Sharing Small Spaces

Cozy apartment living can suit your cat fine - as long as you provide ways to satisfy her instincts.

Youve got a studio in the city. Theres not a whole lot of space but youd like to share it with feline company. But you want to be fair to your cat – and you. Can a cat or two be happy in a cozy little spot?

Theres no research indicating that cats need a specific amount of space to live in, says Steve Dullard, DVM, president-elect of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Cats do not need to be outside (and will, in fact, live longer if kept indoors). Theres a general rule to go by: You shouldnt have more than three cats in a small living area, says Dr. Dullard. If it gets crowded, you may have cats urinating out of their litter boxes or other behavioral problems. Thats because there isnt enough territory in a small space for more than two cats. You should have enough space so that each cat has his own litter box, food bowl and a quiet retreat.

Create the Illusion of More Space
You actually have several options to increase the space (or, at least, the feeling of space) in your small apartment. One way to expand your limited space for your cat is to keep all the doors open in your apartment most of the time. That way your cat can easily get from one room to another – even if you only have two rooms altogether.

If you have a terrace, use it. But let your cat out only if you make it safe by enclosing it or carefully supervising your cat while he is out there. Putting up a screen or glass door can often be sufficient because your cat will be able to look out and safely watch the scenery – passing cars, people and other animals, especially birds. If youre not going to let your cat out on the terrace, you may want to construct a birdfeeder so your cat can watch and really be amused.

The same thing goes for window sills. Make your window sills secure and accessible so your cat can look out. Seeing outside will really give your cat the feeling of more space and action even if she doesnt go outside.

Cat furniture is another fun way of increasing your cats space without decreasing the space in your apartment. There are a number of designs. Felines enjoy relaxing in cat hammocks, says Dr. Dullard, veterinarian with the Ancare Veterinary Clinic in Mendota, Illinois. Cats like to perch up high overlooking the activity below. A cat platform works well in a small apartment, adding space.

A variation on this is the cat loft or cat tree which is a series of carpeted steps leading to a hideaway loft. It is installed on an unused wall or over a door or window in your apartment. To see samples of cat furniture, check out Your local pet supply store will also have cat furniture to show you. 

Make Small Spaces Fun
Cats like to play and prowl around, says Dr. Dullard. A small space will suit them just fine if they find it interesting.   Keep toys around, especially interactive toys, that your cat can play with by herself when youre not there. A good toy is the type that looks like a fishing pole with feathers, fur like material or a fake mouse attached to a string. Cats are predatory creatures and nothing pleases them like stumbling across some unsuspecting prey. So hide some toys for your cat – behind a door, under the couch – that he can find and bat around. 

Some other features that can make your limited space more stimulating are little nesting areas cats love to crawl in, take a snooze in and from which to observe the world. So get out those cozy cardboard boxes, paper bags and whicker baskets and place them around your apartment so your cat can enjoy them. 

Of course, nothing substitutes for regular play time with your cat. So make sure you take a few minutes out of the day to run around your small apartment with your cat. In the end, the amount of space may not really matter that much to your cat; its what you do with the space.  And if you make that space intriguing, your cat will love living there with you – no matter how many or few square feet you have.