Can you create a happy life for your cat in a small apartment? Absolutely.
Cats living in small spaces can lead a stimulating and rewarding life. You just need to approach decorating your living space with these cat tips in mind.
We will look at multiple aspects of cats living in small spaces and how you can improve your cat’s life with small changes in the environment. Everything is on the table – cat beds, litter boxes, perches, toys, cleaning products, and more.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link like that, I’ll earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) to feed the bottomless pit that is my cat.
Boredom and interaction
There is a persisting stereotype that cats are “loners”.
Even though cats might not be as sociable as some other pets, they still need companionship and care to be happy. Giant house or studio apartment, as long as their surroundings are fun to explore and their human takes proper care of them, a cat can be satisfied no matter the square footage.
Most cat-related problems that humans (or other cats) face come from one place – pent-up energy. If a cat is bored, is not played with, and has a boring environment they’ll find more destructive outlets for their energy. Like attacking your ankles, scratching furniture, or bullying other cats.
So this is a thing to keep in mind. Think like a cat and decorate your space with your cat’s explorative and curious nature in mind.
As with most things pertaining to cats, their perfect litter box is a matter of preference.
But there are a few points of reference you can take into consideration when choosing the cat litter box for your feline.
Tips on choosing a litter box for a cat in a small apartment:
- First, your cat’s litter box needs to be large enough for your cat to enter it and take at least one step in every direction. That is because your cat needs to be able to comfortably bury their waste and they usually tend to do it from several angles. If you have a kitten, research how big your cat might get when they grow up to buy an appropriately-sized litter box.
- Second, think if your cat has any special conditions or personality traits that might affect how they use the litter box. Small kittens and older cats with arthritis or mobility issues need a litter box with the entrance side sitting super low (2.5” – 3.5”).
KittyGoHere Low Litter Box for Kittens and Senior Cats
- Cats that tend to vigorously kick the cat litter out of the box or spray inside of it, make sure to get a litter box with walls high enough to contain this habit. They still need the entrance wall to be low enough to comfortably enter inside. Unless you want to try out a litter box with an entrance at the top to counteract this habit.
Top Entry Cat Litter Box for “Kickers” and “Sprayers”
- Lastly, there’s a question of whether to land on a covered or uncovered litter box. This also depends on the cat as they tend to have preferences.
My personal advice would be to get a covered litter box. Worst case scenario, you can always take the top part off if your cat doesn’t like it. Additionally, a covered box can help you contain foul odors as they often come with a charcoal filter. Like this one:
Top Choice: Hooded Cat Litter Pan With Charcoal Filter
Choosing a cat bed
Choosing from the myriad of cat beds available on the market can be even more complicated than choosing a litter box. Once again, cats can be very specific about their bed preferences, and a bed that to you looks super cute and comfortable may be an absolute miss for your pet.
Still, here are some universal tips for choosing cat beds:
- First, make sure that the size of the bed fits your cat. Despite the fact that cats adore tight small spaces, they like to stretch and turn while sleeping and a small bed won’t allow it. Measure your cat if needed.
BODISEINT Donut-shaped Plush Cat Bed
- Second, if we assume we’re talking about an actual bed and not something more akin to a pouf, make sure it has something for your cat to lean on. Walls that will be able to support your sleeping feline and not collapse under its weight will make your cat feel safe and secure.
Bedsure Reversible 6”-wall Cat Bed
- Igloo-style cat beds have become extremely popular in recent years. If your cat tends to hide for naps or generally likes being surrounded by walls, go for it. Get a bed that is made of natural fiber, like cotton or wool, since cats can get allergies in response to some materials.
Tempcore anti-slip igloo cat bed
All in all, my personal advice would be to focus on choosing the right cat tree first. It not only offers a place for napping but allows your cat to satisfy its instinct to scratch. Then, observe your cat, see what it likes or dislikes, and based on that information pick a proper cat bed.
“Catifying” a small apartment
Anyone familiar with cat care will be familiar with Jackson Galaxy. He coined the term “catifying” which basically means taking your living space and transforming it to replicate what your pet might encounter in the wild.
You can house a blissfully happy cat even in a tiny apartment. All you need to do is to creatively use the space available to build a mentally and physically stimulating environment for the furry menace.
Thankfully, cats are not concerned with square footage. They are much more interested in cubic or vertical space. And if there’s one thing we do in small apartments is “go vertical” and take advantage of what the walls have to offer us and our cats.
Think of “catifying” your small apartment as creating an outdoor experience for your furry friend indoors. Cats are curious creatures. They need to explore, climb, hide, play, hunt, and nap. And they can do all of that even in a studio apartment if you properly prepare it for the cat invasion.
Cat trees for small spaces
A cat tree gives your cat a source of entertainment, rest, and scratching galore.
Cats are natural climbers and a proper cat tree is a must in a feline-occupied living space.
Make sure the cat tree has at least one tall scratching post to keep your cat happy. This will also give your cat an alternative to scratching furniture (here are some tips for dealing with pets destroying furniture).
A cat tree with a condo will also provide your pet with a safe space to hide in and relax. For extra points, place the cat tree near a window so your cat can experience the outdoors from a safe distance.
We’ve already written a post on the best cat trees for any kind of cat that lives in a small space (including multiple cat households). Still, here are some of our top choices for cats in a small apartment:
Floor-to-ceiling Cat Climbing Tower
Le Sure Cat Condo Tree
PetPals Activity Tower
All cats have a natural tendency to scratch. When you are building a cat-friendly environment in a small space, satisfying such tendencies is vital for your cat’s health and happiness.
First of all, allowing your cat to scratch helps them alleviate stress and get proper exercise. Scratching posts can also help redirect your cat’s clawing tendency from the furniture. A proper post, like one made of sisal rope, helps keep your cat’s claws in good shape and provides mental stimulation.
Also, cats need to be able to properly stretch out when getting their scratch on so make sure at least one of the scratching posts in your living space is tall enough for that.
Fortunately, there are plenty of small-apartment friendly cat scratching posts that take up a minimal amount of floor space:
Kitty City Sisal Scratching Post
4CLAWS wall-mounted scratching post
PetFusion Scratcher Lounge
Jackson Galaxy talks about creating something called a “cat superhighway” – a route for your cat that allows it to go around the whole room without touching the floor even once. And unless you have every wall lined with flat surfaces, you will need the help of wall-mounted shelves and hammocks.
Cats love places that only they can claim as their territory. Places that they can sit in and observe the world. So yeah, high-up hammocks are just what the cat doctor ordered.
Here are some small-space friendly hammock ideas that’ll keep your feline off the floor:
Yiotl Wall-mounted Cat Hammock & Stairs
KARCEEY Macrame Cat Hammock
FUKUMARU Wall-mounted Cat Hammock
Wall-mounted cat trees and shelves
If you live in a small space, you can still build a physically stimulating playground for your cat. All you need is free wall space.
Installing shelves and hammocks on the wall will allow your kitty to get a healthy dose of exercise, satisfy their need for climbing, and help them feel content on their own territory.
Mounting cat trees, shelves, and scratching posts on the walls is also one of the best ideas for studio apartments where you’d want to waste as little floor space as possible. Here are some ideas for a wall-mounted entertainment complex you can build for your cats:
CatastrophiCreations Wall-mounted Cat Bridge
CatastrophiCreations Wall-mounted Cat Fort
SIMPLY + 2-in-1 Cat Hammock
Collapsible cat tunnels
Tunnels allow cats to satisfy some of the behaviors they’d naturally exhibit in the wild – hiding, crawling, and hunting.
Most cat tunnels today are collapsible and easy to store which is a bonus for small apartments. You can create a wholly interactive experience for your cat in the tunnel by hiding treats inside, dangling a fishing pole toy at the or a wobbler at the end of the tunnel.
HIPIPET Cat Tunnel Bed
Purrfect Feline Collapsible Tunnel
Tempcore 3-way Cat Tunnel
Keeping a cat happy in a small apartment is all about creating an engaging environment indoor that can stimulate your cat similar to the outdoors.
A balcony is the closest thing to an outdoor experience you can give your indoor cat.
But. You’ll need to properly cat-proof your balcony.
It’s true that cats have great survival instincts and would never intentionally jump off to their doom. However, sometimes cats get too absorbed into their hunting instincts and may unwittingly jump after a bird or an insect. They can also get too into grooming and topple over the ledge (my own cat regularly falls off the chair because he’s too absorbed into licking his tail).
You can cat-proof your balcony via a balcony mesh or invest in a catio balcony enclosure:
Fooubaby Pop-Up Cat Tent
Amazon Basics 3-Tier Cat Playpen
Cat exercise wheel
All cats need physical exercise. However, some cat breeds are more athletic than others and want to do a bit more than just occasionally zoom around your small-space apartment.
The most active cat breeds, among others, are Bengal, Abyssinian, Cornish and Devon Rex, Somali, Siamese, Balinese, and more.
To keep your cats healthy and give them the proper physical stimulation indoors, get them a cat exercise wheel. Fortunately, these feline contraptions tend to stay on the narrow side and won’t take up much space even in a tiny apartment.
HOLIN Design Wall-mounted Exercise Wheel
Cats need toys that will appeal to their natural instincts of hunting. This also includes interactive cat toys that will keep your kitty mentally stimulated and entertained in a small apartment.
Cat toys are a great way to have your cat get exercise and stave off boredom. Playing with your kitty can also keep your cat healthy, affectionate, and less destructive.
If your cat is less than enthusiastic about toys, try to entice it with catnip. Play with your cat a few times a day in 10-15 minute bursts, allowing it to grab and bite the toy to satisfy your cat’s predatory instinct.
Here are some cat toy ideas for a small apartment, both for your kitty and you to enjoy:
OurPets Play-N-Squeak Wand Toy
Biilaflor Automatic Cat Ball Toy
Catnip Baguette Felt Toys
Cats love sitting by the windows.
Observing the world outside helps them stay entertained and stimulated. They can spend hours tracing light patterns, watching the wildlife, the movement of leaves, and random passersby. And they also lose their mind when a random bug flies up close enough to chase.
There are some fun cat beds out there that you can mount directly on the window to give your feline a front-row seat to all of this entertainment. You can mount this perch directly onto the window with suction cups:
ZALALOVA Cat Window Perch
If your window has a windowsill that’s not wide enough for your kitty, you can place this cat bed on it to make up for it:
Sweetgo Windowsill-mounted Cat Perch
Litter box benches
Owners of small apartments know that multipurpose furniture that saves space is everything. Especially for cat owners who have limited square footage.
Litter box benches are a perfect combination of a litter box and a bench/coffee table. It is a great alternative to plastic litter boxes that allows your cat to take care of its needs while also giving the human a much-needed surface space to use as they please.
The only caveat is that litter box benches need to be regularly cleaned unless you want the smell to settle in permanently.
Here are some ideas for litter box benches for small spaces:
Zoovilla Litter Box Side Table
Good Pet Stuff Faux Plant Litter Box
DIY cat toys
Fun fact: one of my cat’s favorite toys is a scrunched-up cheeseburger wrapper. She goes absolutely bonkers for it.
There are tons of items you can use to make DIY cat toys for your cats to play with: used toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, old t-shirts, wine corks, and, of course, cardboard boxes.
My cats absolutely love playing with anything that dangles (for better or worse). So one of my favorite solutions for a spur of a moment toy is attaching a DIY pompom or wine cork to a string and dangling it like a fishing rod for them to chase.
If you want to give your kitty some mental stimulation, hide a few treats or pieces of food inside a used toilet paper roll and fold its edges. Now, your cat has a puzzle box to solve!
You can find more DIY toy ideas here.
Cats get tons of stimulation from observing the outside world. Once you’ve set a cat bed by the window you can attract some things for your cat to observe.
Many cat owners set up a bird feeder behind their cat’s window. Your cat will be elated to see the birds flutter and feed right in front of its eyes. And don’t be surprised if your cat starts emitting a weird chirping noise – that’s a completely normal (and entertaining) reaction to birds.
Nature’s Hangout Store Window Bird Feeder
Another you can do is set up these window-mounted planters outside your cat’s perch. The flowers may attract insects that your cat will enjoy observing and chasing.
NIUXX Window Planter
Brushing cat toys
Some cats love being brushed, some don’t. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are many benefits to brushing your cat.
It reduces shedding around the house and even can reduce the number of hairballs your cat has to deal with. Regular brushing also helps spread natural oils over your cat’s skin and fur. These natural oils lend protection from irritants and keep your cat’s coat soft and shiny.
If your doesn’t exactly tolerate being brushed by a human there is still something to be done.
You can place a few of these toys around your studio apartment to encourage brushing:
Cat Self-Grooming Brush
FUKUMARU Cat Arch Self Groomer
Cleaning after a cat in a small apartment
With a few notable exceptions, cats shed. And in small apartments, even a bit of fur can quickly become a big problem. Add to that stray litter and well…
However, with regular cleaning and a few special tools, you’ll be able to keep this messy problem under control.
First, we’ve already established that regularly brushing your cat can significantly reduce the amount of shedding. Apart from a traditional bristle brush, you can use Furminator de-shedding tool to comfortably remove loose hair and dander:
Furminator Deshedding Tool for Cats
Brush long-haired cats daily and short-haired a few times a week to keep shedding to a minimum.
Removing pet hair off the furniture
Due to low humidity in the room and static electricity, cat hair settles on furniture and clothes.
The easiest (and cheapest) way to remove cat hair off, say, the couch is to get a rubber glove. Put it on and rub the hair-covered fabric until it clumps and is easy to remove.
You can also get this specialized glove for removing pet hair. Its micro bristles can collect some stray pet hair left behind in one fell swoop.
CleanAide Pet Fur Removal Mitt
As for clothes, you can get this self-cleaning pet hair remover with the aforementioned micro bristles:
OXO Pet Hair Remover Brush
Don’t get lint rollers – they are incredibly wasteful and you’ll have to buy them every week to keep up with some long-haired cat breeds.
Dealing with cat hair in the air
If you live in a small apartment, cat hair and odors can be painfully noticeable, even with regular cleaning.
And speaking from personal experience, some cat hair is so light and spiderweb-like that it floats around in the air just to settle on your favorite and plants.
Anyway, in this case, you will need an air purifier if you and your kitty are cramped for space. The good news is that if you live in a studio apartment with relatively small square footage, you can get a great one on a budget.
Like this one that we’ve already in this article for dog owners living in small apartments:
LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Allergies and Pets Hair
And if you’re in a crafty mood, you can build a DIY air purifier using a box fan and a 20″ x 20″ x 1″ furnace filter.
Preventing litter tracking
When cats exit the litter box, they can track some of their litter onto the floor. It then spreads around the apartment and can even find its way into the cat’s food bowl.
One of these mats can catch stray litter your cat may drag out of the box after doing its business:
PetFusion Litter Mat With Inner Channels
Pieviev Double Layer Litter Mat
Protecting furniture from scratches
Cats are notoriously known for destroying furniture.
As an owner of two cats roaming my tiny apartment, I can confidently say that, while this statement has some truth to it, it is vastly exaggerated.
Cats need to scratch ad if you have plenty of scratching posts and toys strewn around your apartment, your couch should be relatively safe.
Also, we’ve written a whole article on how to keep your belongings safe from pets. This includes some recommendations on upholsteries, covers, and vinyl sheet protectors that will keep your couch scratch-free.