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Choosing a New Living Space? Consider These 4 “Cat Factors”

Moving to a new house taught me things to look for in terms of cat happiness and safety.

Catherine Holm  |  Sep 24th 2015


The longer I live with cats, the more things I encounter in a living space that I find myself questioning. I question the safety of some things. Because we moved a year and a half ago, and because the house was not brand-new, there were some strange things that posed danger for my cats.

That said, some things  work really well for my cats. The experience taught me to think in a new way when considering a new living space. Are there possible dangers or advantages in your living space for your cats?

Here are some things that I’ve learned. I am sure there are many that I haven’t thought of — perhaps this discussion will spur you to think about things, or help you recollect things in your living space that worked (or didn’t) for your cat. Here are the “cat factors” that I consider.

1. Are there lots of windows? Are they secure?

Cats love windows. I also have a suspicion that cats are naturally happier in a place that is well lit with natural light. Witness cats moving toward sun puddles inside your living space, especially if you have indoor-only kitties (as I do). It so happens that this current living space has a skylight. While that can let in a lot of heat (and skylights can come with their own issues, if they leak, for example), cats love the overhead light. Certain well-placed windows might have a similar effect, depending on the time of year and vegetation outside the window.

On the subject of windows, are the screens secure? Even on my ground-floor windows, on one side of the house, if the cat went through the screen, he’d fall a half story because we’re on a hill. Are the screens sturdy? These screens are tough, thankfully, and a cat couldn’t tear them if he tried. But some screens are very flimsy, and easily torn with a cat’s claw. Check these out.

Similarly, look for windows that don’t quite work right. You don’t want a window accidentally coming down on your cat, for example. Also, of course, kitties love sills to sit in. If they can’t or won’t go outside, are there plenty of opportunities for your cats to get stimulation from the great outdoors?

2. Are there steps?

Steps give cats vertical height options, vantage points, and exercise. On the other hand, steps can be hard for an older cat. As I’ve learned, having steps for the first time can make health issues that might be hidden (arthritis in a cat’s hips, for example) more apparent. When we moved, we had steps for the first time, and I slowly, over time, realized that Kieran seemed to go up and down the steps differently than the others. He had an X-ray that showed arthritis, and we are treating it.

You might need to make the steps safe for your cat, depending on your cat’s health status, age, and so on. Hardwood steps could be slippery. Are steps carpeted or do they have treads? This could be an option.

If you don’t have steps, does the new living place have vertical height options for cats, or would it be easy to incorporate these? Is there a good place where a cat tree would work well, for example?

two-cats-sun

Chester and Kieran share the sun from the skylight.

3. Are odd things sticking out or exposed?

In an old place, this could be an issue. Are there exposed outlets that aren’t installed to code? Exposed electrical wires? Are there nails sticking out of joists in the basement ceiling, where a cat might jump and injure herself? Anywhere a cat can get a paw, or body, should be suspect until you’ve checked it out.

Look also for places that seem innocent where a cat could get stuck or injured. Floor grates, for example, might be such a thing. Look for anything sharp or exposed. Another thing I encountered once is a levered staircase that pulls down from a ceiling. They’re neat, because the steps fold up when not in use, but they also have a lot of force and could injure a cat who’s in the wrong place.

4. Are there “escape spots” if you have multiple cats?

Even if multiple cats love each other, or just get along, they all seem to appreciate their alone time, too. This isn’t always possible, but rooms or closets are nice places for cats to hide out and feel as if they’re in a cozy hidey spot. Make sure these places are safe. You don’t want your cat getting trapped or closed into a closet, and you don’t want piles of stuff in the closet, for example, to fall on your cat, especially if the stuff is heavy.

What are the things that work well, or don’t work well for your cats in your living space? How have you adapted your living space for your cats?

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, and a contributor to Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. She’s also a yoga instructor. Cat love living in nature and being outside every day, even in winter. She is mom to six adorable cats, all of them rescues.