Some people assume that cats need a minimal amount of space because of their relatively small bodies. And indeed, some cats can thrive in small homes and apartments. But how much space do cats need to really thrive inside a home?
How much space should you allocate for your cat?
The rule of thumb is to provide each cat a living space of at least 18 square feet. Note that this is just a general recommendation and your cat may need more or less space depending on a few factors, including his breed, temperament, and energy level.
This computation applies to just one cat. If you are planning on having one or more felines in your household, you should also be able to provide each cat with the same square footage of living space.
Ultimately the needs of cats can vary from one individual, even those from the same breed. Consider the fact that cats have different energy levels. For example, a Persian will be content lounging on the sofa while a Savannah needs ample space to play and explore.
Why cats dislike empty spaces
For cats, bigger is not necessarily better. More specifically, felines dislike wide open spaces. This applies to big cats and domestic cats.
You might think that a bigger space means a bigger area for your cat to run and roam around. But in reality, felines feel vulnerable when you put them in an area with wide-open spaces. To the feline mind, big empty spaces leave them open to attacks with limited options to run or hide.
Have you ever wondered why cats try to fit themselves into small cardboard boxes? To a cat, a small box reminds them of their mother’s womb or the box where they were nursed with the other members of their litter.
In short, a cat prefers having enclosed areas where it finds peace and security.
You should also need to take into account that a cat will need to expend more energy to keep himself warm inside a big space. Cats have a higher core body temperature compared to people.
This does not necessarily mean that you cannot adopt a cat if you have wide and open spaces in your home. You can. However, you will need to modify these spaces and add perches and potential hiding spaces if you want your pet to feel relaxed and secure in your home.
Will your cat be happy living in an apartment?
In general, cats are better suited to living in an apartment compared to most dogs. For one, most cats do not need expansive space to run around and exercise. Felines, by their nature, like to conserve their energy. When they do expend energy, they do so in quick bursts.
Furthermore, because apartments have smaller areas, cats have many options when it comes to picking enclosed spaces and hiding spots. As long as you can provide your cat with 18 square feet of space, he will do fine living in an apartment.
The only exception to that rule is if you are adopting a cat that has lived outdoors for a significant chunk of his life. This type of cat may not feel comfortable living in an apartment. In fact, he may display destructive and aggressive behaviors like scratching furniture and urine marking.
Why should you consider giving your cat a spare room?
If you have a spare room in your home, you should strongly consider giving this to your cat. Although not mandatory, this spare room can serve multiple purposes essential to your pet’s happiness.
For one, you can use this as a feeding area for your pet. Most cats prefer to eat in privacy. This secluded area can also be the perfect place to put his litter box.
This room can also be a haven for your pet when he feels overwhelmed in the other parts of your home. Or you can set it up as his playroom. More importantly, this room can be a vital tool to manage your pet’s territorial instincts.
Should your cat have access to outdoor space?
There is no conclusive answer to this question. If your cat has lived exclusively indoors, outdoor space may not be necessary.
However, access to outdoor space can be helpful if you are adopting a cat that has lived outdoors. Additionally, you can use the outdoor space to allow your cat to play, exercise, or even soak up on morning sunshine.
Access to outdoor space is also highly recommended in multi-cat households. This space can be used as a haven for anxious cats who might want to momentarily escape from the confines of an indoor area.
Making a small home hospitable to your cat
Although cats are not exactly the most expressive creatures, they can tell you if they do not have sufficient space in your home. If a feline finds the space inside your home inadequate to his liking, he will exhibit bad behavior like hiding under beds and furniture, scratching furniture, urinating outside his litter box, and running outside through open doors or windows.
There are a few ways that you can make your home more hospitable to your pet if limited space is a concern. First and foremost, you need to keep your home clean. No matter how big or small your home is, your pet will not feel comfortable living in a dirty house.
Take advantage of the furniture inside your home. You can rearrange these to create hiding spaces, perches, or even obstacle courses for your pet.
It is also a good idea to play with your pet regularly to engage both his mind and body. This will help stave off boredom and keep his hunting instincts in check.
And speaking of hunting instincts, you can stimulate these by providing him with virtual prey. It can be as simple as giving him a window where he can watch birds outside or keeping a small aquarium that will keep him preoccupied while you are outside.
Providing your pet with basic space requirements
Before you adopt a cat, you must consider all the basic needs that you should be able to provide. Most people think of providing food, shelter, and attention but having enough space for a feline companion does not feel equally important.
That is not to say that you need to have a big home to enjoy the perks of having a feline companion. If you understand your cat’s space requirements and if you are willing to make a few changes in your home to accommodate your new four-legged pal’s needs, your new pet will not mind how big or small your home is.
Image: istockphoto.com / Maryviolet