Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I live in Texas, in a city where you can only have three cats and three dogs. I have more, and I love every one of them. They all have their shots and are spayed or neutered. I had 15 cats, but I have already given up four; two of them have found new homes. I now have eight at home and three at a friend’s house. We would like to rent a place in the country where no one cares about how many animals we have.
I want to keep the four oldest cats, at least. Is it unrealistic to want to take care of them all and love them all? Should I give them up so they will have a chance to get new homes? How can I keep them and will they get over it if I give them up? How do breeders get to keep all their cats? I hate animal laws!
Siouxsie: Well, Tammy, you’ve brought up some really important issues that need to be discussed and thought out — not just by you and your family, but by cat lovers in general. I think we can give you some insight on your situation, though.
Thomas: The first of these is, how many cats is “too many?” We’re happy to hear that all of your cats are “fixed” and vaccinated; that speaks well of your willingness to be responsible about their care. But circumstances change and there are a lot of factors at play here, and we’re going to focus on the practical ones because we know you’ve got plenty of love for all your cats!
Dahlia: Do you have the financial means to keep all your cats healthy? Is each one of them getting annual vet checkups, appropriate vaccinations, high-quality food, and parasite control — and do you have the resources to deal with medical emergencies?
Siouxsie: If you’re not giving your cats this level of care (for example, they’re not getting annual checkups and you’re not keeping your cats current on their vaccinations), and if you’re not sure you could afford treatment for a medical emergency that cost more than, say $100 or so, you probably don’t have the financial means to keep all your cats.
Thomas: Then there’s the sanitary issue. Do you have enough litterboxes for all your cats, do you clean them at least once a day, and do you clean all those boxes and replace the litter at least once a month? Do your cats pee or poop outside of their boxes? If so, this is most likely a symptom of territorial stress resulting from too many cats.
Dahlia: If your house smells like cat urine (and you may have to ask someone else if it does because your nose won’t register the smell if you’ve been around it for a while), the chances are you’re not able to keep up with your cats’ hygienic needs.
Siouxsie: If in your honest assessment you can meet the financial and sanitary requirements of keeping 15 cats, that’s wonderful. Not many people can, and this is the reason animal laws and ordinances exist.
Thomas: As you probably know, there are hoarders who live with dozens and sometimes hundreds of ill cared-for cats in grim conditions. Animal ordinances allow law and code enforcement officials to confiscate and rescue cats from these horrific situations, and perhaps even get the hoarder the psychological and social help he or she needs.
Dahlia: Animal ordinances also exist in order to protect public health. If cats are roaming around neighborhoods, getting in fights with other cats, and depositing feces (which could potentially be contaminated with toxoplasmosis or other parasites) in sandboxes and gardens, this presents a public health risk.
Siouxsie: If you can’t provide proper care for your cats, moving to the country where nobody cares about how many cats you have is not going to solve the core problem of too many cats. If an alcoholic got arrested for drunk driving and decided to move to a place where he can walk to the liquor store, his alcoholism would still exist even though he found a way to avoid the legal consequences of his disease.
Thomas: We can’t give you advice on how to keep all your cats, because we’re honestly not sure you should. Hopefully by asking yourself these practical questions and answering them honestly, you’ll come to a decision about what’s best for you and, most importantly, your cats.
Dahlia: If you do decide to give up enough cats to get you down to the legal limit, the ones you surrender probably will be in shock for a little while. This is normal because cats aren’t big fans of change. However, most cats do bounce back pretty quickly. You mentioned in your letter that there’s a no-kill shelter in your area, and we’re sure that if you give your cats to them they will find wonderful forever-homes and they’ll be very happy in the long run.
Siouxsie: As to the question of how breeders get to keep all their cats, we imagine that it has something to do with being licensed businesses and continuing to meet health and sanitation standards. I’m sure there are some breeders who read Paws and Effect, and maybe they can speak to the vast number of laws, ordinances, and regulations they need to follow in order to maintain their status.
Thomas: We’re not talking about kitten mill type “breeders” here, because these profit-driven, nasty individuals just skirt around the law by setting up in places where people don’t see what’s going on and where officials “don’t care how many cats you have.’
Dahlia: Well, Tammy, this probably wasn’t what you wanted to hear, but we hope we’ve given you (and our other readers) some food for thought when it comes to deciding how many cats is too many.
why? my pets are like family. that would be like taking your child to school and saying have a good life you are on your own.
I kind of have to disagree on a couple of your points. I have three cats of my own and frequently foster cats. The highest number of cats/kittens that have ever called my house home was 17, I think, this past spring. Yes there are considerations other than the amount of love you have but I’m not convinced that you are on base with all of your opinions. Yes, you do have to put some serious thought into your financial position but I for one don’t believe that indoor cats need annual check-ups or regular parasite control. My cats receive both, because they are routinely exposed to cats from a high-volume shelter but many responsible pet owners I know forgo annual checkups because of the cost and they unnecessariness of them.
In addition, my house right now has 5 cats in it. One foster who has litter box issues that are unrelated to territorial issues. And the rooms where the boxes are unfortunately smell oh so slightly of pee despite twice daily cleanings simply because of the high level of humidity.
Finally, I would err on the side of keeping your remaining cats. Unfortunately, as you probably know, there are more compainon animals than people willing to care for them. A high kill shelter sounds like a fantastic thing but there is the potential that your beloveds won’t be quickly adopted and spend a long time in a small cage. You don’t even necessarily have to move to the country. I live in a city that has laws against free roaming cats but none that specify a limit on the number you can keep.
If you don’t think you can care for them though, I encourage you to rehome them yourself or work with a rescue agency for publicity to get them rehomed. The transition would be easier for them if there wasn’t the additional stress of shelter time.
I live in Illinois but I`m unsure about how many cats I can legally own here. I have 5 great ones and would hate to give one or more up but is this legal???
I have two 5 month old brother kittens at home, both strictly indoors. I adopted them from the local ASPCA. They are both healthy gorgeous boys I adore and last month between toys, cat trees, changing vets, normal meds and the great food escapades I spent $1100. I am hyper vigilant about my pets watching their behavior and checking their bodies for any discomfort. Cats whether indoor or out need heart worm protection because there is no cure for it in cats only prevention. Honestly they love you without condition and the least you can do is return optimal care. If you cannot or worse, will not, provide yearly checkups and monthly parasite protection at least then you really should rethink owning a pet. It’s not fair. You don’t need to break your bank but do youre research. Indoor cats can still get deadly problems and cause tremendous health hazards.
I am an 84 years old Austrian and live with my philippine spouse in the Philippines. There, small pets have no value and when they request food, a vet or just are not wanted anymore, they are thrown out, totured or slaughtered and eaten. Stray animals are usually killed by the gas of a car engine or just beaten to death. There is a “Python Sanctuary” wher people pay for to watch how the snake kills cats and dogs. It is tagged as “tourist attraction”.
When we settled here with a rented house, we took over three dogs and one cat. Soon it became known by other cats that there was food and shelter and more came to us, some even brought their babies. Then wetook some cats we found thrown away and even people threw in kitten to us. After 5 years, even some had died already, we has 38 cats and 4 dogs. Now, we llive in our own house and lot with 83 cats and 4 dogs, also thrown away puppies when we rescued them.
We divided our lot and fenced half of it with metal roof so that it is climbnproof, put a cathouse, big litterbox, there are trees and bushes, big bamboo beds here th cats can sleep iin shadow duing the day. We feed and clean (anextra helper for the animals twice a day rice, fish, vegetables, canned and dry food. Our vet does not ligate cats, he removes ovaries, a big and expensive opeeration, our Micky even needed a caesarian delivery because square kitten who died in her. Eight such problem cats that needed long attention and became very close to us, live with us at the house. Meanwhile, with the exploding prices and costs, animals are thebiggest part of our budhet which is my pension after we lost our savings at a bank crash. Still we love all our pets like family members and we grieve for anyone who dies or disappear. We had alreadt 99 cats when 9 cats died opn poison, somebody throw it in or some poisoned rats or mice, all died within36 hours. One of the house cats, running away from a neighbor where kids used it as toy and where was not food ebough, died after a year on rat poison because the vet did not diagnose it correct and injected vitamins instead of anti hemorrhage meds like vitamin k. Vets here do not know much about pets since common people will not spend money for a pet. Problems? Throw it out. If died, throw it to garbage. While we cry for every dead, display them with flowers, make a box as a coffin and bury with the flowers at the cat area.
So, our life is now mainly dedicated to our animals and we are happy or sad depending to their happyness or problems. Too many? Being rich enough, we would have a big lot and many cathouses with helpers and a vet, no matter 100 or 1000 cats. Only we would not be able anymore to name them and to remember their names. Now, we know the names and all animals know their name, too.
this is the WORST advise I’ve ever seen! Thomas sounds like an idiot..how many cat does he have. The rule is 200sq ft/cat. If you add some height (trees or shelving for them) you can cut this number in half! People in NYC do it all the time.
the REAL answer to he question is 10 cats! Now. if you love and can handle a few more I see no problem with 15. After that is gets a little much so I would say your 15 in your situation is the max limit…DON”T get anymore for sure:)
Also…EVERYONE who loves or has a multi cat household, or feels they can comment on it MUST read “Cat vs Cat”