Cats are adaptable animals and can adapt to their living spaces and a variety of situations fairly well. That being said, living in a small apartment together with your cat or cats can present some challenges for both you and your feline friend(s). If your cats´ living space is limited, that also means you get in each other’s way more often. It can also mean your cat does not get enough stimulation and ends up using you or your furniture as a scratching pole or prey to stave off boredom.
No one wants that to happen, not you, nor that cozy but slightly too expensive chair you got yourself as a present.
To keep both you and your cat happy, it is important that you stimulate your cat actively (by playing with him/her) or passively (by making sure their environment has stimuli like toys, areas to climb, hide or even another cat.
Ways to entertain a cat in a small apartment:
Buying cat trees or toys where your cat can entertain themselves Cat trees, such as the Go Pet Club 62″ Cat Tree is great for a few different reasons. It uses the space efficiently, your cat can climb and jump as if they were in a larger area or outdoors. The different textures are stimulating to your cat. The ability to scratch on the posts, helps your cat be able to fulfill this natural instinct and to maintain the length of their nails. (this is not an excuse not to cut your cats’ nails, however).
You can also create your own cat trees with cardboard or wood + some string. We are planning a complete guide on how to create cat trees yourself, so be on the lookout for that. We have included a picture of one of these being built below. Martina (the beautiful Persian mix) seems to be enjoying it already! 🙂
Make use of vertical space!
Cats love to climb, jump and to survey their territory from a vantage point. If you use your vertical space well, you can make your apartment seem a lot bigger and more exciting for your cat. You can either buy cat furniture for your cat to climb and mount it on the wall like this one on Amazon or you can make them yourself.
Have a set structure in regards to meal time and playtime for your cat.
Cats are creatures of habit, and it is a lot easier to not get them to wake up because they want food if they are used to getting fed during the day and evening. Ideally, you should feed your cat every 6-8 hours. Never free feed them, as this takes away the routine but also makes it much easier for the cat to become overweight since cats usually eat more than they need to if they have access to food since, in their mind, there is no guarantee for the next meal to come. A consistent routine reduces this innate fear.
Similarly, playing with your cat before bedtime (and during the day) is a great way to manage their energy level and make sure that they have healthy ways to expand their energy instead of letting it loose on your furniture or you. By managing their energy and ensuring that your cat’s energy levels are depleted around your bedtime will increase the chance of both you and your feline friend sleeping well through the night.
Getting a second cat:
If you have one cat you might want to consider getting a second cat so that they can keep each other company. However, it is important to consider if your apartment is suitable for one more cat. Do they have enough spaces to hide in, or to have their own spaces? This is especially important when introducing a second cat. You ideally want to keep them separate for the first few days, but this might be difficult if you have a small apartment. If you cannot keep them separated, you need to be monitoring how they interact together. The hiding spaces are important because both the new cat and your old cat may want to retire to a hiding spot or safe place when they feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed. A tip is to invest in cat-friendly furniture like furniture with small spaces or shelves where your cats can hide. Make sure your cats have access to “higher ground”, like the top of shelves, closets etc. Cats love to survey their surroundings from a vantage point, and it is also stimulating for them if they can move around their territory on a few different levels. Also having the ability to climb and jump is a great way for your cat to stay fit.
What can happen to an under-stimulated cat?
A cat living in a small apartment may find themselves more easily bored because they have less space to explore and to run around in. This boredom can manifest in many different ways and cause unwanted behavior such as the destruction of furniture and other aggressive behavior. Your cat may also start to show signs of depression if they are not receiving enough stimuli during the day.
Your cat can get too inactive.
This is a danger for all indoor cats, but especially if your apartment is on the small side. Long spells of inactivity can lead to problems like obesity, depression etc. An important way to prevent this is to keep you entertained and have scheduled times during the day which is dedicated to playtime with your cat. Make sure you do this daily, even if it is only 15-20 minutes, and stick to it! Your cat will thank you for it! If you have an especially active breed cat, such as the Bengal or the Somali, this is especially important as these cats need even more active stimuli than say a Persian does.
Your Cat Can Disturb Your Sleep
If your apartment is as small as mine, that means that your bedroom is also part of where your cat roams around, also during the night. No one wants to feel like they are shutting out their cat, especially if they have a very small area to stay in if you block them out of your bedroom. Cats are the most active during dusk and dawn, and they can also be quite active during the night. This clash of rhythms can lead to disturbed sleep for you and conflicts and stressful situations with your cat and around sleep.
Using a regular and strict feeding schedule and playtimes before bed as mentioned earlier goes a long way to solve this problem, as well as making sure the cat has ample opportunity to stimulate him or herself with toys and or the environment.