Having a cat in an apartment

At first glance, everyone knows someone whose cat seems to have adapted very well to the confinement imposed by apartment life. One can even find advantages, such as security. A cat in an apartment is not at risk of being run over by a car. He has little chance of fighting with stray cats and catching certain infectious diseases such as FIV.
The apartment is therefore a kind of golden prison that some individuals will tolerate better than others. Before making the decision to keep a cat in an apartment, one must be fully aware of what this implies for him in order to compensate for his deprivations as best as possible.

Which cat to choose for a life in an apartment?

First of all, you must choose a kitten that has never lived outside. Indeed, as Dr. Joël Dehasse, behaviorist veterinarian, writes, “a cat born free must live free […] the cat determines the reference criteria of its environment before 9 weeks: it is imperative to respect these criteria to preserve a good mental balance”. [1]

A cat in an apartment must be perfectly socialized, and able to control its claws and teeth during games for example. A kitten will be well socialized if it has been handled and stroked regularly between two and seven weeks. To find out if your kitten has good self-control, hang it by the skin of its neck: it should come to rest instantly. If she struggles, it may be better to choose another one.

Satisfying the needs of an indoor cat

The cat in an apartment needs a rich and structured universe. For its well-being, separate areas must be set up: one or more feeding points, a litter box, several resting areas, and hiding places. Feeding, sleeping, and litter areas must be clearly separated in space, and must not be located in a noisy area or next to a noisy device. It is not advisable, for example, to place one’s bowl in close proximity to the bedding. This is how territorial animals are organized in nature. As much as possible, it is best to avoid moving furniture because cats use scent marks to “mark” their territory.

Cats really appreciate being able to gain height. All accessible shelves are welcome. If your apartment is small, it is a good way to increase the surface area available for the cat. Cat trees are for some an important distraction, others will not pay the slightest attention to them. They will be ideally located near the sleeping area. Scratching posts will also be used with varying degrees of success. To make them more attractive, you can rub them with an olive stone, or scratch them yourself with a fork dipped in olive oil, a very exciting smell for the cat. In general, the most stable scratching posts will be preferred by the cat (those made of cardboard are light, unstable, and often little used).

On the other hand, it is important to have periods of play with the cat, even as an adult, and to leave toys available during the day to counter boredom. Try to vary the activities as much as possible. The challenge is to find a toy that stimulates him and doesn’t tire him out too quickly.

Regarding nutrition, given the very limited physical activity of indoor cats, it is best to choose a low-calorie food. Many manufacturers offer croquettes specially formulated for cats in apartments. It is preferable to regularly monitor your cat’s weight and quickly ask your veterinarian for advice in case of abnormal weight gain. Some toys can both stimulate the cat and release food in small quantities. The most common are perforated tubes that the cat must roll to release the kibble. In general, cats have a lot of fun with them, but most have the disadvantage of being noisy and spreading kibble dust throughout the apartment. Other equally stimulating toys involve placing food on a play tray, or simply in a cup on the floor, to encourage the cat to grab the kibble with its paw. It is entirely possible to make these toys become your cat’s only source of food.

Never leave your cat on the balcony unattended. Defenestrations are more frequent than you might think, and all falls can be serious, from the 2nd floor as well as from the 5th floor. Also, be careful not to leave a window open if you are not in the room. However, don’t deprive your cat of a balcony or terrace, which is a considerable distraction and well-being element.

Games and distractions should allow you to avoid “predatory attacks”, which are a common problem for cats in apartments: without activity, the cat attacks the owner’s legs. If, despite everything, these attacks persist, it is strongly recommended that you turn to a behavioral veterinarian to set up an adapted treatment to reduce the cat’s level of excitement. Sometimes you will have to find a house with a garden for your cat.

Is it necessary to vaccinate, deworm, identify and sterilize a cat that does not go out?

  • Sterilization: The advantages from a medical point of view also apply to indoor cats. For males, sterilization will have the advantage of reducing excitement and urinary marking behaviors, but will constitute, in addition to confinement, a second factor favoring excessive weight gain.
  • Vaccination: Vaccination is still recommended for cats living in apartments. Indeed, some viruses are very resistant in the outside environment, and you can bring them home through your clothes or shoes (this is the case for example of the Calicivirus responsible for Coryza). Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after being in contact with another cat. Moreover, even if it does not have a free access to the outside, your cat could be brought punctually to consult a veterinarian, to be kept…. and to meet other cats.
  • Identification: identification by chip or tattoo is mandatory for all cats born after January 1, 2012, whether or not they live in an apartment.

Walking your cat on a leash: a good idea?

Some owners of cats living in apartments opt for walks on a leash. This can be a source of distraction for the cat, confronting it with situations, smells and noises that are out of the ordinary. To do so, equip it with a harness. The collars are not at all adapted to the cat’s morphology, which may come out of it. Begin with the adoption to make him wear the harness alone, then, once he is well tolerated, hang a light leash on it, leaving it lying around behind him. Nylon leashes are ideal because they are soft, light, and easily washable. The third step is to hold the leash by following the cat as he moves around. Finally, you can encourage the cat to follow you by calling him or her by luring him or her with a toy or treat. Under no circumstances should he be coerced. The first outings should be short, in a quiet place. Afterwards, you can go out in the street at quiet hours. If the cat is scared of something, take it in your arms and go home. All this again requires a well-balanced and sociable cat.