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How Many Cats Are Too Many?

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Question: I have three cats and recently saw a brother and sister at my local shelter that I want to adopt -- but I think that five officially qualifies me as a crazy cat lady. I live in a 2,000 square foot home and can afford to care for them, but I don't know when it gets to be too many to have in the house. What do you think?

Pam’s Answer: This is a touchy subject because in some cases even having two cats is too many if you can’t care for them, if they aren’t in a good environment or if their personalities aren’t compatible.

Here are four things to consider:

1. Put the welfare and happiness of your resident cats at the top of the list. If they all have a great relationship and are quite content then you may not want to risk rocking the boat. The addition of two cats at once could be a bit overwhelming for your three feline residents. Take the time to evaluate if adding two more cats to the home will increase or decrease your current cats’ quality of life.

2. If any of your cats are dealing with behavioral or medical issues it may not be a good idea to add more stress to the situation.

3. The introduction of any new cat into the environment will require a gradual and positive introduction. You have to be prepared to set up a sanctuary room for the newcomers and take the time needed to help all the cats find a reason to like each other through slow, positive exposure. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to a proper introduction then it isn’t wise to add to the feline family.

4. If there are other family members in the home then their input must be respected. This should be a family decision.

How Many are Too Many?

It’s impossible to give an actual number because you have to view each situation individually and evaluate the specific circumstances. You could be labeled as the “crazy cat lady” for merely having one cat, depending upon who is doing the name-calling. The key is to truly examine your reasons for wanting to expand your cat family and make sure your decision is based on the total welfare of all cats involved. If your motivation is to save a cat from the shelter, it may not mean that the cat is a good fit for YOUR home; it may mean you should volunteer your time to try to find an appropriate forever home.

If you’re unsure of whether you may be crossing over into having too many cats, have an honest talk with your veterinarian, a trusted friend or family member. They may provide a valuable perspective that you hadn’t considered before.

Pam Johnson-Bennett is a certified cat behavior consultant and the best-selling author of seven books on cat behavior and training, including her most recent release, the updated and expanded Think Like a Cat (Penguin Books). She is a former board of directors member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is the founder/former longtime chair of their cat division. She was a member of the American Humane Association’s Advisory Board and is on the Advisory Board of Tree House Humane Society. Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, LLC, a private veterinarian-referred behavior practice in Nashville, TN.
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