If you are just considering getting a cat for the first time, or if you are about to move, a slightly worrisome question might start to creep into your mind. Will your feline friend(s) have enough space?
While we don’t normally think of space being an issue for cats (whereas we are very aware of a dog’s spatial needs), you most definitely want to make sure any and all cats in your care have all the room they need to roam and loaf.
How much is that exactly, and what can you do to make a cat feel like home in your home?
How Much Space Do Cats Need?
The average cat requires a minimum of 18 square feet of living space. They will also benefit from a minimum of 3 feet of vertical space too. So, unless you live in the world’s tiniest apartment, your home should be large enough for a cat.
We humans have arrived at the 18 square feet based on what shelter cats can comfortably tolerate. This will allow a cat to stand, sit, lie down, stretch and walk around. If you also provide the vertical space, they will be able to jump, climb and observe from a height (which is without a doubt one of their favorite pastimes!).
However, this is not the size of space cats will thrive in. In theory, the more space they have, the better, but know that they will be quite comfortable in a studio apartment too.
Cats tend to take up as much space as you can give them. If you live in a multi-story house, they will roam every nook and cranny, and will utilize different spaces for different purposes. They will have a dedicated bird watching area, sleep all over the place, and likely hide their toys under every bed.
Some of the factors that will affect how much space a cat needs will include their breed, age and energy levels. Some larger breeds will thrive in more space, as will kittens and young cats. Older felines will be much more comfortable in a smaller space, as getting to their food bowl and litter will require less energy.
Note that high-energy breeds, like the Savannah and the Bengal, will need lots of space to explore, climb and play in. On the other hand, calmer breeds, like the Ragdoll or the Persian, will be much less demanding space-wise.
Cats need places to climb up to and they need hiding spots: as long as your home is able to provide both, and there is some room to stretch their legs and enjoy the zoomies after pooping: your cat will be purrfectly happy in your home.
How Many Square Feet Does a Cat Need?
The average cat will need a minimum of 18 square feet, plus 3-4 feet of vertical space. You shouldn’t expect to keep a cat limited to this space though, as the more they have to explore and call their own, the better.
Cats like to have access to heights and need hiding spots. As long as you are able to provide both, your home can be both a studio apartment and a four-story mansion. Cats will naturally do some zoning of their own, so to speak. They will select spaces for specific purposes, so don’t be surprised if you catch them looking out only one specific window, or only hiding under one of the beds.
Is 500 Square Feet Enough For a Cat?
500 square feet is enough for one cat. You don’t have to worry about them feeling enclosed or trapped. You may even be able to fit two cats into the space, if they are not too energetic and get along well.
Ideally, you want to have 500 square feet of space available per cat. This will simply ensure that they each have enough space to play in, retreat to and run around when the mood so strikes them.
You can of course keep two cats in less than 1000 square feet. It will all depend on the cats’ energy levels, general temperament and the quality of their relationship.
If it’s just the one cat you want to live with in 500 square feet, rest assured it will be enough.
Can a Cat Live in a Small Apartment?
Yes, cats can live in a small apartment, as long as there is space to hide in and some climbing space as well. Make sure they have access to most if not all areas of the home and that they can’t inadvertently get out of the apartment.
Cats make great living companions for small apartment dwellers. Calm, mellow, low-energy cats can be the perfect roommate if you don’t have too much space available. If you are yet to adopt a cat, make sure they are not the high-energy type that may feel limited in a small space though.
As long as you provide plenty of playtime, a high perch to climb up to and observe their kingdom from and several hidey holes: your feline will be perfectly content in a small home.
How Much Space is Too Little For a Cat?
Anything less than 18 square feet and 3 vertical feet of space is considered too little for a cat in a shelter setting. You can keep a cat in a small, 300 square feet studio apartment, as long as you make sure they get plenty of exercise.
Some cats will prefer to have more space than others, so ideally, you want to know a cat’s temperament and personality before you move in with them. A Bengal will definitely not take to a studio apartment, and will much prefer living in a house in the countryside, for example.
Do Cats Need Outside Space?
Cats don’t necessarily need outside space. However, if a cat is used to being outdoors, they may never adapt to living solely indoors. Cats that have never lived outside will be perfectly happy staying indoors 24/7.
Most rescue organizations and cat owners believe cats should be kept indoors, unless you have a completely enclosed outdoor space you can let them out into, from which they can’t run away. This keeps them safe and healthy.
Adopted kittens can be kept indoors for the rest of their life. While they will certainly be curious about the world on the other side of the window, they don’t need to go exploring.
Cats that have spent years living outdoors will likely never adapt to indoor life, and will demand to be let out to roam their territory. This is true of both males and females. Even if they have been spayed and neutered, their territorial instincts will remain, and they can become very unhappy if they can’t live the life they used to.
Does My Cat Need Their Own Room?
You don’t need to give your cat their own room. However, they will benefit from having private spaces around the home they can retreat to when needed.
If you’ve lived with cats, you know that they will adopt one room as their own anyway. Our cats tend to view the bathroom as their space and give everyone odd looks when they dare invade it. They watch us pee, want us to watch them eat, and will wait outside the bathroom to make sure we’ve not done any damage. And we will of course need to apologize to our cats if we’ve accidentally shut them out.
As long as you provide a private space for the litter box and their food and water bowls, cats will be perfectly fine finding cat-appropriate spaces for themselves in the rest of the house. They’ll have their own spot on the couch, at the foot of the bed, and in a dark, enclosed space somewhere no one is likely to bother them.
Can a Cat Live in One Room?
Yes, cats can live in a one-room apartment, as long as they have some climbing and hiding space and some privacy for eating and doing their kitty business.
On the other hand, you should never lock your cat in just one room of the home, especially not if you are actually spending time in another. You can certainly keep them trapped for a short bit of time, while you unload the groceries, for example, but never make your cat live in one room if there are more rooms in the house.
You can keep some rooms off limits if you need to (laundry room, for example), but in the most general terms, the cat should be able to go where you go and wherever it wants to be, within reason and as long as they aren’t compromising their safety.
If you’re planning on keeping the cat closed off in one room and never letting them out – don’t get a cat!
How Much Space Do Two Cats Need?
Two cats will need a minimum of 40 square feet of space, in theory and in a shelter scenario. In reality, anything upwards of 300 square feet will be fine, as long as they get along and are low-energy cats.
How much space two cats need is entirely dependent on the cats in question. A friend of mine used to live in a studio apartment with three cats for about a year. The cats in question however were the mellowest, most calm and cool cats I’ve ever met. They would all play with the same mouse toy at the same time, sit in the window like gargoyles and keep an eye on the neighbor’s dog, or sleep on top of each other on the couch.
Two cats that don’t get along well will need more space, as each will need their own territory. Two very energetic cats will also drive you up the wall when they start running around in a small space.
Carefully consider the personality of the cats in question before you both move them in together, and choose a living space for them.
How To Tell If Your Cat Needs More Space
You will be able to tell your cat needs more space by the following subtle (and not so subtle) signs:
- Running outside when the door or window is open
- Looking for spaces to hide
- Looking for places to climb
- Spraying or urinating outside their litter box
- Scratching the furniture or walls
These can of course be signs of other behavioral issues, but if you live in a small space, your cat may be trying to tell you it’s time to move.
How to Make a Small Home Cat-Friendly
If you live in a small home, you can do a lot to make it more cat-friendly. All of these steps will improve your cat’s quality of life and help them feel more comfortable.
- Keep the place clean and tidy.
- Avoid drafts when your cat is sleeping. Don’t point the AC or fan directly at your cat.
- Play with your cat at least twice a day. Make sure this is uninterrupted one-on-one time, and focus exclusively on the two of you.
- Provide a scratch post and a climbing perch.
- Provide plenty of toys. Switch them out to keep things interesting. Make toys of string, wrapping paper, boxes.
- Place a bird feeder near your window or get a fish tank. It’s your cat’s version of TV.
- Provide hiding spaces. And plenty of boxes.
- Give them plenty of cuddles and let them sleep where they are the most comfy.
Wrapping It Up
Most cats don’t need much space to thrive and live their best lives. It will depend on breed and temperament though, so make sure you carefully assess a cat’s needs before you bring them into your home, no matter how big or small it is. Timid cats are often freaked out by large open spaces, and would prefer a smaller, cozier apartment.