Welcome to “Ask Crystal,” where you can ask your pet behavior questions! You can submit your question for Crystal at the bottom of the page!
I saw where small spaces can cause behavioral problems, so I am worried. I am worried about my cat living in a tiny house (144 sq ft + loft). Just my cat and I.
My cat is about 4 and full of energy. We play 10 minutes with a wand toy before each meal (twice a day). The floor plan is very open – a small bath (door kept open) & the kitchen is just along an exterior wall. The loft is open. My cat knows how to go up and down the loft ladder. My thought was the loft area was the cat superhighway. And during the 5-6 months of decent weather annually, I’ll take my cat for daily outdoor walks (I’m working on training the cat for this – so far so good). But on rainy days (there are a lot) and winter days (6-7 months annually) I do not know what to do. And is this likely to be enough? Do I need two cat super highways?
I do not want my cat to be miserable/not happy because I cannot provide needed space for my cat. My cat is my emotional support animal. And I saved my cat from a kill shelter. My cat has some health problems too. We both need each other. We are both bonded to each other. I do not want to let my cat down. But I need to do right by my cat. Please teach me to help me give my cat what’s needed for the small environment, which I cannot change unfortunately due to my medical conditions.
Concerned Feline Owner
First let me say, it sounds like you are really doing a lot for your cat’s well-being. I am really happy to hear how much thought you have put into it. There are a number of things that you do to improve the quality of your feline companion’s life. We want to be sure that we are creating an environment that allows the cat to engage in natural behaviors, provides security and strengthens the cat/human bond. Considering all of those factors can help us look at your situation and see what possible improvements can be made. All cats are different so some of these tips may not work for you but hopefully if you can implement a few of them it would go a long way to helping kitty live a happy life.
In regards to space, you could possibly add some additional superhighways to add some vertical space. You could buy a commercial cat tree but I fear that would take up valuable floor space as opposed to shelving added to the walls. I would suggest looking at your space and making a drawing of where the highway should start and end. If you can have a goal of where you want the cat to be able to get to that helps in the planning. Cats love to get to high spots so they can survey their kingdom. One of my cats loved to sit on top of the refrigerator so I always made a path for her to get there and then from the refrigerator she could climb on top of the cabinets. If you have a window that kitty could sit and look out of, I would consider adding a perch there. Since you have a loft you may have support poles which you can turn into climbing poles by wrapping with sisal rope to give kitty a fun way to get up to the loft. You might be able to build a tiny kitty bridge from the poles or ladder. If you have any outdoor space, you may consider a pop up catio or building a small cat enclosure so that kitty can spend some additional outdoor time. Another need that many people overlook is the cat’s need to hide. Even if your cat isn’t a fearful one normally, they would probably appreciate a cozy hiding spot to escape and nap in. Typically, kitties like to nap in an elevated area so a box with a towel in it up high can make an easy hiding spot in a pinch.
Our housecats feral relatives spend 8 to 12 hours a day hunting and eat 10 small meals a day. We can enrich our housecats lives by introducing them to foraging toys. You can purchase a wide variety of foraging toys or you can make your own from simple leftover items like plastic water bottles, egg cartons, paper bags or cardboard tubes. I would suggest that you try to make it as easy as possible in the beginning. Try cutting several holes in a water bottle and filling with your cat’s favorite treats or kibble. You can also use egg cartons and put a little food in each hole. I also find that for those cats that eat too fast these toys make a great solution to slow them down. Cats have their own preferences when it comes to food toys so it may come down to trial and error to figure out which toys your cat likes. You may want to start with treats inside the toys rather than kibble to gain that initial interest in interacting with the toy.
Cats enjoy novelty just as we do so keep your wand toys interesting by switching out the “prey” on the end. You can even tie a little piece of food on the end. Maybe kitty would like to catch a piece of chicken and have something they can actual eat on the end of the toy. Consider rotating the toys so kitty will not have access to all the toys all of the time. When you bring a new toy out it will be like brand new! There are tons of DIY cat toy projects on the internet so have fun making interesting new toys for your friend.
Cats need quality space but they also need quality time with you, their best friend or staff as some like to say. Luckily, cats are a highly adaptable species. I would say your best friend has a wonderful life and I hope these tips give you a few ideas to make it the best life possible!
Until next time,