We are unable to say definitively how many cats a person should own, because each household is different and certain cats will be better suited together than others.
Think very carefully before acquiring a new cat, as by nature they are solitary animals who require their own space. Consider the size of property that you have, and the space available to each individual cat. They can tolerate, and sometimes enjoy living with other cats, but this can be a delicate balance.
Owning a cat is such a pleasure, so it is not hard to understand why people want to rehome multiples of them. Although this is a very generous thing to do it is also important to think about your own cat’s welfare before considering the introduction of a new cat. You should avoid thinking of a set number of cats that you would like in the house, but instead think about individual personalities and whether a new cat would complement this. More information on introducing new cats to existing cats is available here.
Each individual cat that is placed into an environment has particular requirements that need to be met. They each compete for resources such as water, food, toileting areas, resting places and socialising time with humans. A barren environment where groups of cats are forced to share the resources will encourage fighting and bullying, which will then result in high anxiety levels.
The dynamics of a multicat household or large group of unrelated cats is constantly changing. Their emotional welfare is of most importance so a little effort, money and time can be invested in a barren or non-cat friendly environment to make it more feline minded. The benefits of enrichment can be:
Lower parasite burden and transmission.
Lower disease transmission.
Reduced medical issues relating to stress (i.e. cystitis, overgrooming, self mutilation, eating disorders).
Cats with a more relaxed temperament who are easier to look after.
Ability for the cats to cope with the situation better.
Reduced redirected aggression and unwanted behavioural problems.
Reduced anxiety or territory related marking such as spraying, urinating and defecating inappropriately.
How to provide resources for each cat:
Food, litter and water
There should be one food bowl per cat in the household; each cat’s feeding area should be in a separate part of the house. You also need to provide a water bowl for each cat and place these around the house.
The general rule for litter trays is one per cat, plus one extra. Even if the cat does not use the tray it is always worth having them down. You can have covered litter trays and open litter trays, with a variety of different substances available. Remember to put litter trays in quiet areas of the house but make sure that they are easily accessible.
The idea behind spreading food bowls, water bowls and litter trays around the house is to stop one cat having control over a resource that all the cats need access to.
Providing a variety of resting and hiding places around the house can give each cat their own quiet place. You don’t have to spend lots of money, but could instead use cardboard boxes and fleecy blankets to line them with. Cats seek high up areas when they feel anxious, so make sure these resting areas are all at different heights.
Scratching is a natural behaviour for a cat and can also provide a way for cats to mark their territory, through the scent glands in the paw. You can provide a range of scratching areas for the cat and these needn’t cost a large amount of money. You can use carpet samples, wicker doormats, disposable cardboard scratchers and standard post scratchers. Place the scratching devices in prominent areas, usually entrance and exit points to each room. A scratching post will not be used if it is tucked away. You can encourage the cat to use the scratching areas by placing dry catnip on them.
Most cats find it important to have time spent with their owners and they often crave attention from them. You should try to spend quality time with each cat you own, as some cats attention seek all the time which pushes other cats out of the picture. You may have to separate the cats at times in order to spend quality time with each one.
You should always provide a mixture of toys for your cat and there is a very wide range available. Some of the best types of toys are the fishing rod variety as it allows your cat to play without coming too close. Many cats enjoy playing by themselves with mice or ball toys, others prefer to interact when the owner initiates play. In order to make the toys exciting and novel it is best to hold some back, and rotate them on a daily basis.
Most cats love exploring vegetation or chewing on grass. You can buy fresh catnip, cat grass or cat mint that you can grow inside the house in pots. It is a great way to provide enrichment for your cat but make sure you have enough to go around.
Most people only have one entrance and exit to the property for the cats, usually via a cat flap. Unfortunately this gives one cat the ability to guard the cat flap and bully the other cats. If you install multiple cat flaps, leave windows open or let cats in/out manually, this can sometimes ease the situation.
Multiples of cats are generally easier to keep when they are young adolescents or kittens. At one to two years of age they reach social maturity and this is often when problems occur. Each cat will be reaching adulthood and often they struggle to share their territory with other socially mature cats.
If you are having behavioural problems in the house then please start by following all the resource information above. If the problems still continue then please ring us for advice.