Is Locking a Cat in a Room Abuse? (Here’s When It’s OK)

Is Locking a Cat in a Room Abuse

Some cat owners don’t like to give their cats free roam of the entire home. Whether it’s for the cat’s own good or the good of the owner – it raises some moral questions.

Is locking a cat in a room abuse? How much space do cats really need? And, when is it in a cat’s best interest to restrict the rooms they can enter?

Is Locking a Cat in a Room Abuse?

The answer to this question is that it depends on how big the room is and how well a cat’s needs are met.

I know people who live in a large house with rooms bigger than some people’s apartments.

Likewise, I know some people who restrict their cats’ roaming privileges but provide a higher standard of care than some owners who let their cats roam free.

So, it really depends on how much space a cat has, and how well they’re provided for. In addition to this, it depends on how long you’re locking or keeping a cat in one room for.

Some cats need to be isolated for short periods, as I’ll cover in more detail below.

If you’re intending on keeping your cat in one room for a long period, then you’ll need to provide plenty of positive attention and love and monitor their physical and mental health.

Related Lost your cat in your home? You’ll want to read this post!

How Much Space Do Indoor Cats Need?

I’ve researched this topic in-depth, and there is no answer that defines the amount of space a cat needs.

There are a lot of variables, such as the breed of a cat, its health, age, and how well they’re cared for in the space they live in.

As a general rule of thumb, the more space the better. Whether a cat chooses to roam far or not, it’s nice to give them the option.

But it’s not always possible to give cats a few hundred square feet, especially in some city apartments.

It’s more important a cat’s needs are met than it is that they have a large amount of space. The main considerations when accommodating a cat are:

Eating and Drinking

Cats like to eat and drink somewhere quiet, and who can blame them?

There is also some belief that cats do not like to eat in the ‘open’, so not in the middle of a room.

This is because they would feel exposed in the wild if they were eating prey where they could easily be seen by other animals.

So, you should make a space against a wall in their room where they can eat and drink away from where they use the litter tray, sleep, and play.

Litter Box

One of the biggest issues when confining a cat to one room is providing a litter box far away from their food and sleeping spots.

Cats are clean animals, if anything upsets them about the placement of their litter box they might stop using it.

Ideally, you should be able to use a covered box located at the opposite side of the room from where they eat and sleep.

RelatedHere is the recommended minimum distance between food bowls and litter boxes.

Stimulation and Playing

Cats need stimulation. If you were to lock a cat in a room and not give them the care and attention they need, that would be abuse.

Play, exercise, and social interaction are very important to a cat’s general well-being (laser pointers are great for this!).

Even in one room, you should provide some cat furniture like a cat tree. This will also discourage your cat from scratching your furniture.

They’ll also need some toys to play with, and most importantly need you to interact and play with them daily.

As long as you’re giving your cat attention and playing with them, their physical world can be small.


It’s no secret that cats sleep a lot. If they’re in one room, you should have enough space to provide a few sleeping spots.

Your cat will probably gravitate to a place they prefer and stick with it for a long time before choosing somewhere else.

As long as they feel secure in that sleeping spot and have some freedom to choose it themselves, it shouldn’t cause them any distress being in the same room.

Why Would You Lock a Cat in One Room?

There are some reasons why you may need to isolate a cat in one room outside of just wanting to restrict where they can go in your home.

The main reasons are:

Aggressive Behavior

If you have more than one cat in your home and one of your cats is being aggressive, as WebMD explains the best course of action as:

Keep cats separated, especially at mealtimes. Separation may need to last only a few days, but if the aggression is persistent and severe, it may take several weeks before you can gradually reintroduce the cats.

If you have a spare room you can kit out with everything your cat needs, this is the best option.

Illness and Injury

If one of your cats is sick or has an injury and you have more than one cat – or other pets in your home – it might speed up their recovery if you isolate your poorly cat.

The University of Wisconsin Madison School of Veterinary Medicine recommends this by saying:

For the sake of the sick cat, the cats should still be kept separated until recovery. Segregation from the resident pet will help reduce stress levels and speed recovery. 

Old Age and for Their Own Safety 

This is something that is close to my heart. I’ve had elderly cats before that started to find it difficult to get around the home and had to be isolated into one room for the most part.

If you have an elderly cat that is struggling to move around, gets confused easily, and is relying on you more and more, it might be in their best interests to be isolated in a room.

This way, you know exactly where they are and can check on them as often as needed. They will also have easy access to their food and water, litter box, and so on.

Is It Abusive to Keep a Cat in One Room?

There are some people who will think it’s abusive to keep a cat in one room. But as I’ve explained in this article, it’s not abusive if you’re providing your cat a high standard of care.

In addition to this, sometimes it’s necessary for a cat’s own wellness that they’re isolated.

It’s not the space a cat is kept in that you should focus on, it’s providing a good quality of life and showing them you love and appreciate them.


Image credits – Photo by Rick T.T. on Unsplash

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