Are cats happy in apartments? Learn from the experts what it takes to make sure your feline shines at home.
Whether you’re loving life in an enormous industrial loft, sticking it out in a small studio or living the high life in a highrise downtown, odds are, you either have a pet or you’d like to get one. If you are one of the many people that side with cats in the great cats vs. dogs debate, this article is for you.
Listed below are the responses from over 20 cat experts to the question: Are cats happy in apartments? If not, what can a cat owner do to improve their furry friend’s quality of life?
Read up and redefine your relationship with your cat or use the information to ready your apartment for a new addition in the form of a furry feline friend.
1. Bring the outside in
“Cats that have been raised indoors can be perfectly fine in an apartment, but the key is to provide them with enough stimulation,” explains Daniel from Catpointers.
“Possible solutions would be to adopt another feline friend or to get some interactive toys that your cat can play with. But my favorite solution is to bring the outside in. Consider building a natural cat tree or placing a few non-toxic plants around the house. My cat loves exploring them!”
2. Create cat territory
According to Amy Shojai, CABC, “Cats CAN be happy in apartments but it depends.”
“Kitties want to own territory and in apartments that have limited space, that can increase feline stress. A stressed cat tries to relieve their angst by spreading self-scent, scratching or urinating outside the box.” In an apartment or home of any size, this is a serious problem.
“When limited space poses problems, remember that cats love heights. Create second-story real estate for cats by clearing off one shelf in the bookcase or top of the refrigerator for a feline perch.”
3. Provide entertainment options
“Yes, cats can be happy in apartments,” says Katherine Kern, the award-winning author behind the Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat website.
“In fact, some cats might feel more secure in a smaller space. To maximize your cat’s space in an apartment, I’d recommend several cat trees, maybe some cat shelves/perches and a great window sill for your cat to look out the window. These options are important for cats in big houses, as well. This way, your cat has an outlet for scratching behavior (which is instinctual), room to run and jump and space to survey his or her domain.”
Speaking specifically to apartment residents, Momma Kat explains, “In a small space, it’s even more important that humans consider a cat’s enrichment needs.”
“Most cats aren’t satisfied with just laying around and doing nothing. They need mental stimulation and outlets for their instinctual behaviors, like scratching and hiding. When these needs aren’t met, we’re more likely to see feline behavior that humans dislike.”
4. Consider vertical space
“Are cats happy in apartments? Of course! But I understand the space concerns. We should think vertically, as cats do,” says Pamela Merritt from The Way of Cats.
“The best way to solve this is to give the cat the tallest, sturdiest cat tree we can afford. We’ve doubled the runway space in the room when we play wand toy with them. Racing to the top will exercise all their muscles.”
Training your cat to forego picking away at furniture for a scratching post instead, Pamela explains, is not as hard as it may seem from the outside. “We take them from the furniture to their own scratching post and tell them how happy we are when they scratch it. Now we have trained them to use their post. It’s that easy.”
“Cats are ambush hunters. They don’t need a lot of aerobic exercises. They need short, intense, bursts of activity. A cat tree and a loving person will take care of many needs. Even in an apartment.”
5. Make space for naps
No strangers to a daily nap, “Cats sleep anywhere between 12 and 20 hours per day, so apartment cats mostly need lots of nice, cozy and warm places to take naps,” explains Isabel Ludick, the Brand Coordinator, Marketing Director and Avid Animal Advocate behind Excited Cats.
Isabel explains the reasoning behind this by saying, “Cats instinctively sleep this much so they can build up energy to hunt at night. Therefore, apartment cats need lots of playtime and stimulation when they wake up in order to put their preserved energy to good use. Otherwise, they might direct their energy toward destructive behavior.”
Isabel capped off her thoughts by reminding everyone, “Cats are creatures of habit. If you provide them with enough stimulation, playtime, chill zones and lookouts, your cat will adapt to their new environment soon enough and get comfortable in their space.”
6. Buy an extra litter box (or two)
“Most cats will do just fine in an apartment, although you may wish to keep it to no more than two or three cats in a one-bedroom, provided they get along well,” explains Ro Delrose a Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Fab.
She suggests that people, “Place several large, open-top litter boxes (one per cat plus one extra) throughout your home in the areas where your cat likes to hang out. The litter box is a very significant source of the scent and helps cats feel that their territory is well marked and secure!”
7. Give your cat something to look at
“I have had three cats and ALL were happy in apartments,” explains Caren Gittleman from Cat and Dog Chat with Caren.
The key to her success, she explains is, “I have a cat tree in every room with a window. I have LOADS of toys. I save empty boxes and provide multiple lounging areas.”
Caren also mentioned, “Having a dog doesn’t hurt either or a companion cat. A playmate is always fun!”
8. Create a custom catio
“Cats generally prefer larger spaces, but they can absolutely be happy in an apartment with their owners,” explains Molly DeVoss, CFTBS, CCBC, CRM, FFCP of Cat Behavior solutions.
Molly explains that “There are many things a cat parent can do to improve quality of life. These include:
- Engaging in prey play. An example would be interactive play with a wand toy, simulating the hunting sequence at least two times a day for 10-minute sessions each.
- Creating a safe catio experience where kitty can get some fresh air but not get fully out
- Taking walks in a harness and leash or an enclosed stroller.”
Molly was also sure to add, “When you have to leave your cat alone, play Cat TV (YouTube) for them to watch and hide food puzzles around the home.”
9. Make time for play
“Your favorite feline can absolutely be happy living in an apartment,” According to Amanda O’Brien of The Discerning Cat.
Amanda concedes that “Of course, cats would love lots of space to hunt and prowl. But this isn’t a pre-requisite for cat happiness.”
According to her, “There are two things you can do to make your apartment as cat friendly as possible:
- Invest in a cat tower with scratching posts. If you have limited space invest in a cat tower that has a small footprint on the ground but goes quite high. Your cat will most enjoy jumping up and down the tower and investing in some serious scratching action. Cat towers can also be a great place to store cat toys and other cat paraphernalia, saving more room.
- Try to spend some time every day playing with your cat. This may be with a feather toy or simply throwing a ball or a puzzle toy. If your cat has less space to move, keeping its brain busy will increase its happiness and playtime is a great bonding time for you and your favorite kitty.”
10. Get a furry friend for your feline
“Many of Meowtel’s clients are thriving in apartments,” explains the Meowtel team.
“Cat parents can make even a small studio apartment comfy for their kitties. Strategically placing furniture near windows will provide a source of entertainment when they’re not home. Cats love watching squirrels, birds and people outside!”
“Finding a companion for your kitty is another option.” The Meowtel team notes that this solution may not be applicable in every situation by saying, “Some cats enjoy being in pairs and appreciate the company, while some prefer to be on their own.”
Be sure to make the right choice for your feline friend!
11. Be attentive
“Cats definitely can be happy in apartments. What is important is not the size of the space, but how much enrichment and attention they get, no matter what kind of cat,” explains Mary Tan of Whisker Media.
“Too many people think cats are like living room furniture and don’t need anything. If you don’t have activities for them, that’s when destructive behavior happens. They will get bored. While not having a lot of space, a studio apartment can still be a playland!”
“Cats need toys, scratching posts and catnip. They need to play to stimulate their senses. It’s also important that you rotate their toys daily, so they think it’s a brand new toy! I have three rotating sets of toys that I change out daily, and my kitty, Dr. Farley Waddlesworth, thinks they are new each day! Also, cats are hunters and predators by nature.”
Mary summed it all up by saying, “I recommend hiding their food and treats throughout the apartment, even up high, so they have to work for their food just like they do in the wild.”
12. Enrich your cat’s environment
“We from Katzenworld believe that, just like with humans, some cats are happy living in apartments while others are not.”
“It’s all about environmental enrichment,” the Katzenworld team explains. “We are not talking about a gaming console or a TV for your feline friend. We are talking about species-appropriate enrichment, such as scratch pads, interactive cat toys, catnip or valerian toys! The more enrichment you provide your cat, the happier they will be.”
13. Equip your cat with the comfort essentials
“Of course, cats can be happy in an apartment,” says Phil from Upgrade Your Cat.
“Most breeds of cats have fairly small environments. What’s more important is what they have within their immediate surroundings than what’s available across a large area.”
“As long as you have a good cat tree, a couple of litter boxes that are not near their food or sleeping areas and provide plenty of affection, I’m sure you’ll have a happy and healthy cat no matter how small your apartment is!”
14. Stimulate your cat’s natural instincts
“With all cats,” explains Patience Fisher of Patience for cats, “simulating hunts with a wand toy is an important part of each day. Cats were born to hunt, and being able to do this instinctual behavior can greatly add to a cat’s contentment. When living in a confined space this is even more important.”
15. Mimic your cat’s natural environment
According to Chris from Caredicat, “Cats can be perfectly happy in small spaces such as apartments.”
“The things that make a cat happy in the outdoors are climbing, scratching and predatory behavior, such as chasing prey. The key is to mimic this as closely as possible inside of your apartment. Here’s how to do it:
- Cat hammock – This allows your cat to look out into the world and watch birds and people walk by which creates great stimulation for your cat
- Scratching posts – A number of vertical and horizontal scratching posts around your apartment will allow your cat to sharpen its claws, as well as provide exercise and allow them to stretch their muscles
- Toys – A big selection of toys and interactive toys is essential to provide physical and mental stimulation
- Private space – Cats like somewhere to retreat if they are scared or anxious. Cardboard boxes or cat towers that feature a hideout box are excellent choices.
- Playtime – It’s important to have a couple of short play sessions with your cat on a daily basis. This helps to create a great bond between the pair of you, as well as providing stimulation to keep your cat happy.”
If you can give your cat those five things consistently, the Caredicat team believes you and your cat will love life in your apartment.
16. Respect your cat’s basic requirements
“Cats can be happy anywhere as long as the right provisions are made available, says Katenna Jones of Jones Animal Behavior.
“The happiest cat in the world could thrive in a tiny studio apartment or an RV. At the same time, a very unhappy cat could be languishing in a sprawling mansion or farm. It’s all about environmental enrichment.”
Katenna elaborates on this idea of enrichment by explaining, “Environmental enrichment involves enhancing an animal’s environment to facilitate as many natural behaviors for that species as possible.”
The apartment cat happiness checklist:
- Vertical climbing options such as shelves or stairs
- Vantage points that are positioned at human foot height as well as waist height, as well as head height
- Feeding out of food puzzles like those at Food Puzzles for Cats
- Clicker training
- Exercise wheels
- Two large, easy-to-access litter boxes with small, natural granules
“Think of all the things that cats do naturally. Things like digging, sleeping, rolling around, running, playing, hiding and so on.”
17. Abide by the five pillars
“Whether they live in an apartment, townhouse or a traditional single-family home, all cats need access to important environmental resources. This includes access to food, water, litter boxes, rest and sleep areas and elevated areas or perches. These are known as the five pillars of a healthy feline environment,” states Dr. Michelle Meyer, the President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).
18. Make space for hunting and hiding
According to Holly, the founder of Cat Care Solutions, “Cats can be fantastic companions for apartment-dwellers. In fact, I once lived in a very small apartment with four cats of my own!”
Take it from Holly, “The key to a happy indoor apartment cat is enrichment. Simply put, enrichment satisfies your cat’s natural instincts, such as hunting, mental stimulation, bonding with you, observing their surroundings from a safe hideaway and getting up high. Bored cats are unhealthy, unhappy, destructive creatures. This is especially true for higher-energy breeds and personalities that don’t get enough activity.”
19. Take the time to take proper care
“Cats are happy in apartments as long as they are being well taken care of, they have all their needs and they are being trained to what their environment looks like every day,” says Zac Yap from Top Cat Breeds.
“Different cat breeds have different personalities. Not all cats like to go outside, for instance. They can adjust to their environment as long as the fur parent is giving them enough attention and treatment and not triggering them with any sudden noises.”
“Our team recommends investing in small, affordable cat furniture to increase the spaces where they can spend their time in your apartment.”
20. Understand your feline friend
“If your cat is going to be happy in an apartment, you need to know your cat,” Explains Anita Aurit of Feline Opines.
“For example, if you have a very active breed, like a Bengal, you’ll need to add some exercise and exploring time for your energetic feline.”
“It’s also possible to take your cat for a neighborhood stroll. Your cat should have a well-fitting harness and leash and you both can explore the neighborhood together. If things are a bit too busy in your neighborhood or your cat is not a fan of walks, consider a cat stroller.”
Anita encourages cat owners to remember, “Spending time with your cat makes them happy no matter whether you live in an apartment, a house or a mansion. Give them a little TV time with their favorite video from the cat YouTube channel of their choice. If your TV is safely secured, you can also leave a kitty video running for your cat to provide some interest to their day when you are away. One of my cats took a flying leap at the birds in the video and knocked the TV down which was good for the cat’s enrichment but not so good for my TV!”
“Finally, a little catnip always makes a day fun, whether it’s in a spray, a refillable toy or a catnip infused bag. No matter where you live, you and your cat can have a happy, fun and even adventuresome life when you are intentional about enriching their environment.”
21. Your cat can be content in a small space
“In our opinion cats are the purrr-fect animal for apartment living,” says Linda Hall, ABCCT, Executive Purrrr-ector and Meownipulator at Cat Behavior Alliance.”
One factor making felines the premiere apartment-friendly pets, explains Linda is, “They don’t need to go outside for walks or to relieve themselves and they don’t require as much floor space as dogs do. They can be happy even in a studio apartment.”
Find what works for you and your cat(s)
Regardless of the type of building in which you reside, what city you call home or where you go from nine to five, it’s possible to create a completely cat-friendly environment for your furry friend. Not an environment where your cat will simply survive, but one that both promotes comfort and incites excitement for you and your feline confidant for all the years you spend in your place together.