Small Apartment, Big Ideas: 5 Ways to Make Your Compact Digs More Feline-Friendly
Kelli Burke, of Alexandria, Va., adores her newly adopted Maine Coon kittens, Felix and Odin. But she’s not so keen on letting the playful duo shred her sofa — or the giant litter box that's on full display in the living room of her compact apartment.
Burke wants to make her high-rise more engaging for her indoor kittens, without sacrificing nice décor or taking a big bite out of her monthly budget.
“Sometimes, I worry that there is not enough space in my small apartment to keep them busy and prevent them from destroying things out of boredom,” says Burke, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Burke’s dilemma is one that's shared by many apartment dwellers, so Vetstreet asked the perfect person for advice on how to enrich the lives of indoor cats when space is at a premium: Bob Walker, who's best known for his creative feline furniture and interior designs.
Walker is the man behind the famous Cats' House in San Diego, which he shares with his wife, Frances, a Dachshund named Sadie, and nine contented cats. Animal Planet producers have described their home as “the most wildly cat-centric abode imaginable.” (For proof, check out our gallery of the Cats' House.)
From hidden litter boxes to chic cat shelves, Walker offers his top five tips for turning your small-in-size apartment into a major feline-friendly abode.
Don’t Fixate on Square Footage
The amount of floor space you have isn’t as important to indoor cats as how you utilize available floor-to-ceiling real estate. “Think in terms of vertical space and cubic space options by utilizing areas behind and around furniture,” says Walker.
Cats like to perch up high and look down at their surroundings, so consider mounting a sturdy window perch, or position a tall cat tree near a sliding glass door to give your cat a view of the world outside.
“Cats are sun-seekers," says Walker. "So these places can provide a cozy place to also take a cat nap.”
Install Chic Climbing Posts
Many cats like to sharpen their claws and show off their climbing skills, so consider buying a compact floor-to-ceiling post, which you can wrap in thick sisal rope. It will look more sophisticated — and your kitty will get a good workout scaling the tower.
Create a Kitty Obstacle Course
Design a fun maze by strategically placing shelves in a pattern on a wall using toggle bolts or wall plugs with prongs. “I recommend cat shelves made of Douglas fir or some other kind of dense wood,” says Walker. “And opt for two-by-six-foot shelves, which are the perfect width for a cat to dangle his legs over the edges.”
Make the Litter Box Disappear
It's easy to make a litter box blend in with your home décor by stowing it in a unit that looks like an end table or another piece of furniture, which Walker says you can scavenge on sites like Kitty Store Online.
Designate Feline-Free Zones
With less room to roam at night, Burke’s cats sometimes prevent her from getting a good night’s sleep because they scratch at her closed bedroom door. Walker suggests placing a battery-powered Scat Mat in the hallway. It will emit a safe, three-second static charge designed to discourage insistent kittens — and she can put it away come morning.
Want to see more ideas? Check out our gallery of Walker's home, the Cats' House.
Bob Walker and Frances Mooney share their feline-friendly San Diego digs — known as the Cats' House — with nine kitties, plus a Dachshund.
Indoor kitties often enjoy surveying the scene from up high, so Walker has installed plenty of climbing posts wrapped in colorful sisal and cat ledges.
Wooden planks can be mounted to walls, providing cats with places to hang out.
A winding, colorful staircase enables Walker's cats to explore from all angles — and get in some exercise.
Walker recommends using Douglas fir or other dense wood when crafting ramps and perches for indoor cats.
The clever "mouse" hole in this wall leads to another room.
Providing indoor cats with ramps and toys can help stave off behavior issues.