Can cats live happily in an apartment?

Can cats live happily in an apartment?

Do you wonder if you can be a cat owner if you live in an apartment? Is it cruel to have an indoor cat? Do they need to go outside? Do indoor cats get depressed?

The good news is cats can absolutely live happily in an apartment. In fact, in hot climates keeping your cat indoors will protect them from the heat and humidity, as well as keeping them safe from other animals or being hurt in a road traffic accident.

There are some important measures to put in place in your apartment to avoid a stressed cat, which can be quite common and be equally as upsetting for the owners as it is for the cat.

Cats are particularly sensitive little creatures who need their spaces set up just so to help them on their way to being truly content. Many behavioural issues seen in cats are caused by their resources (food, water, sleeping spaces etc.) not being adequate. There are a few simple rules to follow for cats living in apartments.

Feeding time

Firsty, cats don’t like their drinking water and food to be next to each other. In the wild, cats wouldn’t hunt near their water source, and this instinct has stayed with domestic cats. You should provide separate bowls for your cat’s food and water but don’t place them next to each other. Ideally, they should be in separate rooms. If that is not practical, at least have them in different corners of a room.

Cats can be fussy about what material they like to feed from, so you may want to try different options to see which pleases your cat. You can try plastic, stainless steel, silicon or ceramic bowls. Stainless steel is the most hygienic, but some cats can be startled by their own reflection in the bottom.

A tabby and white cat is eating from a stainless steel bowl in an apartment room.

Cats don’t like to drink next to their food. You should provide separate bowls for their food and water.


Going to the toilet is obviously a normal function for a cat, and luckily indoor cats can be easily trained to use a litter tray. There are a few rules to follow for cats living in apartments to keep them happy and prevent them from toileting in inappropriate areas.

Litter trays should be in a quiet area of the home, and not next to a doorway or a window where they may feel threatened. Some cats prefer enclosed litter trays (with lids and sometimes a cat flap door), and some like a tray without a lid. In any case, the litter tray should always be big enough for your cat to sit in comfortably and ideally be 1 and a half times the full length of the cat, which can mean quite a large tray!

It is also important to have the right number of litter trays. There should be one tray per cat plus one. So if you have one cat, that means two litter trays; if you have two cats, then three litter trays, and so on. These should be in different rooms in the apartment, not sitting next to each other, or near their food or water.

There are many different litter options to try (clay, wood pellets, silica gel, paper pellets), and cats can be particular about which litter substrate they like. Often cats prefer softer litters that are not uncomfortable under their feet or make too much noise. The tray should be filled with a layer of at least 3 cm of litter. It is also important to keep litter trays clean and empty them regularly.

Feeling safe

An essential resource for a cat is a safe place to hide. It’s a good idea to provide areas for your cat to curl up in and stay out of sight. This can be a special cat tent or igloo, or a cardboard box. It can be a space on top of a wardrobe, bookshelf, or even under a bed.

Some cats like to have a cat tree to climb up on, and some have built in boxes that are perfect for hiding away in.

 A silver cat is sitting on a perch on a cat tree in an apartment room.

Cats need to have places to hide in. Cat trees provide opportunities to jump up and hide.

Play time

Cats that go outdoors have a whole host of places to explore and ways to be entertained. Cats living in apartments rely on their owners to provide environmental enrichment to satisfy their natural instincts. So as well as providing the basic food, shelter and toilet facilities, cats need to play and be stimulated. There are many indoor cat games you can play with your cat or kitten to keep them happy and content. Cats only play for short bursts of time, and some are more playful than others, with kittens being much more playful than older cats. Try a few different games with your cat to see which type they prefer.

A black cat is on his back, playing with a multicoloured feather cat toy.

Cats that live indoors need to have stimulation and the opportunity to act out their natural instincts, such as hunting.

Cat companions

Often people wonder if their cat would be happier with a feline friend, a companion for when their owners are at work or away. Cats are solitary animals, and most will not thank you for bringing an intruder into their home. A cat who has all it’s resources, with the opportunity to play, will be quite happy when left alone rather than having to cope with sharing it’s territory with another cat. Kitten siblings are more likely to get along and live happily together, but even that is not a guarantee.

Environmental enrichment is key

So be happy to know that if you are thinking about bringing a cat home to live with you in your apartment, he or she will be perfectly happy as long as you provide them with an environment that has plenty of space, feeding bowls, litter trays, toys and of course, your love and affection. There may be a bit of trial and error until you find out exactly what makes your cat tick, and what doesn’t, but once you have sussed this out your cat will thank you for it and will be a fantastic, feline friend who can live happily in your apartment with you.

Author: Gillian Davidson,  RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), Scotland.

Author: Gillian Davidson, RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse),Scotland.

Gillian began working in a veterinary practice in 2007 and qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2011. Gillian has worked in various animal practices in the West of Scotland, and is particularly interested in behaviour medicine and weight management. Gillian has also been a clinical coach for student veterinary nurses for 10 years.

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