Cat/man advice: Another cat in a small space?


I have an almost one year old kitten I found on the street last labor day. I live alone in a studio apartment and I am a very busy law student who is often gone most of the day, and when I am home my nose is generally buried in a book. Obviously, I am concerned that my kitten is not getting enough attention. However, I am also concerned that she does not have enough space to run around, play, and stay occupied. So, I am tempted to get another kitten to help keep her company, but I am also worried that I have too little space for one kitten, much less two.

Also, I was curious if you have any advice about cat toys. My cat only seems to like the feather attached to a string toy, and maybe a stuffed bear to occasionally pounce on and wrestle with. All those jingly balls and catnip mice barely hold her attention for more than a few seconds, and then they get lost underneath my desk or the refrigerator.

Man with a cat

Dear Man,

Normally, I advocate for people to adopt two cats at once – however, if your space is really that small, you would probably just have two not-so-happy-cats and one not-so-happy cat owner if you added another cat to the mix at this point. Later, when you have more space, you might want to consider another cat. But I would hold off at this point. In the meantime, is your kitty showing signs that he is unhappy or lonely? Exhibiting aggressive or self-destructive behavior? If so, you should consult with a vet on some things you can do to help your cat. But if it’s just your conscience bothering you, I have a few suggetions:

  • Carve out some quality time for you and your cat each day. I know you are busy, but take a study break and have some uninteruppted cuddle and/or play time.
  • Small spaces can be challenging, but do your best to maximize the space you have. Can you de-clutter your apartment to make more floor spacce? Could you have your bed in a loft? Check out apartment therapy for some inspiration and tips on small space living.
  • Try to give your cat a special spot if he doesn’t already have one – a cat bed won’t take up too much room but will make your kitty feel special and cozy.
  • Your cat likes the feather-and-string toys because it involves YOU playing with him. Every cat has a favorite toy or toys, so if your cat likes feather-and-wand toys, continue to get him those! Many catnip toys will charm a cat temporarily, as the catnip effect soons wears off – but some stores sell refillable catnip toys. Get one and give the toy a fresh ‘nip refill in the AM before you take off for school.
  • If there’s any way you can take a break during the day, maybe you can have lunch at home and spend a few moments with your kitty. If your finances allow it, you might even want to consider hiring a pet-sitter to stop by a few times a week when you’re not around much. Or maybe you have a friend or neighbor who has roommates that he/she would love to escape, who also happens to love cats and wouldn’t mind hanging out in your apartment when you’re not there. Ask around!

6 thoughts on “Cat/man advice: Another cat in a small space?

  1. Also, if you are on a first floor, perhaps you can purchase or build a cat enclosure that comes off one of the windows on your apt so your current cat (or a second one, if you end up getting another) have more space. You can take this with you when you move. If you search for “cat enclosure” on google you can find quite a few. You can also build or buy a small window insert so your cat can sit on a small enclosed patio, no matter whether you live on the first or higher floor.

  2. Dear Man,

    My cats love any kind of small object to play with, like bottle caps, Pink Pearl erasers, any small object that rolls (like grapes). They much prefer a bottle cap to storebought toys, and a new bottle cap is even better than yesterday’s, especially if it’s metal and makes plenty of noise. Certain cats have specialized preferences, like pieces of elastic. Elastic-loving cats get months of enjoyment from the same piece of elastic, like getting it stuck under a chair leg and snapping it. Young cats like the kind of toy that hangs from a doorknob at the end of something stretchy and will play with one of these for hours, pulling on it and snapping it and then chasing it each time it snaps into a different position.

  3. If you have a really small amount of space I’d hold off and wait for the kitten to tell you she’s lonely. Leave open windows with vistas of birds, and consider putting in a bird feeder on a tree within view. This will hold a solitary cat’s attention for hours.

    When you get home, get out the laser pointer and run your rascal up the walls, then when it’s bedtime let her curl up and sleep with you.

    This may be the perfect life for her: sleeping 2/3 of the day (with you and on the window sill) and being active in evenings. However, if she appears listless then it’s time to introduce a new friend. The mixing will be complicated by the tight space, so be prepared for a long welcoming period with cats in different rooms, or the new cat in a large multilevel cage.

  4. Sorry, by ‘open windows’ I meant windows with open views. Clearly you don’t want your girl jumping out.

  5. If your “kitten” is already a year old, it may be too late to introduce a new playmate. I tried it (twice) with my cats and in each case the previous cat had already established the residence as HER territory and never did warm up to the newcomer. So I currently have three cats who all dislike each other. They don’t fight but the certainly don’t play together or cuddle either.

  6. Hi Man:

    I lived in a really small studio with 3 large tom cats for more than several years. I agree with everyone else on making some kind of an extension space for the cat if possible. I found it wasn’t really necessary. So long as there’s a bit of open floor space so the cat can run around.

    Outside of a few territorial skirmishes my boys got along and played together even though they were introduced to each other years apart.

    I used to work over 40 hours a week and went to school at night to complete my degree. I think the cats are really great company for each other.

    In case you haven’t figured it out by now…. It’s your job to get the degree; it’s the cat’s job to distract you. : )

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