a cat gets a taste of unabated freedom, it will not make a good house cat. They will do all kinds of things to try to get their frustration through to you; like scratching furniture and the doors, spraying  the door with urine, yowling continuously, and possibly even biting.  Cat will not give up their freedom and often end up in the Humane Shelter.  PETA and most pet owners believe cats should never be let outdoors to hunt and roam the neighborhood. But even in this situation, all is not necessarily lost. An agreement can be made with said cat.  A compromise if you will.

The Internet is filled with every kind of outdoor cat enclosure. There are screened in gazebos, screen porches, and screened in kitty rooms that allow cats to go in and out through a window safely and as they please.  Cat furniture such as trees, beds and towers can be placed in their very own screen porch. For inclement weather there are heated cat houses that kitty can go in to warm up. These enclosures are not for cats to live in, but they can safely satisfy their urge for the great outdoors. There are special fences that keep cats in the backyard so they can run, play and have a greater sense of freedom.  Cats need at least 18 square feet outdoors as inside, but more is better.

It’s advisable if you a cat in a small home to have an outdoor area.  This gives cats a full life with all the advantages of indoors and outdoors but without the diseases, injuries and accidents.

If you’re thinking of adopting an outdoor cat talk with the owner and be ready to reconsider. Some cats will not be happy living indoors even part time.  If you live where winters get bitter cold it will only be a solution part of the year.

Best and Worst Breeds for Small Homes and Apartments

If you live in a small house or apartment and want to be owned by a cat there are certain breeds that are better suited for small domiciles.

British or American Shorthair

The British or American Shorthair are very good breeds to consider. They are very sweet, non-shedding, quiet, independent, and adapt well to various situations.  If you can find an adult lap cat, he or she won’t mind not having a room of its own because it will be happy near you. Other good breeds are:

Ragdoll.  These cats are exceptionally sweet, loving, affectionate, and they love people, especially children.  They are not outdoor cats. They are playful and need play towers or a cat tree. They are very good with other pets. They must be groomed every other day.

Russian Blue. Intelligent, gentle, quiet. They like peaceful indoor lives. Not exceptionally happy with other cats, dogs or children.

Persian. Very sweet placid cats. They don’t mind being alone but love their person.  They do need daily grooming and a play time.

Manx. Intelligent, great with children, fun loving, and good ‘’watch cats.’’

Scottish Fold. Sweet disposition. Perfect for singles. They are one person cats and like to be with you but not on you.

Rescue Cat. These cats are so happy and thankful for a loving home they don’t care about the size of it. They are usually loving, affectionate and sweet. Look for an adult (or two) that has its personality already formed and one that is used to a small home or apartment.

Signs of Too Little Space

Except for the Siamese, cats are not very expressive so you’ll have to learn the signs that your cat needs more space.

·        Peeing outside the litter box

·        Excessive grooming and scratching

·        Scratching furniture, doors, walls; being destructive.

·        Spending most of its time under the bed or sofa

·        Making a mad dash for freedom whenever a door opens

If a frustrated cat gets outside it can be very difficult to find them.  If he or she is once out, it will do it again and again.

How to Keep a Cat-Friendly House or Apartment

There are things you can do to make your cat feel happy in your small habitat.

  • Cats like a clean tidy home as much as we do. They hate dirty litter boxes and living areas.
  • If your cat is nervous or seems anxious use a high quality lavender air freshener. This is very calming and may help put you at ease too. Cats get upset if they can only smell their own scent.  Odor masking litter helps too.
  • Avoid drafts. Don’t point the vents of the A/C at your cat’s favorite space.
  • Have some kitty time a few times a day. They really look forward to having ‘’mommy’’ or ‘’daddy’’ all to themselves and burn off some energy by playing with you. They need some affection time every day as well. Sometimes this is a part of their grooming time.
  • Don’t forget kitty TV. Put a bird feeder and/or bird bath outside a closed window (or screened window). Cats love watching birds, squirrels, and whatever is going on in the neighborhood. Make the window comfy with a window height kitty perch or window bed.
  • Buy a fish tank. Cats love watching the fish. It’s very relaxing for people too.
  • Provide hiding places like kitty condos, an empty cabinet or closet. They love being above the world on a high kitty perch. A good solid stable kitty tree is a must.
  • Leave your cat boxes to play with or take a nap in. It brings back happy memories of the mother cat.

Keeping Your Indoor Cats Happy

Whatever the size of your home it’s the size of your heart that matters. Your love, protection, affection, care and lap is what your cat needs most.  Females, especially, often enjoy smaller homes since they tend to be more nervous than males and feel more secure in a small place. After all, large space could be full of predators—a Wooly Mammoth perhaps?  Cats are a mystery at times, but they are a mystery worth the effort to understand.

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