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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rachel Geller

5 Things to NEVER Do With Your Apartment Cat

Owning a cat can be of one of your greatest joys, but when you live in a multifamily community you need to take precautions to ensure your cat is safe and your neighbors are respected. Your joy should not be your neighbor’s nightmare! To prevent your cat from being a nuisance to your neighbors, there are some basic rules you should follow. These cat etiquette tips will keep peace with your neighbors while keeping your cat safe and happy.

Never bring your cat to the dog park.

The dog park may look fun for dogs, but it is not an enticing or safe area for cats.

Cats, unlike dogs, are much more reliant on their personal home territory. Cats are territorial creatures and they take comfort in the security of their familiar environment. Unknown territory is scary and stressful for cats. Many cats become aggressive in unfamiliar surroundings. A cat brought to a dog park would not know where the safe hiding places are. The sounds and smells are strange and new. Your cat likes to stay within the confines of her comfort zone.

But the big unknown is the dogs! You don’t know if the dogs are used to cats. Chances are in a dog park, there will be at least a dog or two who is not used to coexisting with a cat. This could put your cat at risk, as well as create stress to both the dog and your cat. A dog who is reactive to a cat could injure your cat, but you could also get hurt in the process of trying to protect your cat or escape a pursuing dog.

So, the dog park for a cat is not a good idea.

Never bring your cat in an elevator without a carrier.

In theory, the elevator may appear to be a small, confined space but it is always dangerous to have your cat loose. The main drawback to a leash or harness for a cat is that the leash may not be picked up by the elevator door sensor and this could be a dangerous situation. The door could close between you and your cat. A carrier is also better for anxious cats who tend to eliminate when scared. Even the best-behaved cat may urinate when scared, and this probably won’t be appreciated by your fellow passengers!

For your cat, the carrier provides safety and security. She is protected and hidden, and you can place the carrier on the floor away from the elevator door.

While we love creativity, your cat’s carrier is not an opportunity for creative solutions. Avoid making a DIY carrier like a laundry basket or pillow case; it is not safe and your cat could get loose, injured or stressed out.

Never leave windows open when you are not home.

If you live in an apartment building with more than two stories, your cat could be injured or killed if she falls out from that open window. Despite the common myth, cats do not always land on their feet, and when they do, often it is from a height that causes the cat’s legs to be unable to hold the bounce when landing.

It is recommended to keep windows closed or to secure them in an appropriate way. For example, you can use a window wedge that stops the window from opening more than a few inches. Cats have moveable collar bones so if their head can fit through, their entire body can. If you go this route, the window shouldn't be allowed to open more than 2-3 inches.

Cats are reactive to movement and have a strong hunting instinct, so a bird outside of an apartment could trigger a chase out the window. But loud and sudden noises can also cause a cat to inadvertently run out the window. May times, screens are flimsy and can easily be pushed out.

Never allow your cat on the balcony.

What if you have an apartment with a balcony? Should your cat be allowed to roam on the balcony? Generally, no!

The main concern is your cat’s safety because most balconies are not enclosed or cat-proofed. It is easy for a cat to escape from a balcony. In an apartment building that is a high-rise, this could lead to disaster. Cats should never be unsupervised on the balcony.

Even if you have a fully screened-in balcony or you have put up netting to enclose the balcony, remember that cat-proofing your balcony is not as easy as it sounds. Cats are known for being sneaky and are able to navigate in and out of the smallest of openings.

Never let your cat roam your apartment building hallways.

It is not safe for your cat, nor respectful of your fellow apartment dwellers, to allow your cat to roam the halls of your building. Beyond the obvious issues that may arise - like hallway pee/poop accidents that your fellow residents wouldn’t appreciate, free roaming hallways is dangerous for your cat. Someone may be entering and leaving an apartment, and your cat could dash in. You could then be in a situation where you have a terrified cat hiding under somebody’s bed or in a closet.

Your cat could become fearful of children running in the halls and take off or worse, your cat may have fear-aggression and could attack a child. Most apartment buildings require that pets must be confined to the renter’s unit and cannot roam free. This applies to cats too, so make sure you are respecting your building’s policies!


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