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How to Know How Many Cats Your Home Can Handle

Many of us want to adopt more than one cat, but there are limits; here are some guidelines.

Catherine Holm  |  Oct 30th 2014


We love cats and we want to help them. Often, that may mean adoption of a cat or several cats. Providing a cat a good home is a great gift. But how do we discern the upper limit of how many household cats we can appropriately care for? For some people, that number might be one or two cats; for others, like me, six. Here are some guidelines that might help when you’re trying to make a decision about how many cats you want to support in your household.

1. What can I handle with my financial resources?

How many cats can you comfortably afford? Take into account all considerations, such as the price of the food you prefer to feed, veterinary health care (routine, wellness, and unplanned), toys, cat litter and cat boxes, even pet sitting expenses. Can you comfortably afford to provide for your cat and yourself? Many animals are surrendered because the previous owner couldn’t afford them — what a sad situation!

I will admit that six cats (what I have now) is a lot for my household financially. To make things work, I try not to overfeed, I have a special way of cleaning litter boxes to make the supplies last longer, and I’ve bartered with trusted friends when I needed animal watching services. I don’t skimp on certain supplements for certain cats, and I don’t skimp on vet care. But everyone’s financial picture is different. You know what you can and can’t do.

2. Can I give each cat a good quality of life?

Cats need love and attention — multiply that by the number of cats in your household and you can be a pretty busy person. Some cats need more attention than others. For example, my Zorro needs lots of attention — he is the original Velcro cat. But all the cats get a little snarky or down if they don’t get attention and love. They also loved to be played with, and play has such great benefits (it allows them to exercise their hunting skills and redirect any aggression; it’s also great exercise). Do you have time in your life, or can you make time, to give each cat the attention and play time they need?

Time also becomes a factor in cat care. It can take time to feed several cats with different needs, not to mention keeping up on litter boxes. Our time and resources dictate whether we can give a cat or multiple cats a good quality of life.

3. Will the cats get along?

If you have the resources to bring in another cat, consider whether the cats will get along. This cannot always be predicted, but you may know enough about your current cat or cats to predict whether or not a new cat will be accepted gracefully — or not. If you do bring a new cat in, do you have the resources and time to make it work if it doesn’t start out smoothly? This could include behavior modification, research, the use of products like Feliway, etc. Think about these things beforehand.

4. Do I have space, escape routes, etc., for cats to get away from each other if needed?

Whether you’re adding a new cat or simply trying to make it work with your current cat family, ask yourself whether your living space best facilitates having a number of cats. Do the cats have places where they can escape from each other if needed? Do they have a favorite place where they can hang out with you? (It seems my cats just love it when I sit down in the futon in the common living room area — they’re instantly all over me and they’re happy.) Do the cats have good vertical space and vertical options in your place?

5. If I can’t take in another cat, is there another way I can help cats?

If you can’t take in another cat but want to help cats, there are plenty of other things you can do. Care for a feral colony and learn about (and do) TNR. Volunteer for a shelter. Fundraise or help a reputable organization raise funds. Educate others about cat welfare, overpopulation issues, and the need for spay/neuter.

How did you decide the number of cats you have was right for you? What is your limit? What have you done to make your household run smoothly and to best care for your cats, however many you have? Tell us in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.