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Home > Cats > How Much Space Does a Pet Cat Need to Be Happy? Vet-Reviewed Tips

How Much Space Does a Pet Cat Need to Be Happy? Vet-Reviewed Tips

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats don’t require as much space as you might think. The average cat needs around 18 square feet of space, but bear in mind, these are minimal requirements. While you might assume that your pet cat should have as much space to roam as possible, cats aren’t concerned about space as much as they are about layout. Cats like to climb on things and hide in small places. Without a space to hide, they become stressed. Large, wide-open spaces also cause pet cats to become stressed about their environment.

In this article, we will discuss a cat’s space requirements as well as some very important points to consider when providing your cat with a daily living space.


Determining Space Requirements

There are very few regulations for animal space requirements, and none that apply to house cats are known to exist. However, there are some general guidelines and suggestions based on common sense.

Cats Need as Much Living Space as You Can Provide

Cats will take as much space as you can give them, so if you live in a 400-square-foot studio apartment, your cat is most likely going to utilize all 400 feet at some point in time. Likewise, if you’re in a 2,000-square-foot home.

Plenty of resources on the internet will tell you that a cat’s primary enclosure should provide sufficient space to allow each cat to turn about freely, stand, sit, and lie in a comfortable, normal position, and walk in a normal manner. Additionally, cats should also be provided with a vertical space of a minimum of 3 feet for cats under 8.8 pounds and a minimum of 4 feet for cats over 8.8 pounds.

Considering these numbers, an average cat requires a minimum of 18 square feet of living space. These are the bare minimum requirements, based on animals in a shelter, rescue, and (bad) breeding conditions. While even the smallest apartments have rooms with this much space, cats will need a larger space to thrive. You should not expect to keep a cat in an area limited to 18 square feet.

Any animal should have enough space to display natural behaviors, and we know that cats love scratching, stretching, climbing, and jumping. Likewise, they enjoy having one or more small hiding spots to call their own, so make sure you provide them as well.

white cat lying
Image Credit: Piqsels

Socialization and Layout

Obviously, if you have two cats, you’ll require at least twice the amount of established minimum space. Proper socialization between the cats is a must, so they need enough space to feel safe and comfortable. Freedom from fear and distress are very important factors to consider in animal welfare. Cats are territorial creatures that exhibit a behavior called called “zoning.” Large, open spaces are uncomfortable for cats, so it’s important to layout your room with appropriate hiding spots. Cats like to hide and have a territory to call their own.

Are Cats Happy in Small Apartments?

Cats make fantastic apartment pets. While some are more energetic than others, their energy tends to be exhibited in short bursts in the form of play. They are content as long as they have enough space to play and places to jump and hide.

Cats love apartment living because they have lots of crevices to hide in. Tops of cupboards, behind furniture, and inside closets are favorite hiding spots.

If you’re keeping a pet cat in a small apartment, ensure that your cat has access to all areas, and make sure to plan out your space carefully if you wish to have multiple cats. It’s cruel and inhumane to keep a cat locked up in a single 8′ x 10′ bedroom. If you don’t have space for a cat, consider waiting until you do.

Oriental shorthair cat in canopy bed
Image Credit: Anna Pozzi Zoophotos, Shutterstock


Does My Cat Need His Own Room?

You don’t have to provide your cat with his own room, but it is beneficial to create a private space for him. There are a few reasons why.

  • Cats have territorial instincts that are better managed if they have a space to call their own. Otherwise, you may find your cat staking claim to your couch or your bed.
  • You’ll need a private space to keep the litter box. Cats like privacy while using the facilities.
  • They’ll also need a safe space to eat. Like all other aspects of life, cats often like to eat privately.
  • You want your cat to have a safe space to retreat to when they get overwhelmed, like when you have company over, for example.
  • It’s easier to create a play space or climbing gym for your cat if you have a designated area to do so.
PetPals Cat Tree
Image By: PetPals

Do Cats Need Outside Space to Be Happy?

If you’re keeping an indoor cat, they will most likely be content remaining that way. Many rescue organizations believe that all cats should be kept indoors, as there are risks to letting them roam outside. However, if you are adopting a cat that is used to being outdoors, they may never be happy as a solely indoor cat.

Being outside provides much-needed exercise for cats. They can run, jump, climb, and chase prey. If they are feeling lazy, there is nothing cats love more than to nap and sunbathe.

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Happy With His Space?

You’ll have to learn to read your cat’s body language to determine whether they are content. There are several indicators of stress, including:

  • Urinating or marking outside the litter box
  • Always hiding
  • Excessive scratching and grooming
  • Destructive behavior
  • Bolting for freedom every time you open a door

How to Create a Cat-friendly Space

If you live in a small house or an apartment, there are a few things you can do to make your cat more comfortable and improve their overall quality of life.

  • Keep your cat’s space clean. Cats become very unhappy with dirty conditions.
  • Avoid drafty areas. If you have windows with cold drafts, an air conditioner, or a fan, make sure the cold air doesn’t blow directly into your cat’s space.
  • Be aware of prey. Cats are predators by nature, so make sure they’re not camped out next to a fish tank or an open window with a bird feeder.
  • Make your furniture cat-friendly. Arrange your furniture to provide your cat with an obstacle course. The ability to climb and jump up and down will make up for the lack of square footage.
  • Provide hiding places. Cupboards can be great hiding places in small spaces. Even cardboard boxes will work if you need a budget-friendly cat hiding space.


Final Thoughts

Cats don’t need a ton of space to be happy, and many cats can thrive in small spaces, but they do need more than the minimum 18 square feet. Understanding their needs means that you can tailor their surroundings accordingly to make them as comfortable as possible.

FeaturedImage Credit: Konstantin39, Shutterstock

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