Dr. Rachel Geller
Creating Vertical Space in an Apartment
What is the secret to living in an apartment with cats? Maximizing your vertical space.
We tend to think of living space as horizontal. Our furniture is placed on the floor. Our refrigerator is placed on the floor. How much living space we perceive that we have is based on how comfortably we can horizontally move about on the floor throughout the apartment. Our cats look at their world vertically. You might come home one day and find your cat on top of the refrigerator or perched atop the back of your couch - places you would never find a dog! Cats don’t mind small apartments and the lack of space and legroom the way a human does as long as you have plenty of vertical space. Wanting to be on elevated places comes naturally to your cat.
Look at your apartment from your cat’s perspective. Your cat is only about a foot high, yet she can jump and climb with ease. See how much unused vertical space you have? When you add vertical space, your indoor cat feels like she is navigating great distances, all without ever leaving the safety of your apartment.
Why Vertical Space?
Vertical space has many purposes! Elevated spaces give a cat safety and security. Cats love the ability to survey the apartment from a secure vantage point. If you have more than one cat, vertical space is an easy way to let your cats establish status and control without having to engage in aggressive behaviors such as posturing and intimidation. With varying levels of height, a more dominant cat can demonstrate his status through seeking the highest places to perch, eliminating the need to engage in conflict with the other cat. Vertical space is effective in eliminating turf wars by expanding the cat’s territory and limiting the competition for resources. Climbing is terrific exercise for a cat, too. Climbing and jumping up to elevated spaces and then watching the world go by prevents boredom. If one of your cats tends to eat the other cat’s food, placing a cat’s meal in an elevated area provides a safe feeding station.
Turning small living spaces into cat friendly apartments is easy and does not have to break the budget. Let’s look at re-purposing what you already have!
Bookcases & Sofas
Many times, landlords won’t allow you to make holes in the walls, but not to worry. Bookcases, tops of furniture and the backs of chairs all make wonderful cat perches. Toss a cozy blanket over the back of your sofa or put a small pillow on one of the shelves in your bookcase.
DIY Window Perches
A table by the window that has a fleece blanket folded in half and placed on top can now be a window perch. Anything soft and inviting can transform vertical space into an enticing napping spot with the elevation a cat loves. As long as the elevated areas are safe and comfortable, you can get as creative or basic as you want.
Containers and Storage Racks
Your storage pieces can do double duty. That rack that stores videos and games can be rearranged to become a cat walkway. Containers that are used to stow clothing can be high resting spots by adding a cozy blanket on top of them.
If your building does allow you to put up shelving, we’ve got ideas that work for the smaller wall space in apartments. Wall mounted systems allow you to have a multi-tiered cat tree, without the “tree” part of it. By using shelving and bridges, your cat can lounge and climb on your wall! These space-saving sets are ideal for apartments, enlarging the cat’s living space while not impinging on yours. These come in a variety of depths and widths to accommodate any size cat. Be sure to check the weight capacity of the shelving and bridges, because a 20-pound Maine Coon will need a sturdier shelf than a slender Siamese.
As far as your cat is concerned, your apartment can double or triple in size, without adding any floor space! We’d love to see photos of how you maximize vertical space in your apartment. Tag us in your photos and let us know how much your cat loves her new areas.