Should we get a kitty?
February 20, 2017 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I love cats; have never had any of my own, but have done a fair bit of caring for roommates' cats in the past. I'd dearly love to get one now, but don't know if my apartment is compatible with a pet. My concerns are under the fold.

We're a couple, no kids, living in a rented 1-bedroom high rise in the city. The landlord is fine about pets. The apartment is large for a 1-bd (~900 sq ft), but... it's still a 1-bd and I'm not sure exactly where the litter box would go without being intrusive.

I'm also concerned that a cat may get bored since there's nothing much to see out of the window... it's a beautiful view, but we're too high up to see birds or human activity outside. (The windows lock securely, so I'm not concerned about falls.)

We don't travel much, but we're generally out for most of the day on weekdays (until 7 pm or so), and we certainly don't have room for more than one pet.

I've been holding off on getting a cat for years, and I think my living situation is relatively more stable now, so I'm tempted even though it's not ideal.

Can we go ahead and try to make it work, or keep holding off till we get a bigger place?

We've considered fostering to try it out, but are afraid of getting too attached...
posted by redlines to Pets & Animals (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could get a lazy older cat that just wants to nap all day and get snuggles when you get home!
posted by ilovewinter at 11:22 AM on February 20, 2017 [29 favorites]

I suggest checking out a local shelter -- if a cat there chooses you, the decision will be made.

Also, consider adopting TWO cats who need to stay together.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

I had some of these same reservations until I met my cat and realized how much more space and love she'd have in my 1 bedroom apartment than she did at the shelter where she was in a very confined space a lot of the time.

I too worried she'd get lonely when I'm at work but I'm home right now and she's sleeping and doesn't want to be disturbed. She's not old or lazy, it's just her routine.

Go for it! You'd be able to give a cat a nice home and its own space and routine.
posted by kapers at 11:27 AM on February 20, 2017 [19 favorites]

There's nothing about your situation that would give me pause about getting a cat, except the litter box. I have three cats in a 3-bedroom house, and our litter boxes are in the guest room, meaning we have to move them into our bedroom every time we have guests, and this is the one and only reason I fantasize about moving into a different house.

Cats themselves are very flexible and contented creatures, though. The cat will be fine with your apartment size and the high-up windows and you being gone until 7pm. But you should figure out where to put the litter box first.
posted by something something at 11:29 AM on February 20, 2017

Nothing about your situation sounds any alarm bells to me. Cats don't require constant stimulation.

Look into "litter box furniture" to find a litter box you can use to replace an end table or something like that so you aren't simply giving up space.

Be cautious though, if you adopt an older cat, that they are actually willing to use a covered box -- not all cats who weren't litter trained on a covered box at a young age will take to it as an older cat.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

On the litter box issue: I was able to clear out some floor space in a hall closet where I store the vacuum etc and I use pine litter which smells like sawdust and not cat. If I have guests I'll mostly close that door but otherwise it's open. Litter is much better these days, they even make clever furniture in which you can hide a box if you don't have a closet.
posted by kapers at 11:32 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are plenty of cats who prefer to be only animals, although I'd say that 900 square feet is plenty of space for two cats if you're worried about one getting lonely.

Finding a place for the litter box is always going to be a problem; I once had an apartment that was 400 square feet and had to put the box in the bedroom. It sucked when my cat, who is notoriously bad at covering his piles, decided to take a stinky poop in the middle of the night. Otherwise it was fine, and I kept the litter at bay with a dedicated hand brush/dustpan for frequent sweeping. I've never had an apartment with a good place for the litter box, but I've always figured it out, and you will too.

Given your situation I would recommend an adult rescue cat (a bonded pair if you want two) instead of kittens. They will mostly sleep during the day while you're gone, and will probably only need a short play session or two in the evening. Go for it!
posted by zebra at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding an elderly/mature cat, leaving a kitten or young cat at home alone for that long isn't great, and could lead to an aloof or unhappy cat. An older cat will sleep a good chunk of the day, and for entertainment just make sure you have lots of scratchers, cat toys, cat towers,etc. Leaving the TV on a nature channel(quietly) is something I've found that my older and lazier cat really likes, as he can watch the animals on TV but not have to move from his bed.

And yeah, you have to find a good place for the litter box. Also, good scent locking litter is a must for small spaces. I like nature's miracle litter.
posted by InkDrinker at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I volunteer at a local shelter and also foster kittens, and have 2 cats myself. kapers is right --- if you're worried about the cat, remember that almost certainly the alternative is either living in a shelter or being euthanized. I'm not saying that to guilt you into adopting a cat! But there's almost a 100% certainty that life in a small apartment will be an upgrade, unless you live in the rare place where there's not a huge overpopulation of cats.

And as the shelter likes to say, when you adopt a cat you save 2 lives -- that cat and the one who takes its place at the shelter.

Also, you still could try fostering --- worst case you end up adopting the cat anyway :) (We fostered many kittens last year and our second cat did end up being one of those).

Also --- I had 2 cats in a 900 square apartment for like 10 years and they were quite happy. They adjust to whatever space they have, more or less. I also was single with 1 and 2 cats at various times and when I was at work they were fine. With cats its even easy to go away for a couple nights (as I write this I'm on a 2 night trip away, our cats are at home).

Most cats do want attention, but unlike dogs they usually don't get super upset and anxious when you're away. When you are home they will "ask" for attention when they need it :)
posted by thefoxgod at 11:35 AM on February 20, 2017 [10 favorites]

Oh, one more thing --- most good shelters will work with you to find a cat suited to your personality and situation. Volunteers and staff spend a lot of time with the cats and we get to know their "personalities" and so on (at my shelter we even have log books where we record behavior info, etc -- and if the cats are fostered there is even more detailed info).

My only other recommendation is don't get a single kitten if you're not home a lot. 2 kittens could work (if you're OK with some messiness when you get home sometimes!) but maybe for a first-time owner at least a 1 year old cat is probably better (although my "starter cats" 21 years ago were a pair of kittens and it was fine, if a little crazy).
posted by thefoxgod at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

nthing an older rescue cat. Your set up sounds perfect for them. A few toys a comfy spot to sleep or 3 & they'll be fine, cats sleep a heck of a lot anyway.

Depending on your budget there are some fancy looking litter boxes out there now a days. Get one with a cover & a door to contain smells. Scoop it every day & use good quality cat litter. You can even buy furniture to hide the little box in that doubles as a nightstand/side table or if you're at all crafty make your own.
posted by wwax at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have this for one of my litter boxes. I also have two in the bottom of a hall closet if you have a closet that would be conducive to that.

Nth getting an older cat. There are plenty that want to be an only cat and reign supreme over its hoomans. Definitely check out some rescues and shelters and a cat will adopt you!
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 11:41 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Litter boxes can indeed be tucked under things quite successfully. I honestly can't even remember where I kept one in a 600 sq ft apartment with two cats (who didn't mind sharing)... under the kitchen table, in an otherwise-inaccessible corner maybe? Get one in a neutral color with a hood and a carbon filter and it just disappears. Or you can use a small suspension rod to hang little curtains across an alcove or open cupboard; it just depends on what your space is like.
posted by teremala at 11:41 AM on February 20, 2017

I am single and currently live in an apartment under 600 sq ft.

I would feel bad leaving her for more than two days alone, but she gets along fine with me working outside of the house all day. She demands play and affection when I'm around but mostly she sleeps all day.

Your situation is fine. Get a cat :) Maybe not a kitten, but certainly an adult cat.
posted by sea change at 11:42 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Those may be concerns if you were getting a dog, but the great thing about cats is that they're low maintenance. They sleep a ton, don't take up much room, and are good at entertaining themselves (though some cats are needier than others).

We got our cat on a bit of a whim--I was skeptical at first but I've grown quite fond of her. You should get one, especially if you've been considering it for years.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:44 AM on February 20, 2017

I have a cat in an apartment that's literally half the size of yours. I use a covered litterbox and just keep it in my bathtub; very little litter gets out and I use flushable corn litter so I can just wash the odd bits down the drain.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

900 sq. ft. should be plenty of room. I live in 800, and have both a 50 pound dog and a kitten, and space isn't the issue.
posted by hrj at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2017

The answer to "should we get a kitty?" is almost always yes yes yes.

Yes, get a kitty. It'll make you happy.
posted by lydhre at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

The most important thing is being committed for life. Cats like small places and if you only have one there are no territorial issues. I agree with the others to go for an older rescue cat, they will be absolutely delighted with your place.

Also not only do cats sleep a lot their napping schedule usually matches office hours. Even if I'm home, by 10am my kitties are all k, bye, nap time, laters and they are down for the day.
posted by kitten magic at 11:52 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Another vote for adopting an older cat rather than a kitten. I've had cats for 30+ years now--and had two in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment for a few years. In that case I tucked the litter box in a corner of my bedroom and it wasn't ideal but the fun of sharing my home with those little furry souls more than made up for it.
I adopted my current cat about 3 months ago-- she's a 4 year old rescue kitty. Nowhere near as much work as a kitten, but she has a lot of play left in her and she really doesn't seem to mind that I'm gone about 10 hours a day.
Also, I totally agree that the cat will choose YOU. Good luck and have fun with your future new family member!
posted by bookmammal at 11:53 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with folks above that 900 sf is plenty of space. We've had out cat in a series of small apartments with zero problems. I think a kitten or a very high energy cat might not like it, but for our fairly lazy/quiet, older cat, it's perfect. Ask about personality at the shelter you visit and they can most likely pair you up with a lower energy cat that will do well with a smaller space.

Also agreed with posters above that part of what's great about cats is that they're independent and ok with doing their own thing. Even when we are home on the weekends, our cat tends to snooze all day and be uninterested in us; during mornings and evenings, he loves snuggles. So, he's definitely adjusted to our routine and doesn't mind (or really seem to notice) whether we are away or home during the day.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:15 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have essentially the same living situation and my cat is happy as a clam. I got her a few years ago when I was in a large studio, and she was happy there too.

When I adopted my cat, I told the shelter I was looking for a cat that would be very happy as an indoor-only city kitty who would be spending the days home alone. The shelter gets to know the cats pretty well, and immediately thought of my little girl! I went over to meet her and she jumped on my lap to cuddle.

We have our litter box in the bathroom, which isn't my favorite, but works fine. I have this litter box - it's plenty big for the kitty and small enough to have in the bathroom, plus it only gives her one way to get out so I can control the litter spreading everywhere with a litter mat. I also have a litter genie - seriously one of the best things ever.

My cat is a super happy only cat, and part of that is because she was an only cat at her last home and was never socialized with other animals. If you can get the shelter to point out cats that don't get along with other pets, you will narrow down the cats that will do better as city kitties. I also recommend cats that haven't been outdoor cats (previous cat literally broke out of my bedroom at my parents by knocking the screen out and hopping down - he was happy being indoor/outdoor but not indoor only). My kitty is so not interested in going outside, she is terrified of the balcony door opening and doesn't go near the door to the building.

She also loves, loves, loves lounging in the sun all morning (benefit of the high rise!) and we have lots of toys to play with her since there is no other pet to keep her active and stimulated. She was 4 when I got her so we'll out of the kitten phase.

Also, black cats are the best city cats.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:17 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have a perfect setup for an adult cat with one of the more difficult to adopt issues, like FIV+ or a physical disability like lacking a sense or a limb. Guaranteed no other pets to squabble with, a smaller secure space so there's less variables for getting stuck in places, people who are "afraid of getting too attached" so you'll certainly be attentive and caring without being witless about it. Sounds perfect imo!

Most cats sleep like 18 hours a day and are totally chill with being left alone all day with some periods of focused play time and cuddles in the morning and/or evening, so your schedule sounds fine. Different cats will have different energy levels - and that might change when a cat gets out of the shelter and relaxes in its new home. But most cats sleep pretty much 9-5 at least.

The litterbox issue won't be a problem for your cat, just for you! You can experiment with different litter and box combos to see what 1. encourages your cat to cover up their stuff 2. smells least offensive to you because you know that stuff is gonna get everywhere (i suggest as scentless as possible) 3. is easy for you to dispose of. I recommend World's Best Cat Litter which is actually made of a corn byproduct, is compost friendly, and you can even flush it down the toilet! It will also help if you make it as easy as possible for you to scoop the box whenever you pass it by, so get a small trash can with a lid, some can liners, a scooper and a container for clean litter with a cup inside, and keep all that right next to the litter box. Then it's just scoop into the trash can, see if the litter needs adding to, sprinkle a cup of clean litter in, leave. Empty the litter can when you empty your human trash. You can put a layer of baking soda in the litter can to absorb scents if your liners don't do the trick. Also you can get all manner of air filters and fans and stuff that will help if there is no good place to put the box near a window or somewhere with good ventilation. It's all about what you can put up with, but as long as you clean the box regularly and use a litter they like, the cat will probably be happy.

Some cats obviously respond to sounds so if you're worried about a bored kitty you can try leaving on the radio or even playing a bunch of ambient bird noises (there are playlists out there that are like, twelve solid hours of nature sounds for cats, etc) while you're gone during the day. If your landlord is cool with it you can install shelving up close to the ceiling so your cat can go wandering and climbing and get good exercise. You can bring in interesting new stuff for the cat to smell and investigate (and destroy) from the places you go on the weekend. A cat really doesn't need much space or variety once they are settled adults, but there are lots of ways for people to bring them tons of enrichment even in a very small apartment. It might be a little extra work for you, but it sounds like you'd be up for it, and it would only be needed if you notice your cat not settling into its new digs and clearly needing more stimulation. A basic 1br setup with some boxes and toys and a couple hours of interaction a day with people is lovely for your average older kitty.
posted by Mizu at 12:21 PM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you get an older cat from a shelter, s/he will for sure sleep more and you'll be doing a mitzvah for the cat. Older babies are harder to adopt out and languish in shelters, so if you're concerned about boredom, an older cat is for sure a good way to feel like you need to worry about it less. However, in general, cats are pretty self-entertaining.

I live in 1250 square feet and I feel like I could have two cats, but I'm very happy with my one cat. She's chill and likes being an only. Don't let that kind of thing keep you from getting a cat. They're pretty great on their own.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:40 PM on February 20, 2017

I got two of my cats when I lived in a 900 sq foot apartment. I now have 3 cats (and temporarily, a dog) in my 1100 sq foot house and it honestly doesn't feel like it's cramped. We have a covered dome litter box in the living room that's not noticeable at all.

Two cats are better than one, by the way. They will entertain each other while you're at work.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:48 PM on February 20, 2017

I had three cats in a 600 sq ft apartment, I kept the litter box in the bathroom, and everyone got along fine. I would recommend two cats (a pair that doesn't want to be separated) if you're not home all day, just so they have company. ALSO! Nothing is cuter than two cats curled up together snoozing. I wouldn't worry about the window being high up, they'll always find something to amuse themselves with. But definitely get a tall cat tree so they have something to climb, and provide an active time when you get home (play with them with a fishing pole toy, cat dancer, laser, whatever) before dinner. They'll be fine.
posted by clone boulevard at 12:55 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

In our 1 bedroom apartments, we kept the litter box in the corner of the living room - once behind the sofa-papasan thing we had, and once under a big coffee table with a blanket like a tablecloth over it.

Scoop frequently, and you'll be fine.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 1:03 PM on February 20, 2017

As long as there are sunpuddles for a cat to follow, it probably won't matter about the lack of view. One of my cats spends his day following the sun around the room from couch to rug and to the other couch.

I've also lived in a 600 sq ft apartment with two cats and it was just fine. They staked out their own territories and glared at each other across the room, but mostly it was a mellow household.
posted by vickyverky at 1:08 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Frequent scooping is definitely key in controlling litter smells. Litter Genie (which I learned about on AskMe) helps a ton too. Like everyone else, I think you sound like an excellent cat adopter.
posted by gladly at 1:10 PM on February 20, 2017

900 square feet of happy, safe, warm, loving home is frankly more than most shelter cats could dare to hope for. I also strongly recommend a bonded pair of older adults--four or five years old would be ideal. They can keep each other company while you're at work, and their adorable nap cuddles will fill your phone with incredibly cute pictures. They'll be young and healthy still but not full of the kind of kitten energy that quickly turns to destruction if it isn't exercised in more productive, playful ways. Your apartment is plenty big for two calm adult cats.

Cats are generally crepuscular creatures, active at the beginning and the end of the day but very nap-oriented otherwise, so if you can spare them some play time before and after work, they'll be very content to snooze the day away while you're out.

You'd be especially kind to adopt shy cats who might spend their first couple of weeks in your apartment hiding under the bed and avoiding you. Shy cats don't "show well" in the shelter, but they are wonderful, loving creatures who just need a bit of patience and time to relax into their new home, build their confidence, and learn to trust you.

I volunteer at a cat rescue specifically for shy and undersocialized cats (we pull cats in danger of euthanasia from the local municipal shelter) and I'm always shocked by how much these kitties can blossom in a stable, calm environment. I'm likewise shocked by how many potential adopters want a "plug-and-play" pet that will stroll out of the carrier and be instantly confident and well-adjusted to their new environment. Adopting more reticent cats genuinely saves their lives. Lowell and Puck are living proof!
posted by jesourie at 1:38 PM on February 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

We have 3 cats in a ~1000sq apartment and it's absolutely no sweat. Here are some things that make it work for us:

* There's a high-quality air purifier running 24/7 by each litterbox. It really helps with odor/dust from litter, and the filters are changed frequently.
* We scoop into a pet waste bag, then throw the bag into a DiaperGenie. Zero odor, makes scooping less of a chore since it's right there by the litterbox, and holds the garbage for a few days until we're ready to take it out.
* We have a 10-foot cat tree by the couch and plenty of shelves, so there are a lot of nooks for the cats to explore.
* We also have a window cat perch like this one in the bedroom (got ours on Etsy from this seller) which is very frequently used, even if us humans think there's nothing to see out there all day.

When it comes to litterboxes themselves, we discovered a little too late that one of our cats doesn't squat down to pee. So uh... after a lot of cleanup we needed something heavy-duty with super high walls. Ended up with a very tall lid-less rubbermaid container that we cut an entry hole in. So heads up! If you get an expensive and nice looking piece of furniture to hide the litterbox in, and find yourself with a cat who lets loose without squatting, that could be unpleasant.

All in all: definitely get a kitty, get all the kitties, we are very pro-kitty here! We had one cat initially, then got him a buddy and realized that a second one doesn't mean we were all cramped and miserable. It's no more work or stress having two cats instead of one, for anyone, beyond needing to buy more food/litter. When our first cat passed away we adopted two adult bonded brothers, bringing us to our current three. Three cats is still not too much work compared to one cat, and the amount of joy we get from seeing them play and cuddle is just.... beyond heart-melting.

You definitely have space for two kitties based on your description. So if you see an adorable bonded pair, don't discount them and move on, unless you personally really definitely want just one cat. You got this!

If a buddy or two joins your household, let us know with an update! (And some photos, definitely!)
posted by erratic meatsack at 1:50 PM on February 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

I had two cats in a studio apartment and it was fine. Talk to your local shelter about matching you with a personality-appropriate cat or two (a bonded pair might be really great) and get a cat who wants a chill environment. I'd recommend a cat who is a few years old - I know people get really excited about kittens, but I love older cats because they are so chilled out and you know what you're getting personality-wise.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:47 PM on February 20, 2017

Read Catification By Jackson Galaxy about designing cat-friendly homes. This will be especially important if you get multiple cats, as cats generally are solitary and always like to hav an escape route if their space is invaded.

It's not hard, and having your cat(s) walking around over head and climbing up & down stuff and hiding in little caves is cool as fuck and good for the their sense of well being.

See also Hauspanther

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:14 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Things I provide for the enrichment of the Mighty Hunters, Moki and Zephyr, who live in a 600 square foot apartment:

Several containers of wheatgrass, which you can find at pet stores or in grocery store produce sections.

A cat tree or two...or five, if you're me, but that's extreme.

15 to 30 minutes of play each day (best divided into morning and evening sessions), which should be enough to keep an adult cat in good shape.

Food-dispenser toys like this to add a little predatory excitement to dinnertime.

Paper bags, shelving, and scratching posts can make even a small space into an inviting landscape for playtime.

Also, another vote for adopting an adult cat or two bonded adults. Two cats are hardly more effort than one, and the companionship and play opportunities they offer each other means they won't depend entirely on you for ALL their needs.
posted by Lycaon_pictus at 5:15 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ha! Pirate-Bartender-etc, beat me to it, but I was going to remind you that YOU live in a 900 square foot apartment, but your cat will live in a potential 720 cubic foot space. Even an older cat can enjoy some vertical space, given the right equipment. Some do, some don't--eh, cats are weird.

Anyway, go get the cat that has been waiting for you already!
posted by BlueHorse at 6:52 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Regarding the litter box, I'd use the closet by the front door, and use the rest of the space to store cleaning tools (eg mop etc) and rarely used things, and would buy a separate, stand-alone wardrobe for coats.

I'm fairly allergic to cats, and hardly notice one friend's cat when I visit - I think the big thing is that she cleans the litter daily (not sure of brand). Also is pretty regular about vacuuming her flat-weave carpet & mopping her floors, & washing couch slipcovers / throws, I think (leather couch). (I can ID a cat residence within a minute 19/20 times, her place is #20.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:10 PM on February 20, 2017

When it comes to hiding the litterbox, I forgot to mention one thing: when we had guests staying at our place and needed to move the box to our bedroom, we used a pretty room divider to screen it off in a corner. It stayed out of our view while still being accessible and the cats didn't complain by peeing somewhere else. We found ours on Amazon.
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2017

+ 1 for Pirate's suggestion of reading Catification.

Amplifying Lycaon's comments about stimulation . . . kitties need exercise and stimulation. Because most cat owner don't their kitties out for exercising walks (like dog owners do), we have to play with them. It doesn't have to be 15 straight minutes, it could be 10 in the morning and 10 at night. You're building a bond with it. You might have to spend $50-100 to find the right toys for its stimulation. Please rotate their usage because kitty gets bored with the same toy as you'd get bored if you're limited to only playing euchre. Time playing with you is distinct from kitty playing alone.

+1 for cotton's housekeeping comments. You've got to become a cleaning nazi, especially with the litterbox and food/dirty dishes on the counter. It helps reduce kitty's desire to go there. Kitties are exceptionally finicky about litterbox cleanliness. In addition, if you've got wood floors, vacuuming a 5-6 ft diameter zone around it each day helps preserve the floor's beauty.
posted by dlwr300 at 11:14 AM on February 21, 2017

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