In most cases, cats should get the run of the house. But that’s not always possible and there are dozens of reasons that could require a cat to live in one room. Whether that’s part of the new cat introduction process, a big change in another part of the household, or a way of keeping your cat safe it comes up more frequently than you might expect.
So can cats live in one room? While it’s certainly not recommended, a cat could live in one room as long as it’s large enough to have everything they need including food and water with a separate space for the litterbox. Cats also need regular mental and physical stimulation regardless of the size of their space.
Let’s take a closer look at what a cat living in one room would need to have, how much space a cat needs, and why some folks keep a cat in one room- at least temporarily.
Can You Keep A Cat In One Room?
While bigger is typically going to be better, if you’re keeping a cat in one room it should be at least 12′ by 12′ in size. Any smaller and you’re going to have some problems fitting everything that a cat will need. It’s also important to make sure we’re talking about an actual room with a window and not a closet or a bathroom.
So assuming the room isn’t too small, let’s take a look at what a cat would need inside their designated space.
Food and Water
Obviously, cats need food and water in the room. Studies on the drinking habits of cats show that cats have a strong preference for multiple water locations so, in an ideal scenario, cats would have multiple water locations throughout their space. While that’s not always possible in a single room you can try to squeeze in at least two options.
The same study also found that cats prefer to have a water bowl that’s separate from their food bowl. Again, we’re limited by the size of the room but it should be possible to have a separate section for food.
Cats always need a litter box and it’s no different if they’re living in a single room. You’ll need to be strategic with the location of the litterbox if you’re working with limited space and it’s important not to put it too close to the food or water locations. If the room has a closet that you can leave open, that can make a great place for a litterbox. While it will stink up the closet a bit, it’s best to keep the litterbox away from the main living areas if possible and it will also improve the smell of the actual room.
Engagement, Exercise, and Enrichment
Imagine if you had to stay in one room all day, every day.
It could sound pretty boring at first right?
But what if you were told that you’d also have access to a complete virtual reality kit, a gym, multiple beds, and more along with regular visits from your best friend? Now it might not sound so bad!
Well, we can provide the same offer to our cats by making sure they have options for both mental and physical stimulation!
When it comes to mental stimulation, a window can be a complete game-changer for your cat, and it’s an absolute requirement if you’re planning on keeping your cat in a limited space. Windows give our cats a chance to see what’s happening in the outside world and can provide endless entertainment as they watch people, other pets, and potential prey outside.
Our cats will also need some kind of physical stimulation and the best option in most cases is a cat tree. Not only do cat trees offer a chance for cats to access heights, but they also give cats an opportunity for exercise and an appropriate place to scratch. Scratching is such an important part of being a cat that even after a painful surgery declawed surgery cats will still act on the urge to scratch. Cats also have a deep instinct for heights and cat trees help them act that out.
In other words, scratching and climbing aren’t optional for our cats and cat trees can appropriate outlets for these instincts! You can learn more about cat trees, including our favorite picks, on this page.
Finally, there are toys and while it may seem easy enough to throw a couple of mouse toys towards your cat and call it a day, cats really need interactive play. As feline behavior expert Pam Johnson Bennet explains, “While you may have lots of toys around the house for your cat, the problem is they’re essentially “dead” prey. They don’t move. The only way to create action is if your cat bats at them. With the interactive toy, however, she doesn’t have to be both predator and prey – she can simply focus on being the hunter.”
While there can be some variation between cats, I find that just about every single feline shows interest in Da Bird wand toy which you can see on Amazon by clicking here. This toy is easy to use and does a great job mimicking a real bird. It’s also very budget-friendly! But whatever you do, make sure you work some interactive play into your cat’s routine.
Love and Attention
Cats are typically viewed as aloof and uninterested which leads some folks to incorrectly assume that cats don’t need attention and interaction in the same way that dogs and other pets do.
That couldn’t be further from the truth and the BBC released a great article explaining this phenomenon.
Cats do need regular interaction and attention from their favorite person (that’s you) and the big risk of having a cat in a separate room all the time is that they won’t get enough attention when they’re out of the way. Part of the joy of cats is seeing them interact with our everyday routine. Whether that’s doing bizarre things like licking the blinds, flopping down in front of us when we get home, or just being silly having cats around the house just makes life better!
What Does All This Have To Do With a Cat Living In One Room?
The idea here is to focus on your cat’s needs instead of only the size of the room. A cat in a mansion with a poor litterbox placement, no windows to enjoy, and zero interactive play is likely to be more stressed and unhappy than a cat in a small studio apartment that has all their needs met!
So instead of asking if a cat can live in a single room, the question becomes, is this space large enough to provide everything my cat needs?
How Much Space Do Cats Need?
While the general rule of thumb that I’m suggesting is at least a 12′ by 12′ room that’s still pretty small. Still, instead of focusing too much on the size of the room, it’s more important to make sure that the room has everything it needs and that our feline friends get the love, attention, and stimulation they need to be healthy.
Do Some Cats Prefer to Stay In One Room?
Yes, it may be completely normal for some cats to stay in one room all day. Cats are naturally territorial creatures and in the wild part of their territory would be considered a home base where they spend most of their time and relax. It’s possible for some cats to consider a specific room part of their home base and prefer to spend more time there.
In other cases, cats may choose to stay in one room as a result of stress or anxiety so it’s important to look closely at what’s going on. You can learn more about whether staying in one room is normal cat behavior or not in this article.
So Should You Leave A Cat In One Room Or Is It Cruel?
In general, leaving a cat in one room isn’t a long-term solution. If cats have all their needs met, they can comfortably live and thrive in small spaces including a single room but our curious cats want to take part in our day-to-day routine, and being stuck in one room prevents them from doing that. While it wouldn’t be considered cruel, it’s not the nicest thing we could do to our feline friends.
Still, there are several scenarios where keeping a cat in one room makes the most sense including:
- Keeping foster cats separate from the rest of the household.
- As part of the introduction process for a new cat.
- During the treatment of an illness or quarantine.
- While renovations or other work are occurring around the house.
Just remember, that keeping a cat in a single room all day is not a long-term solution. If there are issues with aggression or stress they should be resolved in order to decrease the stress of the entire household. While keeping a cat in one room can help temporarily fix these types of problems it doesn’t really address the root of the issue!
What About A One-Bedroom Apartment?
Some apartments aren’t much bigger than a single room in the first place. So is a one-bedroom apartment large enough for a cat to live in?
Absolutely! Again, it isn’t the size of the room that matters as much as what’s inside and how much attention you give your cat. In many cases, cats will really enjoy living in a one-bedroom apartment because they always get to spend close time with their favorite human!
Can Two Cats Live In One Room Together?
Okay, so one cat can live in a small space like a room, but what about two cats?
Just as one cat can live in one room, two cats can as well but you’ll need a bit more space to make sure both cats’ needs are being met. The biggest difference between one and two cats is the issue of territory and both cats will need the opportunity to establish a specific area that’s all their own. Again, cat trees can be a great option but there are some things to consider before you assume your cats will happily share a tree.
Just make sure that in addition to all the basics covered above, there are cat-friendly spaces like cubbies, beds, or shelves for cats to get comfortable and call their own.
While cats can thrive in small spaces, it’s a result of what’s inside the room and not the size of it! The needs of cats don’t change much as the room size changes and our feline friends will always need food, water, a litterbox, love, exercise, and mental stimulation. While most of those needs aren’t dependent on the space available, there are limits to how small of a room you can go!
Finally, while a cat can do well living in one room, it’s not something that should be done long term. Instead, consider it a short-term option!