Cats are incredibly popular pets. In New York City alone, it’s estimated that there are about 500,000 pet cats1. But if you’ve been wondering how many cats you’re allowed to have, you might be surprised to learn that currently, there aren’t any specific state laws that dictate how many cats you’re allowed to own in a single household.
That said, individual towns and cities have certain laws and legislation in place, so you should always check with your municipality before bringing home that fourth cat. Here, we discuss this and other considerations that you need to make about owning multiple cats, regardless of where you live.
Legislation for Number of Cats Owned
There isn’t any formal law that governs the entire state of New York about how many cats you are allowed to own at one time. But towns and cities might have their own legislation in place. For example, the City of Newburgh has legislation dictating that no more than five cats that are over 6 months of age should be living in the same household2.
While New York City currently does not have any mandate about the number of cats allowed in a household, the New York Police Department investigates and enforces animal abuse and cruelty complaints, which might happen if there are too many cats in a home3.
Beyond your city potentially placing a limit on the number of cats that anyone can own, if you’re renting an apartment or home, the landlord might have their own rules in place for cat ownership. While many landlords prefer no pets at all, others might allow pets, but only one.
The long and the short of it is that if you’re unsure about how many cats you’re allowed to have in your home, start by reviewing your municipality’s legislation on pets. Then follow this by checking with the landlord, the homeowner’s association (HOA), or the condo rules.
How Many Cats Is Too Many?
This is a tricky question because the answer depends on numerous variables. Some people put a number on this question, stating that there should not be more than six cats in one home.
There are also theories that state that you should only have as many cats as you have bedrooms or that you should have 200 square feet of space for every cat.
But there is no hard-and-fast rule on this. Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett states that everything comes down to each individual household, which includes considering the following:
- Your finances — How many cats can you actually afford to look after?
- Current living conditions — Do you have the space for multiple cats? Where will you put all the litter boxes?
- Physical and emotional state — Are you able to give all the cats the right kind of emotional support? Can you physically care for multiple cats?
- Current cat situation — Do you already own one or more cats? How will they adapt to more being around?
- Time and schedule — Do you have the time to look after multiple cats? If you work full-time outside of the house, can you fit the care of multiple cats into your schedule?
- Your family — How does your family feel about more cats? Are they on board with the idea?
- Reasons — Examine why you want multiple cats.
- Rules and legislation — Consider the legality in your town or city and the rules of your landlord and/or HOA.
The urge to bring cats home with you every time you see an adorable kitten or a cat in need of rescue is something that most cat lovers struggle with. But you need to think of the overall welfare of the cats that you want to help.
Not everyone turns this love into a cat-hoarding situation, but saving cats can quickly turn into this kind of scenario for some people. Cats are self-sufficient and can look after themselves quite well.
When hoarders put cats into cages or don’t let them out, they are making the situation much more difficult for the cats, which would likely be better off fending for themselves outside.
With too many cats, looking after their health, cleaning litter boxes, and feeding them can become overwhelming. Before the hoarder knows it, the cats that they were rescuing have overrun the house. All good intentions aside, these are not ideal living situations for the hoarder or the cats.
Considerations for Multiple Cats
For every cat that you bring home, you’re looking at cleaning more litter boxes. You need one litter box for each cat, plus an extra. If you have three cats, you’ll need at least four litter boxes, and since they need scooping every day, that’s a great deal of poop for you to deal with! The litter boxes should also be separated from each other to avoid territorial behavior and fighting.
There are food bills, too, and the vet bills will start to rise. You must also meet each cat’s needs physically and emotionally. You’ll need to spend time playing with all your cats and giving them individual cuddling time.
Don’t forget about cat enrichment. Cats prefer to hide out in high places, so you need not only wide-open spaces and rooms but also plenty of vertical space for cats to climb up to. Cat trees, cat shelves, window seats, and perches are all critical parts of making your cats happy.
The idea of a house full of gorgeous cats is appealing to many of us, but the reality is another story.
The more cats hanging around, the more likely that you’ll run into territorial problems. This includes aggression directed toward each other, which can turn into a full-blown catfight. This kind of aggression can also be misdirected toward you and other family members.
All the cats should be spayed and neutered, or you’ll also be dealing with yowling, fighting, and urine spraying on your walls and furniture. Plus, you’ll soon have more cats on your hands with all the unspayed females becoming pregnant.
Issues can arise over food too. The more dominant cats can potentially bully the more submissive ones, leading to an imbalance of food eaten and consequently, weight problems. Some cats might become overweight or obese, while others might lose weight.
All of this can add up to a great deal of stress for some cats, particularly for the ones that have lived with you the longest. Cats are creatures of habit, and any major upheavals in the household can drastically change a cat’s behavior.
What Else Can You Do?
While your love of cats can’t extend to rescuing every cat that you see, there are other options that can be just as meaningful.
- Volunteer at your local animal rescue group or shelter.
- Donate necessary items or money to a rescue group or shelter (call ahead or look online first to see what they need the most).
- Take part in fundraising events.
- Consider becoming a colony caretaker. Provide food, water, shelter, and healthcare to strays and feral cats. (Keep in mind that this is a long-term commitment, and you will need to arrange for someone else to look after the colony when you can’t).
While there aren’t any rules in New York State about how many cats you can own, remember to check with your municipality and landlord before adding multiple cats to your household.
There is no magic number for how many cats in a home is too many. For some people, one cat is more than enough, while others can manage well with eight. If you have the patience, time, finances, and resources to look after a bunch of cats and can give them all a loving home, that’s great!
Featured Image Credit: Armelion, Pixabay