How to Catify Your Apartment - 9 Tips for Having a Cat-Friendly Apartment

cats climbing on apartment wall cat furniture

Living in a smaller home or an apartment comes with challenges, which expand as you bring cats into the mix. We've compiled everything you need to know regarding what to include to best utilize the space when having a cat in an apartment or smaller home. Is it cruel to keep a cat in a studio apartment? Not as long as you provide the proper feline enrichment.  Follow these steps to create a peaceful & healthy household for you and your cats.  Here we touch on everything, from what to include, handling litter boxes, cat-proofing, how to incorporate cat walls, and how to make sure you get your security deposit back once you move out.

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Why is Catification Important in Apartments?

heavy cat laying on a bed

The limited space that comes with living in an apartment or smaller home can present obstacles. In most cases, indoor cats are already under-stimulated and don't receive the same level of exercise as they would in the wild. According to VCA Hospitals, feline obesity is the leading disease in cats with over 60% of indoor cats in the US considered overweight. This is preventable, and if a cat is constrained to a smaller home or apartment, it’s even more important to utilize the space by creating a way for them to stay active and healthy.  The following steps take you through how to entertain a cat in a small apartment.

9 Tips to Catify Your Apartment

Many people struggle with knowing what to provide a cat in a small apartment. With space constraints and fewer options for litter box areas, these are our top suggestions: 

cats climbing on cat furniture

1. Utilize Vertical Space

Cats love to be up high and with limited floor space, providing vertical space is a must. Even a more basic elevated area like a hammock or cat bed gives a cat their own personal space to rest without interruptions from dogs or small kids. 

Between myself and other people I’ve spoken to, I've never heard of a case where someone hasn't been able to install cat furniture into apartment walls. A lot of people think they're not allowed to, or are worried about damaging the wall, but I've never experienced anything other than getting my full deposit back. We've compiled some suggestions for this below, including what we suggest asking the apartment office and a video showing how easy wall repair can be.

If you’re interested in building out a cat wall, we offer cat condos and have a cat wall design tips blog with some helpful suggestions to consider.

2. Promote Play & Exercise

Promoting play and exercise is important for any cat home, but in apartments that present a more confined space, it’s essential. According to vets, we should be playing with our cats for at least 10 minutes a day. Doing this raises their heart rate and helps build a bond with you. Here are our top exercise promoting suggestions.

  • Interactive toys - there are many interactive toys for cats, but since we’re trying to keep them active, I would suggest a wand toy to be the best. Here are our top cat toy suggestions.
  • Incorporating a Cat Wall - Creating a cat wall is a great way to encourage your cat to stay active, because it includes functionality to replicate things they would have access to in the wild. It’s a great space off the floor for them to scratch, climb, play, and rest.
  • Stairs - If you’re lucky enough to have an apartment with stairs, they can be excellent for promoting exercise. A great thing to do it toss dental treats down the stairs and let your cats run up and down. This can be a lot of work for the cat, so if you notice them starting to pant or they start leaving their mouth open, they’re over-exerted and it’s time to take a break.
cat standing on stairs
Stairs = Purrfect Exercise
cat outside on a balcony

3. Secure Balcony 

A balcony can be great for cats to venture out to soak up some sun and get some fresh air. If you do have a balcony just be sure to create a space that’s safe for your cat. I previously lived on the second level of an apartment building, and my cat jumped off the balcony once or twice. I don’t think a cat would try this higher up, but there’s always the chance of them jumping up to a railing and slipping.

  • Pet Screen - If your cat is more active and you're concerned about this, a good solution may be to use pet screen to fully enclose the space. 
  • Pet door - If you have a sliding door to the balcony and would like to give your cat freedom to go out at their leisure, a pet door might be a good tool.
  • Door Bracket - This is an option for doors that are on hinges, but it does leave a gap so it would only  be suitable in warmer weather.

4. Litter Box Solutions

So where to put a litter box in a small apartment? Nobody  wants to eat dinner or sit down on the couch after a hard day's work with a litter box sitting a few feet away. Keep in mind that vets suggest you have one extra litter box than you have cats. So if you have two cats, you need three litter boxes. This means if you’re in an apartment or smaller home, you need to get strategic.

cat in litter box enclosure

Covered Litter Box - If you go the route of getting a covered box or one with a top entrance point, just be sure it’s tall enough for your cat to comfortably use. If you introduce a new litter box to your cats, you'll still want them to have access to a version they’re used to, to be sure it the new design works for them.

Hidden Litter Box Furniture - This is actually a fun new DIY page we’re in the process of building out. I’m making four different DIY hidden litter boxes for the home, but it isn’t yet complete. This is a place holder for once it is. If you look online, there are plenty of different options to choose from, but since I’ve never bought one, I’m not sure which is best.

Closet/pantry litter - In my last apartment I had a large pantry, which instead of using as a pantry I put several litter boxes in and added a bracket on the door so that it couldn’t shut all the way. This worked very well, but I no longer had a pantry for food, which wasn’t ideal.

How to get rid of cat litter smell in apartment? - Vets recommend cleaning your litter box daily, and if you are doing this it will keep the smell down for the most part. With that said, I still highly recommend getting an air purifier. It will make the apartment more pleasant for both you and the cats.

Air filtration recommendation: QAIS-air- 04 - We really like this design because it's wall mounted so it doesn't take up floor space and it also doesn't require changing filters.

Litter tracking - I have three litter boxes and don’t have enough motivation to vacuum daily, so tracked litter is an issue. That’s where Roomba comes in. He goes to work at 5pm everyday and does a nice job picking up any litter that’s been tracked around the house. I’ve seen litter options that say they’re non-tracking, but I’ve never been able to get my cats to use the pellets. Another helpful thing is to have a litter mat out side the box to help catch excess litter.

5. Appropriate Scratching Outlets

Cats have a natural instinct to scratch. They do it to keep their claws healthy, stretch, and climb. If you don’t offer an appropriate scratching surface, cats will typically find other surfaces in the house, like couches or your favorite chair.

Some cats prefer scratching cardboard and others prefer sisal scratching poles. We’ve been going with sisal poles because they don’t shred like cardboard does. My cat Bronson preferred cardboard so I got it anyways. I think it may have been due to him being heavy and enjoying lounging on it. He also used to get hunted by the other cats and I think other than being comfortable, another bonus to floor standing cardboard scratchers is if you are lounging and get snuck up on, you’re able to jump away from it in any direction for a quick get away.  Check out Bronson’s favorite cat cardboard scratcher.

A nice thing about wall-mounted scratching posts and poles is that after they’re installed into the wall, they take up no floor space and you can rotate the worn sisal areas towards the wall to stretch out the life of the replaceable parts. If you’re using the scratching poles as a method of correcting a cat from scratching a couch or chair, be sure to install it where they can easily access it from the floor. You don’t want it to be less accessible then scratching the couch, if that’s an issue in your home.

6. Cat-friendly Furniture Material

It’s a good idea to buy furniture that can withstand cat claws and possible messes. For couches and chairs, I prefer a canvas material because it holds up well and I haven’t found my cats scratching at it. Some other popular materials are Microfiber and microsuede. We advise staying away from leather and faux-leather because claw marks are very easily visible on those.

7. Cat Window Perch

Most cats love hanging out at windows and observing the outdoors. It’s a great way to add a special activity while taking up a minimal amount of space in your apartment. You can create this space by simply positioning a couch or chair near a window, or by getting them any of the following products.

If you want to supercharge this experience, consider installing a bird feeder outside the window.

8. Scheduled Feeding

Most indoor cats are overweight, so it's important to monitor their calorie intake. The two easiest ways to control calories are by scheduled feeding and by keeping cats from eating each others food. A feeding schedule will also help reduce cats asking for food each time you walk into the kitchen. I feed twice a day, at 7 am and 7 pm.  I have an alarm on my phone set for feeding time, and when it goes off the cats rush into the kitchen because they know it’s time to eat. 

Food Separation Options for Multiple Cats -

If one cat is known for enjoying another cat’s food after theirs is finished, here are some options to keep those calories separated. 

cat eatiinig out of microchip feeder
  • Room Separation for Cats - This is a cost-effective option that can be quite effective. However, ensure there's a litter box in each room. Keep in mind, it may not be the most time-efficient choice as it requires releasing cats after their meal.
  • SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder - This is expensive, but a really nice option. It works with your cat’s existing microchip to automatically open for a specific cat. 
  • Cat Wall Feeder - This is a great option if the food bandit isn’t as agile as the victim whose food is being eaten. Just install the Feeder high enough so that only the cat it’s meant for is able to reach it. This is also a nice option if you’re trying to keep a cat's food away from dogs. 

For more information and catification ideas, here are two highly recommended resources by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin.

How to Cat-Proof my Apartment

With all catification comes cat safety. While you’re building out the perfect habitat for your cat, be sure to watch out for the following to avoid serious consequences or the spread of germs throughout the apartment. How to make an apartment cat friendly without

  • Be sure to clean using pet-safe products - See our recommendations and which products that are toxic to cats to avoid.
  • Clean countertops daily and prior to food preparation - I allow my cats to go on the countertops because I’m not sure you can train a cat not to, and because it would be a difficult conversation trying to explain that I would like them to climb on their cat wall shelves but not on the counter. I have heard that installing cat shelves higher than the countertops promotes cats to use those instead. With that said, I feel like all cats know delicious things happen on countertops and they’re probably always going to be more attracted to that space. 
  • Cat-safe plants - Most cats love to chew on or eat plants, so make sure to either have them out of reach or find option which are cat-safe. Apartment plants safe for cats
  • Essential Oils: How to make an apartment cat friendly while enjoying the aromatic properties of essential oils. Just be sure to first check to make sure they're safe. Many of them are toxic to cats if ingested or inhaled. Cats lack certain liver enzymes needed to metabolize essential oils, making them more susceptible to toxicity. Examples include tea tree oil, citrus oil, and wintergreen oil.

Installing Cat Walls in Apartments & Wall Repair

A common misconception is that you’re not able to install cat furniture in a rented space or apartment. Every apartment I’ve lived in has allowed the residents to install a wall-mounted tv and those use much larger bolts that are more difficult to patch up on your way out than wall-mounted cat furniture.

Inquire About Apartments' TV Mounting Policy

In the past I’ve asked the apartment place if it’s ok to mount my TV if I patch and paint on my way out and they’ve never had an issue with it. I take this as “it’s fine to install anything you would like”. This is because a cat wall installation is a hard thing to explain without it sounding like it’s going to destroy the wall. All drywall can be easily repaired and I know there won't be any sign it was there anyways.

Since I’ve been living in apartments and also know I’m going to be constantly switching cat furniture out on the wall, I start by asking the apartment for a pint of paint for touch-up. In most cases they’ve been able to give me this, but once they only had the color code available.

Ask for Touch-Up Paint

This will ensure the paint is the same color as the walls. It’s best to get this paint from the apartment. Another option is for them to give you the color code, but it may be a slightly different shade if mixed in a separate batch.

drill pencil stud finder power drill list of supplies

Install During Reasonable Hours

If you live in an apartment, be sure to keep those neighbors in mind. Most apartments have quiet hours and since you’re installing into the wall studs, the vibration can typically be heard from a neighboring apartment.

Quick & Simple

Apartment Wall Repair

Repairing your drywall is important in order to get your security deposit back. All you need is a putty knife and some joint compound. Each of our mounting planks uses three holes which are the same size as what you would see hanging pictures on the wall. I would highly recommend not sanding because that can create a bit of a mess, and instead using a damp cloth as shown in this video.

Products used:

drywall being repaired

    Comments (1)

    What an entertaining source of information! I haven’t lived in apartments in years, but my friends do, and all of us were under the impression that nothing could be installed on the walls, other than pictures, etc. Your points are sensible and backed-up with the necessary how-to’s. I’m bookmarking this page to send to friends, & making a note in my “must remember” (since I’m old) book. Thank you for a great read & new info.

    May 2024

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    Quality workmanship, easily installed, and made by folks who really know cats.

    MaryAlice R.

    Verified Buyer

    collection of cat condos