How To Make Your Home Bigger (at Least For Your Cats)

Apr 12, 2017 | | |
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  1. The cats that share our lives and homes need large and stimulating territories. Even while confining our cats to living indoors only, we can and should offer them as much space as we can to encourage exercise and prevent boredom. Regardless of your home's floor space, there are ways for you to increase Kitty's living space. Let us show you how!

    Why your cat needs more space

    The lives of pet cats in the western world have changed dramatically over the past few decades as more owners than ever choose to keep their cats indoors only. Cats that never go outside are protected from the dangers of car accidents, predators, dogs and malevolent humans. They also have a far lower risk of catching diseases from other cats or becoming injured in cat fights. The pesky toll of parasites, such as ticks, fleas and worms, is also avoided in a cat that never goes outside. All in all, living indoors only offers cats a longer and much safer life.

    As if these advantages were not enough, keeping our pet cats inside also makes environmental sense. Cats are efficient predators and when allowed to go outside they are likely to follow their instincts and hunt small mammals, reptiles and birds. In some areas, this can have a significant negative impact on local wildlife. Our pet cats are not part of the local ecological system, and it's our responsibility to reduce their effect on local wildlife, just like we try to reduce our own carbon print. What's more, hunting puts your cat - and ultimately yourself - at risk for infections from salmonella, toxoplasmosis and other diseases.

    So, does keeping cats indoors only sound perfect?

    It's never that simple, is it? Confining the cat to a limited space brings its own risks, albeit less significant ones: boredom and developing a sedentary lifestyle.

    Our cats evolved to require a certain amount of exercise and stimuli. They should have enough things to stalk and "hunt" just like they would outside. Fortunately, there's no need to bring live mice or lizards into our homes. Cat toys and some interactive playtime are enough to satisfy the hunting cravings of most cats. Read this guide to learn how to create the perfect "hunt simulator" at home: Playing with Your Cat: 10 Things You Need To Know

    Physical activity is also important. Cats need a space that's large enough to encourage them to move around. That movement comes from the innate need to patrol their territory, so the larger the territory, the more exercise your cat gets. In one study, researchers from the University of Illinois used radio transmitters to track the movement of cats who were let outside. They found that the average pet cat patrolled a territory of about 4.9 acres. That's more than 213,000 square feet - about 100 times larger than the average American home.

    So, if cats prefer to roam across acres of land, does that mean we should let them go outside? Not necessarily. As noted before, wandering outside is certainly dangerous for our kitties. Depending on where you live, letting a cat go outside unsupervised can be anything between potentially harmful to incredibly dangerous.

    The point we're trying to make here is that you should keep your cat indoors, yet be aware of the cat's innate needs and try to create more space for your cat within the walls of your home. Sounds crazy, right? How can you add more room when you have limited floor space?

    The Concept of Vertical Space for Cats

    Let's try and look at the world from a cat's perspective. Imagine that you're about a foot high and can jump and climb really well. Now take a look at your home from that feline perspective. See how much unused space there is around you?

    Cats thrive on climbing and jumping and can really make the most of all that unused vertical space. Making the most of height, you can create paths that add a sense of distance for Kitty, without ever leaving the confines of your home. As far as your cat is concerned, you can make your home much larger without adding any floor space.

    Check out these videos and prepare yourself to be inspired. These people created mazes of intricate cat walks and paths constructed within ordinary homes (And keep reading for practical tips for making the most of the vertical space in your own home!) -


    2. Cat shelves

    No place for a cat tree? Shelves take up zero floor space, and cats enjoy jumping from one shelf to the next. All you need to do is make sure the shelves are not too far apart from one another, and of course, keep them clear of any items that your cat may knock over.

    Here are a few examples, shared by our members in the cat forums -

    Shared by Pattiwatti


    Shared by cicoccabim


    Shared by mickNsnicks2mom


    Shared by mickNsnicks2mom


    3. Window perches

    How about a shelf with a view? That's what a window perch essentially is. Any window sill that's wide enough and free of clutter will do the job. If you don't have a window sill, you can put up a shelf or even hang a perch from the glass panes.

    Our member Bengalcatman designed the window sills in his home to be used as cat window perches.


    stephanietx installed this "catnapper" as a window perch


    Our member KittyPa combined the concepts of a cat tree with the window perch!

    4. Utilizing existing furniture and fixtures

    As you can see from the examples above, creating vertical space for your cat can be done simply by utilizing existing fixtures and fittings in your home. Encourage your cat to climb on surfaces such as your kitchen table, cupboards and even the fridge. Unless a surface is dangerous for Kitty - like the kitchen counters and stove - allow and even encourage her to explore that vertical space. Remember that "up" for cats is just like left and right are for us - directions to be explored and moved across.

    5. Creating a path

    If at all possible, create paths across high surfaces. This can be a series of cat shelves or a combination of a cat tree and the top of your fridge, bridged using a couple of cat shelves. The idea is to allow your cat to travel across one or more rooms without touching the floor, creating an entire new level for exploration and exercise.

    We hope this article inspires you to add more room for your home's feline residents! More space means more mental and physical stimulation for your cats, leading to reduced stress levels, fewer behavior problems and better health!

    Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below, and as always, if you have any question about cat care and behavior, start a thread about it in the cat forums.
    Apr 12, 2017 | | |

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  1. sweettuxies Mom
    So dissapointed...None of the links above will open for me-I only receive errors that the sites (s) cant be found :bawling: I'm short on space and have really narrow sills and have been searching for perches / perch ideas for my little ones.
  2. Shane Kent
    I like KittyPa's window perch. I will be making them this summer when I am done building the deck at the cottage. I want one at a mid height for a bedroom window perch and a taller one for a basement window. I will try and take photos of when I build them and post to a thread if I have the time.
  3. tarasgirl06
  4. roserivers
    when we knew that at some point the two cats we have would actually come and live with us, we began making plans. Our home is long, very long. It's Victorian, it's over a shop so it runs in a straight line from the shop itself, through the store and out the back. There's also an upstairs, so there are steps in the main part and steps up to the bedrooms. This extends their area by two more rooms and three window sills, not to mention the stairs equivalent of the cat tree, one sits at the top and defies the other to get past... makes for some interesting acrobatics, Kit, the Burmese, often takes flying leaps over Kai, pretending to guard the bedrooms!
    We made them a cardboard box tunnel and joined it to a three storey cardboard box house which gave them a lot of fun for months. Then we realised they weren't playing with it any more, so it was demolished (can be rebuilt in the future if we think they're up for it) and different toys and games were introduced. They do tend to make their own games, one is leaping into the armchair while the other rushes round the back so the one in front has no idea where the 'attack' is coming from...
    The satisfaction of 'owning' these two rescue cats (we are their fourth home) is unbelievable. We have been living with them now for 11 months and Kai, AKA Mr Grumpy Boots, has actually started to play with toys like a woollen mouse which has already needed stitching up again but it's something his rather clumsy paws can handle, or any dangling tassels, things like that which have been ignored by him all this time. He has even ventured to climb onto me and tried to sit down, unsuccessfully, it's as if he doesn't know what to do with his legs. He'll get there, I just hold him gently so he won't fall and let him work it out.
    The other satisfaction is; the shop below us is a framing shop. They weren't there when we bought the property, the estate agents (real estate people?) moved out and the framing people moved in, bringing excessively noisy pieces of equipment with them. So, after about ten years of noise, it was good to go downstairs and say 'hi, hope our cats aren't bothering you.' The owner said 'you've got cats????' The daughter said 'oh yes, they've got cats' as she listens to two 10pound cats thundering through our apartment, the equivalent of the entire length of the shop, and absolutely nothing they can do about it!!
  5. segelkatt
    I live in a rental so putting up shelves is not an option. I also don't like for my cats to climb all over the place as it invites counter surfing. Mine have a cat tree and they do hang out on the back of the sofa. Best of all, I have a glass enclosed patio on the second floor that faces trees  and an embankment with bushes and other low plants and a small patch of lawn. My cats go out there all the time, take a nap in the sun and watch all kinds of wildlife from lizards and birds to rabbits, squirrels and the occasional coyote. Also people who walk their dogs and maintenance folk. I have a hummingbird feeder which the hummers who nest in the tree right outside the window frequent to the joy of my cats who watch them intently. On the occasion that I open the patio windows I have had lizards come in and once a bird, both of which became prey of the cats. So far they have not yet caught a squirrel, those seem to be too smart to come inside but their presence on the ledge outside the glass Is a constant amusement to them. So although my cats are strictly indoors they do not seem to miss any of the excitement of the outdoors.     
  6. tarasgirl06
    MANY thanks for this informative, interesting and educational article.  Many people probably don't know that cats are arboreal creatures, for the most part, and that they not only love, but NEED, to climb.  Making a happy indoor life for the cats we love is creative and fun, whatever our environment, budget, and decor!   And another great thing about it is that it can be a "work in progress" with tweaks and additions as you go along, as your cat family gets larger, and/or as you change decor.  Cat behaviorist extraordinaire Jackson Galaxy and cat lover/interior design expert Kate Benjamin have quite a lot to say on the subject in their books, TV appearances, videos, blogs, and social media accounts.  So do cat lovers and designers/photographer Bob Walker and Frances Mooney, ditto.  
  7. raysmyheart
    Wow, this is such an exciting article for me.  Since Speedy and I have been together, I have installed a cat perch (she loves to watch the bird feeder and trill)!  I recently purchased her a cat tower (not as tall as I would like, but she can sort of "get away from it all" on the top.  I have boxes and domes and tunnels set up for her on ground level, but this article really gets me thinking about the height thing.  I LOVED both videos, that is truly my dream to live in a home like that with my cat!  I loved the perches by members on the walls!  My boss and friend at work has the dream of installing shelves on her wall.  She has five cats and is making plans with her fiance.  Cats loving to be up high may be why Speedy often lies on the top of the stairs where she can look down through the railing.  I always think she is "getting away from it all"!  Thank you for this great article!
  8. kntrygrl256
    Mine do that too, that's why I want to add shelves. Maybe they will stay off my cabinets and bookshelves. LOL
  9. donutte
    My cats made their own vertical space, lol. The cabinets, the bookshelves, the top of my tube tv in my bedroom... lol.
  10. kntrygrl256
    Love these ideas. I am hoping to make my vertical space more available when I get in my new house. I now have several great ideas. Thanks for posting.