How many cats are too many?

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How many cats are too many?

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Editado: Jul 29, 2013, 9:42 pm

Hi everyone,

I realize this question has many facets, including the size of your living space. We have 4 cats living in our 2,000 sq ft. house -- totally indoor. My husband just brought home a cat we think was dumped where we work. A really friendly black cat with a collar, name and phone number! I called the phone number several times and got a woman on the phone who said she was out of town, but promised she would call me when she got home and would pick up the cat. She never called. She also told me approximately where she lived, which is about 10 miles from where we found the cat and she didn't know how long he had been missing. Hmm..... Very strange indeed. I called her one more time, left a message, then gave up. I took the cat to the vet for shots and tests. He has no illnesses parasites etc. Turns out he was also microchipped, but the the microchip was never registered with the company, so all they know is which vet put it in.

My husband wants to keep him, but I don't know that I have the energy to integrate him with our other 4. Especially Willow, who sprays when he gets distressed. I am planning to call a local cat rescue group who has worked with us before. We would pay for food, vet visits etc. if they are willing to take him.

Thoughts anyone? Am I being mean to my husband and a poor, sweet homeless cat? Also he is middle aged and missing 3 canines.


Jul 29, 2013, 11:45 pm

Too many cats is when too many of you are unhappy.

I have two indoor cats. Twice I've tried to add a third, but my 12 yo baby Java will not accept any addition. He bit one of them so hard and deep she wound up with an abscess.

I will not add a third again, as it makes him so unhappy.

Jul 30, 2013, 12:38 am

After a disastrous experience in which the established cat started spraying and had to be kept on sedatives I would never try again. In your case, if one of the cats already has a tendency to spray, then I think that it would create too much upset and you may end up with five unhappy cats.

Speak to your local cat shelter and see if they can rehouse the cat. There are people who prefer to adopt older cats; my daughter is one and she has just adopted two cats which were adopted at age 9 by their previous owner who is dying and in hospital. My daughter has taken in his cats, searched him out and told him that she is giving his beloved cats ( now aged 14) a home.

Jul 30, 2013, 2:33 am

K4K: You have already done so much to help this poor abandoned kitty. You are keeping him safe & healthy while ensuring you do all you can to help find him a home. You've already taken more care of him than his thoughtless, selfish owner.

Editado: Jul 30, 2013, 4:06 am

I can only endorse fuzzi (#2)

My lizzy still Hates, Dislikes Max after almost 4 years. If it had got any worse, I would have considered 'fostering Max'.

I support a 'non kill' animal shelter, and I hope you can find one near you.


ETA. I don't think you have to bribe a shelter with offers of food etc. Any good shelter will always accept an animal? Though they will always accept a donation or better still a small but regular donation...

OK, OK a very large donation if you are very rich :-)

Jul 30, 2013, 10:54 am

My two elderly female cats integrated well with the male kitten that joined our household a couple of years ago, but I don't think we will probably be adopting any more. I want to adopt all the kitties but just don't have the space.

Jul 30, 2013, 11:15 am

>5 guido47: "Any good shelter will always accept an animal?" Surely you jest?

The reason I say this Guido is this story. A friend's daughter lost their house and had to rent a new place. She had 2 cats, 9 year old registered Persians, but could not find a place that would allow pets. Several people, including myself, gave her a list of shelters and rescues -- around 45 in total, upto 350 miles away from her. Two were nationally known shelters/rescues. NOT one would take the cats, even with a $500 donation attached (I know, not a huge donation, but it was for the owner). They were too old was the explanation. Her choice was to literally abandon them at a public shelter (and let them take their chances) or put them to sleep. Because I can imagine myself in that situation and having my heart torn apart, I took them in. (They are lovely girls!) But this whole episode has really jaundiced me on rescues and shelters and their willingness to take in cats.

>1 krazy4katz: As to your question, my answer is too many is when you can't adequately care for the cats (physically and emotionally) and when the cats are seriously stressing each other. For some people, this is one cat (which they never should have gotten in the first place). For others, this could be 6 or 8 or more cats. You need to judge what you and your cats can handle.

What's 'funny' is that 1 month before the story above, I had a young black male cat literally walk into my house. He's friendly, healthy, and now neutered. There were no lost black cats in my area, so I figure he was dumped. I didn't want him, so I called 8 rescues and no-kill shelters -- like above, no one would take him because they were at capacity. I was also warned that because he was black some people would want him for not-so-good reasons. I put up a notice in a local bookstore and sure enough the only inquiry was from someone who wanted to use him for dog bait. (Notice came down that day!) He's stayed and, while I can't say he hasn't caused some problems, I'm glad he's here.

Editado: Jul 30, 2013, 6:12 pm

Thanks everyone for your kind words and support!

Perhaps Guido lives in a more enlightened country but here in the U.S., many (if not most) county-run (i.e. local government) shelters kill animals that are not adopted. The kill percentages range up to 90% in some places and rarely lower than 40%. Some counties do have no-kill shelters, but those are rare. I was talking about turning him over to a private nonprofit rescue group rather than our county shelter.

Black cats have a statistically lower rate of adoption in the U.S., possibly because they are considered bad luck. I heard that in Britain black cats are considered good luck but I don't know if this is true.

Best wishes to all,


Edited to change "acceptance" to "adoption".

Jul 30, 2013, 1:01 pm

As you may recall, I volunteer with a no-kill shelter.

We take in FIV positive, older cats, cats with disabilities, knowing that most will not be adopted. Sorry, that's the way people are.

I've been told we sometimes get hundreds of calls every week. There is no way we can take all, and have to make some choices. Kittens are more easily adopted, so some of the volunteers foster them until they can be offered for adoption.

But people are fickle: if the cat claws the furniture or pees in the wrong place, they get returned...yes, we have in our contracts that if at any time the adopter no longer wants the cat, we will take him/her back. We recently had a cat returned after spending nine (!!!) years in the home, no good reason for giving it back given.

My Moonpie was one of their cats that was returned, and I adopted him. He's black, so not as likely to be adopted, either, unless for some 'ritual'. I kid you not. We do not offer black cats in the month of October for that reason.


Jul 30, 2013, 5:37 pm

>9 fuzzi: Oh, I know how many calls rescues/shelters get and there is no way that they can take in all of them. I'm not blaming them -- they save what they can.

My present pet-peeve is how people think "if something happens, I can always take my cats to a no-kill rescue." Doesn't really work like that as I found out. People need to think through their plans for their cats if/when the owners die. There are too many beautiful, older cats dumped at shelters because 'grandma died and we don't want the cat'.

Editado: Jul 30, 2013, 6:35 pm

OK, here is Teddy, in case anyone is curious!

Jul 30, 2013, 6:41 pm

Teddy is a pretty cat--he reminds me of a cat I used to have named Lucky.

Jul 30, 2013, 7:08 pm

11> looks like a sweetie.

I currently only have one cat, who is rather... ummm... well set in her ways. Some of the stories Guido shares about Lizzie and Max could have been my Tabitha and Zoey when she was alive. Now that Zo's gone, Tabitha has gotten worse. I would adopt more in a heartbeat, but just can't imagine it would be worth it.

I was talking this over with my dad today. He comes from a large family of 8 kids. He used the analogy- too many cats is like too many kids. Eventually you want to ask mom & dad to return a few. Or in the case of my youngest uncle, get locked in the closet by your siblings who were tired of playing with a much younger sibling. And in that house, each kid had their own pet... don't ask what happened to the hamster with 3 dogs and 4 cats....

Jul 30, 2013, 7:41 pm

Teddy is a handsome dude! And so nice of you to give him a form fitting sink of his own.

Jul 30, 2013, 8:02 pm

Teddy looks lovely. He's lucky he's found people who care about him. Please let us know what happens.

Jul 30, 2013, 8:52 pm


Jul 30, 2013, 9:15 pm

#13 - What happened to the hamster?

Jul 31, 2013, 10:26 am

My vet says FIVE is the number of cats that it takes to guarantee behavior problems on the part of one of them. She told me this when I adopted my fourth cat. She says she knows this is the threshold number from personal experience - but I suppose the size of your house might affect your personal maximum. Cats need territory to feel secure!

Jul 31, 2013, 10:42 am

17: The fate of the hamster is unknown. The family came home from church one Sunday, found the cage on the floor, the door open, and the hamster gone. They could hear it around the house for a while after that, and every once in a while the dogs would go crazy barking at a wall, and the cats would prowl. But the hamster was never seen by human eyes again, dead or alive. The family believes it lived for quite a bit after in the walls and attic of the house.

Jul 31, 2013, 11:57 am

And his ghostly wails could be heard for many a year...

Jul 31, 2013, 12:52 pm

>14 LMHTWB: "And so nice of you to give him a form fitting sink of his own."

Yeah, we are thinking of throwing in the sink as a freebie if someone nice will adopt the cat. We need to remodel anyway.


Jul 31, 2013, 2:01 pm

krazy4cats, if you do decide to bite the bullet and adopt - being an experienced cat-saver you might already know all of this but ! I'll mention it anyway:

You can try adding more 3D space to increase the impression of there being enough "territory" for your kitties to claim. More high spaces - shelves, tables (that they're allowed on), cardboard boxes, kitty condos, access to windows/heights of any kind (balconies, etc). My vet recommended this, and so does that guy from that TV show "My Cat from Hell."

Another thing I've tried and it seems to help multi-cat-relations: Those sprays/diffusers that put out that "happy cat" scent. It's very calming to them. One of my rescues is very skittish/submissive and it really helps her feel safe. I spray all their beds with the happycat scent.

Each cat gets its own litterbox/feeding dish plus there should be a spare of each somewhere.

Every cat-friendly space in the household needs an "escape hatch" - a way for a cornered cat to get away from an aggressor.

Jul 31, 2013, 4:13 pm

>18 HRHTish:,22 5, really? What kind of guarantee does this come with? Money back? Free vetting?? Catnip for life??? LOL! I have had more than 5 cats without behavior problems. (I've also had 3 with major problems. )

The points you make are about 3D space, etc. are excellent. I would add that these are applicable to even houses with only 2 cats.

Jul 31, 2013, 5:59 pm

>23 LMHTWB: I never tested it LOL, I stopped at four! It's possible the vet just ran up against her space limits, despite what she knew about 3D space.

Even with four cats, after years of peace in the household, all of a sudden I'm dealing with The Litterbox Wars. Something happened - either the baby grew up or the Alpha aged out, or something, not sure. All I know is that I need to reconfigure the setup somehow, so that whoever is pooping on the floor will finally chill out!

Jul 31, 2013, 9:06 pm

>24 HRHTish: Oh, I have tested it. After 5 or 6, it really comes down to personalities. (And I'm pleading the 5th on how I know this....)

Btw, pooping is better than peeing. LOL! I have one who pees on the floor (linoleum, not carpet thankfully) when he gets pissed off.

Ago 1, 2013, 2:38 pm

Thank you all again. #22, HRHTish, I appreciate the advice. I know some of this but having it reinforced is very helpful. Our cats do find different perches when they are in the same room and I am sure they view all of them as "taken" so I may need to add more if we end up keeping Teddy. The description of the aggressive cat in link you posted is EXACTLY like my cat, Willow! He could have given the interview for that story.

Someone in my neighborhood who wants a friendly, litter-trained cat is coming over on Sunday. The only issue is the cat has to like dogs. I have no idea, of course, whether Teddy has seen a dog up close and personal, so it will be an experiment. These are really nice, compassionate people - they train dogs as seeing-eye companions, so I am sure they would be perfect cat parents. We'll see!


Ago 1, 2013, 4:58 pm


I hope your potential adoptees understand this: The First Time Freakout is a given! It's how long they're willing to live with Teddy's adjustment period that matters.

In my experience, even my most finicky cat can't bear a grudge any longer than 12 weeks. After 3 months of the offending situation he figures it's always been that way. I think it's a short term memory thing. My other cats only take a week or two to adjust to a new situation.

Ago 1, 2013, 5:50 pm

27: How long will the dogs take to adapt, is another question. Last time I was at the humane society looking at dogs so many of them were designated "no cats"...

Ago 2, 2013, 12:54 am

It really depends on the cats. We adopted a pair of kittens who never got along. My bed was peed on for years. Then my daughter moved out with the alpha cat, and a few months later we adopted a kitten. Despite hissing and chasing, we've had only one bed-peeing incident. You go figure.

Ago 21, 2013, 12:21 am

One. He weighs 18 pounds and has a chainsaw purr. Jumps on my head at midnight. Bites.

He's more cat than I can handle.