Cats are one of the most apartment-friendly pets to have because they do well on their own. Leaving a cat all day while you're at work is fine. Taking a quick overnight trip doesn't require a pet sitter if you leave out enough food and a clean litter box.
These independent creatures still love fiercely and are quick to cuddle up or demand attention. However, they won't suffer as much as other animals when left alone. As a result, a big part of how to care for cats means creating an environment that caters to their needs.
Cats get a bad reputation as being devious and moody, but most of that comes from being under-stimulated and bored. Like how a dog misbehaves when you miss their walk, cats act up when they're not happy.
“Playing regularly with a cat and providing…entertaining toys can…keep them stimulated and provide the exercise they need to stay healthy and happy," says The Humane Society.
While you may suspect that all your apartment cats do during the day is sleep, they actually have many active periods. “Cats do need plenty of sleep, but they also require regular exercise and mental stimulation," says Richard Parker from Senior Cat Wellness.com.
By designing the right environment for your cat, you'll provide them with opportunities for play and exercise. This keeps them out of trouble from boredom whether you're home or away.
Here are a few ways to create a perfect “Catopia."
The easiest way to keep your cat active and occupied is with toys. Portable and affordable, with a lot of options, cats get excited to go after almost anything that moves or makes noise. Most cat toys fit into one of three categories.
If you're looking to give any of your cat's toys a little something extra, add some catnip to the mix. “When a cat eats catnip, it acts as a sedative, but when smelled, it causes the cat to go crazy," says Dr. Jennifer Coates from PetMD. This is the good kind of crazy because it's exercise through positive stimulation.
After you finish playing, make sure to clean toys to keep them germ-free and lasting a long time.
Cats like to see the world from all angles but feel most comfortable up high. From up here, they can see more and often feel safer. Getting off the ground is an instinct you can indulge for a happier cat.
If you're able to put holes in the walls of your apartment, consider installing some cat shelves. There are even fabric-covered options, in funky shapes, designed for cat-accessible homes.
If holes aren't allowed, you can still take your cat to new heights with a tall cat tree. These ready-made cat jungle gyms offer high platforms, scratching posts and other fun elements to keep your cat engaged and stimulated.
Independent play for cats is more than interacting with their toys. They can get the same benefits from a challenge, so engage their brains with a cat puzzle. Either homemade or store-bought, cat puzzles usually involve food or treats as a reward.
The challenge is trying to get it, so they don't mind putting in the work to solve the puzzle. This is an easy solution for mischievous cats, acting out from boredom. “Using a puzzle feeder is just one aspect of an all-around enhancement of your cat's day-to-day life," says Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Cat Wise, writing for Cat Behavior Associates.
A store-bought puzzle feeder can provide enough stimulation to last all day. If homemade is more your thing, an empty water bottle or paper roll works as well.
Cats and curiosity go hand-in-hand and what better place to stare at stuff than a window. Birds and squirrels to watch by day, and bugs by night. Even the wind blowing leaves, cars going by and people talking outside are enough to do the trick.
This constant source of stimulation is a great way to keep cats in an apartment occupied without having to do anything other than set up a perch or bed near the busiest window. They'll stare for hours and see things you weren't even aware were there.
Cat personalities vary like people's. They'll have preferences on where they like to sleep like we have our favorite spot to sit and chill. For those who prefer to stay up high to sleep, place a smaller cat bed up on a dresser or on top of a bookcase your cat can safely reach. If you end up with a tall cat tree, they may prefer to sleep on its highest platform.
For those that don't need the height to settle into the 15 hours of napping most cats do each day, a soft blanket on the couch or a chair could attract their attention. You can even consider adding a cat bed in a cozy spot on the floor.
Cats don't necessarily like sleeping out in the open, so having a little corner to snuggle into may be more attractive. They also like to feel warm, even with all that fur. If your apartment gets some direct sun during the day, consider placing a cat bed in the path of the beams.
A huge part of creating a cat-friendly apartment is the time you give your cat. Playing, cuddling or hanging out together leads to the well-being of your cat. They're quick to tell you when they want attention, too. You may think their meow means something else, but they're talking to you.
“The meow is human-directed communication. Cats have learned that they cannot communicate with us the way they do with other cats, which is why cats meow at humans to communicate. Scientists believe cats have refined this “meow" language to converse with humans," says Jessica Pierce, Ph.D. from Psychology Today.
Give in to your cat's requests for cuddles. Focus your petting on their face, cheeks, forehead, ears and under the chin near their scent glands to get that purr going. A firm rub along their spine makes for a happy cat, too.
After finishing all the cuddling and playing, your cat is going to need to eat. Keeping their food area clean and full of food is yet another way to ensure a happy pet. If the water bowl starts to get a little grimy, switch to a watering fountain that circulates to keep the dish clean. Small food bowls will hold enough for your cat and are easy to wash between feedings.
When the food is all gone, the next stop is the litter box. This area should also remain clean and cleaned out. Some cats won't use a little box that's too full, so check it once a day.
With the right toys and accessories and plenty of quality time with you, your cat will live out their days happy.