How Much Space Does My Cat Need? Minimum & Tips

Last Updated on: August 14, 2023 by Crystal Uys

If you’re considering adopting a cat, you may be wondering how much room the cat needs. However, there isn’t a definite answer for this. Many spaces are multi-purpose, which means we use them alongside our cat. We don’t need to dedicate these spaces to our feline.

Most cats don’t need tons of space—20 sq. ft. can be considered the absolute minimum. This provides plenty of space for a litter box, play area, and food. You don’t necessarily have to dedicate this much space to your feline, though. While the food and litter box do need their own dedicated space, cats will play just about anywhere.

Many cats are very adaptable and will do fine in a smaller space. You can even design spaces more vertically (think cat trees and climbing structures) for more active cats in small spaces.

How Much Space Does a Cat Need to Roam?

Cats have differing needs when it comes to space. In the wild, cats would have a territory large enough to feed them. They aren’t going out and exploring the countryside. They’re staying within their home range and spending their days hunting. Roaming isn’t something that comes naturally to cats.

In our homes, cats obviously don’t have to worry about feeding themselves. Therefore, they can survive in a much smaller area.

In fact, very large spaces may cause more stress than they do comfort. A cat in a fairly large home may feel they have a larger “territory” to protect. In very large homes, cats typically stay in only a few rooms; they don’t roam the whole house regularly. Therefore, the average American home is plenty big enough for a cat—even a smaller home or apartment. Many studio apartments would even be large enough for a feline.

Of course, cats do have different exercise needs. Some breeds are more energetic than others. However, even the most energetic breeds can meet their exercise needs in smaller spaces if you provide climbing opportunities and toys.

a tabby maine coon cat at home
Image Credit: Daniel Zopf, Unsplash

Is a One-Bedroom Apartment Big Enough for a Cat?

The average one-bedroom apartment would be plenty big enough for a cat. As long as you have enough room for the cat’s litter box and food, you probably have enough room for a cat.

Even the most energetic cats can meet their exercise needs in a smaller apartment. Cats exercise by playing and climbing. A cat may hide underneath a bed and pounce out a dozen times to run through their energy. A few toys and a few feet of room are all that’s necessary for most felines. And, remember, that includes shared spaces.

If a house is big enough for a person, it’s probably big enough for a cat. If you’re worried about your home’s size, you can build up to provide your cat with some extra room. A few “cat shelves” on one wall for your feline to play on is plenty of climbing and playing room for most cats.

Is It Okay to Keep a Cat in One Room?

Cats are extremely adaptable. You can keep them in one room if they have everything they need. A studio apartment or dedicated room in your house is plenty in most cases for a cat. You may have to get a bit creative with the design, building upwards to ensure your cat can meet their exercise needs. However, this is often very doable, even in smaller spaces.

Of course, you shouldn’t keep a cat in one room alone. If you live in a studio apartment, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in that room with your cat. Therefore, their social needs will get met. However, if you’re spending much of your time in other rooms, keeping your cat locked up in one room alone for the majority of the time is unhealthy.

The time when you first get a cat is an exception to this, though. During this period, it’s recommended to only keep the cat in a single room. This provides the cat a chance to establish a “home base” where they feel safe and taken care of. This space should have everything they need and be free from other pets.

If you have other animals, secluding your new cat in one room helps everyone get used to each other from afar. It also gives each animal its own space so that they don’t feel like they’re competing for anything.

bengal cat lying on the floor
Image Credit: dreamerroom, Shutterstock

Do Cats Prefer Large or Small Spaces?

It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but cats typically prefer smaller spaces. In fact, cats will spend much of their time in “closed-up” spaces, such as under beds and in boxes. These smaller spaces help cats feel safe and prevent stress.

The same can be said about their living spaces as a whole. Even when allowed to roam a fairly large house, most cats will spend much of their time within a smaller area of that house. Preferably, a cat’s food and litter box should be within this area so that they don’t feel the need to wander out of their comfort zone to reach them.

Cats typically have no problem adjusting to smaller spaces. That’s one reason why they make such good apartment pets—they’re perfectly fine in smaller apartments as long as their needs are met.

Final Thoughts

Cats don’t need tons of room to thrive. If your home is big enough for a person and you have extra room for a litter box and food bowls, your home is big enough for a cat.

You may have to get a bit creative by building vertically or taking advantage of unused spaces, but cats can easily get all the enrichment they need in smaller spaces. That’s one of the reasons they’re great options for those living in an apartment.

Featured Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

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