Designing a space for a cat in a New York City apartment

Best Friends in New York works collaboratively with city shelters, local animal welfare organizations and individuals to save the lives of pets in shelters in New York City and the surrounding tri-state area. As part of this work, Best Friends has a national lifesaving concept space and pet adoption center in SoHo, hosts adoption and fundraising events, and runs a foster program in partnership with Animal Care Centers of New York City. Together, we will Save Them All.

New York City isn’t for everyone. But it’s paradise for Bella the cat, because when Vanessa Hernandez adopted her from the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York, she transformed space in her apartment just to make Bella happy.

Bella lost her home and ended up at Animal Care Centers of NYC, the city’s municipal shelter. She got a lift out of the shelter from K9Kastle, a Best Friends Network partner, and then made her way to the adoption center. The Best Friends Pet Adoption Center, which has space available for network partners to house their animals for adoption, is part of the collaborative work to save more pets in the Big Apple.

Keeping cats happy indoors

Part of keeping cats healthy and happy is giving them the right kind of space to thrive. They love places to hide and perch, and things to scratch and play with. At the center, Bella loved hiding in a cubby as much she enjoyed sitting high on a shelf, where she could feel the sun on her fur while she lounged and watched people walking by.

“Our cat rooms have lots of nooks and crannies where cats can hang out and hide in if they are new and still getting settled,” says Suzanne Remito, pet care lead at the center. “We also create more vertical space with beds that cats can be under or sitting on top of. And many of them enjoy hanging out on top of the cat towers.”

Black cat Bella on a cat tree

When Vanessa came to the center looking for a cat to adopt, she found a happy, relaxed Bella and was drawn to her sweet personality and pretty face. She adopted her that day and brought her home.

Enrichment ideas for indoor cats

Black cat Bella on the bed looking at a wand toy in the air

Giving a cat the room to be herself

Soon after Vanessa brought Bella home, she noticed that every time she put the cat treats away, Bella would find them — no matter where they were hidden. Bella was smart and curious, and Vanessa was determined to make apartment life fun to nurture her inquisitive spirit and playful side. So, she transformed an area of her home into Bella’s haven, where she can climb, perch high above everyone and look out the window, or hide if she wants to.

Bella the black cat looking out the window

One important key to designing a space for cats is to think vertically. For example, Bella’s area features a set of four wall-mounted bases around which she can play, scratch or sleep. To complete Bella’s space, Vanessa added a cat tree and, of course, lots of toys.

“She also has a bed that she does not use, because she’d rather be on mine,” says Vanessa. “And she sleeps in her tree when she wants her own space.”

How Best Friends is saving lives near you

A happy Bella is proof that Vanessa’s interior design efforts are working. “Every time I get home, she follows me around,” says Vanessa. “I love how she appreciates everything I give her, and she definitely makes my life happier. I’m buying her new toys every day.” And Vanessa says the happiness is mutual. “I’m always happy to get home because I know she is waiting for me.”

Vanessa Hernandez lying on the bed with Bella the black cat

It’s sad to think about Bella being dropped off at a shelter, but with her past behind her, Vanessa says Bella is living the good life. “I’m the one who is grateful, because Bella has shown me that even when life is hard, we have second chances to be happy and that life has something better for us.”

Adopt a cat near you

Bella the black cat walking along the shelves on the walls

Photos by Shannon Kirkman