Is open plan living bad for cats?

At the date of this short article, the online newspapers and media are picking up a story which states that open plan living is torture for domestic cats. It is not good for them and they become stressed and unhappy in open plan style housing.

The person who promotes this viewpoint is a Dr Sarah Ellis who is said to be a feline behaviour specialist at the charity International Cat Care.

I disagree with her quite comprehensively. And I think the news media are wrong in picking up this story and promoting the idea that open plan living is bad for domestic cats. It may give people the idea that they have got to re-engineer the inside of their home or even move home. This would not be the right thing to do.

What Dr Ellis is getting at is that cats like places to hide if and when they need to use it. But even in an open plan home there are bound to be a number of places where a cat can hide. And if there isn’t the cat owner can simply provide them.


Update: I have had a second thought about this. Perhaps what Dr Ellis is saying is that people who like that sheer, open plan look to their residence are creating an environment which is unsuitable for their cat. That does not mean to say that they can’t rectify situation. It can be rectified very simply but perhaps they don’t want to and are therefore eliminating hiding places for their cat companion.


In addition, in a well-regulated and happy environment in which there is only one domestic cat then that cat will not normally need to hide. It is only in multi-cat homes where there may be a certain degree of dominance and subservience or bullying by one cat upon another that a cat might like to hide if that cat is timid.

Or the home may be uncomfortable for the cat because the owner is not that good and perhaps is making their cat anxious. But by and large in the vast majority of households I don’t envisage a great pressing need for places in which a cat needs to hide except when there are in, as mentioned, multi-cat households.

Dr Ellis also says that humans like high-intensity physical interactions of long duration. She says that cats find this human need distressing. I’m not quite sure what she is getting out to be honest. I don’t think humans are constantly seeking high-intensity physical interactions at home (unless they are addicted to sex!). Perhaps they might like this sort of interaction (excluding sex) when at work or during leisure time away from home but at these times their cat is not with them.

Also, many cats like long interactions with their human companion. They like to sleep next to their owner and this can happen all night. Or they will go on to a person’s lap and stay there until the person finds it uncomfortable! I think cats like interactions of a long duration but it depends upon the cat and the situation of course.

I just want to have my say on this matter and try and inject some balance into the discussion because I feel that misinformation is being bandied around the Internet. I get the point that Dr Ellis wishes to make but I think it is being made in a ham-fisted manner.




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Is open plan living bad for cats? — 1 Comment

  1. Cats differ in their need for interaction. Sweep want to be in physical contact with me 80% of the time (my “velcro” cat). Batman pops in and out like a teenager who sometimes wants his washing done! Robin is between these extremes. In winter all three want to be snuggled up with me all day long.

    Cats need boxes and they need perches. As long as there enough private spaces for the cats (they need a choice so they can move their den around), they will be fine.

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