The cats that share our lives and homes need large and
stimulating territories. Even while confining our cats to living indoors only, we can and should offer them as much space as we can to encourage exercise and prevent boredom. Regardless of your home's floor space, there are ways for you to increase Kitty's living space. Let us show you how!
Why your cat needs more space
The lives of pet cats in the western world have changed dramatically over the past few decades as more owners than ever choose to keep their cats indoors only. Cats that never go outside are protected from the dangers of car accidents, predators, dogs and malevolent humans. They also have a far lower risk of catching diseases from other cats or becoming injured in cat fights. The pesky toll of parasites, such as ticks, fleas and worms, is also avoided in a cat that never goes outside. All in all, living indoors only offers cats a longer and much safer life.
As if these advantages were not enough, keeping our pet cats inside also makes environmental sense. Cats are efficient predators and when allowed to go outside they are likely to follow their instincts and hunt small mammals, reptiles and birds. In some areas, this can have a significant negative impact on local wildlife. Our pet cats are not part of the local ecological system, and it's our responsibility to reduce their effect on local wildlife, just like we try to reduce our own carbon print. What's more, hunting puts your cat - and ultimately yourself - at risk for infections from salmonella, toxoplasmosis and other diseases.
So, does keeping cats indoors only sound perfect?
It's never that simple, is it? Confining the cat to a limited space brings its own risks, albeit less significant ones: boredom and developing a sedentary lifestyle.
Our cats evolved to require a certain amount of exercise and stimuli. They should have enough things to stalk and "hunt" just like they would outside. Fortunately, there's no need to bring live mice or lizards into our homes. Cat toys and some interactive playtime are enough to satisfy the hunting cravings of most cats. Read this guide to learn how to create the perfect "hunt simulator" at home: Playing with Your Cat: 10 Things You Need To Know
Physical activity is also important. Cats need a space that's large enough to encourage them to move around. That movement comes from the innate need to patrol their territory, so the larger the territory, the more exercise your cat gets. In one study, researchers from the University of Illinois used radio transmitters to track the movement of cats who were let outside. They found that the average pet cat patrolled a territory of about 4.9 acres. That's more than 213,000 square feet - about 100 times larger than the average American home.
So, if cats prefer to roam across acres of land, does that mean we should let them go outside? Not necessarily. As noted before, wandering outside is certainly dangerous for our kitties. Depending on where you live, letting a cat go outside unsupervised can be anything between potentially harmful to incredibly dangerous.
The point we're trying to make here is that you should keep your cat indoors, yet be aware of the cat's innate needs and try to create more space for your cat within the walls of your home. Sounds crazy, right? How can you add more room when you have limited floor space?
The Concept of Vertical Space for Cats
Let's try and look at the world from a cat's perspective. Imagine that you're about a foot high and can jump and climb really well. Now take a look at your home from that feline perspective. See how much unused space there is around you?
Cats thrive on climbing and jumping and can really make the most of all that unused vertical space. Making the most of height, you can create paths that add a sense of distance for Kitty, without ever leaving the confines of your home. As far as your cat is concerned, you can make your home much larger without adding any floor space.
Check out these videos and prepare yourself to be inspired. These people created mazes of intricate cat walks and paths constructed within ordinary homes (And keep reading for practical tips for making the most of the vertical space in your own home!) -
How to make the most of the vertical space in your home?
Let's face it, these elaborate constructions are not a realistic goal for most cat owners. Some can't make these kinds of alterations because they rent their homes. Even homeowners are usually reluctant to break through walls to create "cat caves" and passages. The good news is that you don't have to. There are much simpler ways to add more vertical space to your home.
1. Cat trees
One of the easiest ways to add vertical space is with a piece of tall cat furniture, also known as a "cat tree" or "cat condo". These items have two or three levels of perches and boxes, enticing Kitty to explore and "get high up there".
2. Cat shelves
No place for a cat tree? Shelves take up zero floor space, and cats enjoy jumping from one shelf to the next. All you need to do is make sure the shelves are not too far apart from one another, and of course, keep them clear of any items that your cat may knock over.
Here are a few examples, shared by our members in the cat forums -
Shared by Pattiwatti
Shared by cicoccabim
Shared by mickNsnicks2mom
Shared by mickNsnicks2mom
3. Window perches
How about a shelf with a view? That's what a window perch essentially is. Any window sill that's wide enough and free of clutter will do the job. If you don't have a window sill, you can put up a shelf or even hang a perch from the glass panes.
Our member Bengalcatman designed the window sills in his home to be used as cat window perches.
stephanietx installed this "catnapper" as a window perch
Our member KittyPa combined the concepts of a cat tree with the window perch!
4. Utilizing existing furniture and fixtures
As you can see from the examples above, creating vertical space for your cat can be done simply by utilizing existing fixtures and fittings in your home. Encourage your cat to climb on surfaces such as your kitchen table, cupboards and even the fridge. Unless a surface is dangerous for Kitty - like the kitchen counters and stove - allow and even encourage her to explore that vertical space. Remember that "up" for cats is just like left and right are for us - directions to be explored and moved across.
5. Creating a path
If at all possible, create paths across high surfaces. This can be a series of cat shelves or a combination of a cat tree and the top of your fridge, bridged using a couple of cat shelves. The idea is to allow your cat to travel across one or more rooms without touching the floor, creating an entire new level for exploration and exercise.
We hope this article inspires you to add more room for your home's feline residents! More space means more mental and physical stimulation for your cats, leading to reduced stress levels, fewer behavior problems and better health!
Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below, and as always, if you have any question about cat care and behavior, start a thread about it in the cat forums.