Going from 3 to 6 cats

Going from 3 to 6 cats at one time was one of the best decisions we ever made. Violet, Jake, and Elwood have brought much joy to our lives.

When we had only Lina, Kilala, and Buster we were not looking to add any more cats into our home. We likely turned down the “do you want another cat?” question may times.

If you wondering how many cats might be too may for you, you can read through the questions here.

And then a cat brought kittens to our yard

On July, 20 2014, the cat we had been feeding regularly for several months brought her 5 kittens to our yard. This cat is now our Violet. We had been feeding Violet that spring nearly every day not knowing that she was pregnant.

You can read more of her background story and why we had food in out in the backyard here.

Upon finding the kittens, I pretty much assumed from the start that we would adopt Violet and have her as another inside cat. As older cats (which are wonderful) can be harder to find homes for than kittens.

Since we were not planning on adding more cats to our family, I contacted our local humane society. I learned that they do not accept feral cats.


Violet the day we found her with the kittens
Violet the day we found her with the kittens

Usually, feral cats will not be able to trust humans enough to be re-homed as indoor cats. Therefore for feral cats, a trap-neuter-release program is recommended.

The kittens were feral and completely afraid of me. Violet was semi-feral. It’s possible that she was abandoned by a previous owner.

I learned online from various sources (I didn’t document them since I didn’t have this blog then) how to socialize kittens. The remainder of July, August, and September was spent earning their trust.

What worked best was petting them while giving them canned wet food. At first, I just watched them eat. And then every few days I would move closer to them while they were eating. Eventually, I was able to pet them and they would look forward to seeing me.

By the end of September, I was friends with Violet and her kittens. I was able to pet each of them and some would approach me. One of the orange kittens (probably) Jake, would want to climb on me and sit on my lap.

At this point, instead of getting the kittens into our local humane society, I decided to find homes for them.

Violet with her 5 kittens
Violet with her 5 kittens

The attempt to find homes for the kittens

Once Violet was spayed and tested negative for leukemia and FIV, we moved her and the kittens into the house. We kept them separate from Lina, Kilala, and Buster in a room they did not have access to.

What I didn’t expect was the difficulty in finding homes for all 5 kittens. Stella, the grayish/black kitty was claimed early on by my niece from pictures I had shared on Facebook.

I posted on my Facebook page several times. And I shared about them at my office. A few coworkers expressed interest but it didn’t work out.

And a friend’s parents wanted 1 kitten. I was super excited when they decide to take 2 (kittens in pairs are nice as they can entertain each other). They decided to adopt the two black kittens.

3 kittens on top of cat house in backyard
3 kittens on top of cat house in backyard

I didn’t want to advertise for the remaining 2 kittens for free as I feared they would not end up in a good home (free kittens aren’t free to care for). In reading up online about how to find homes for cats, I was horrified to learn that sometimes people take cats for research, fighting, or bait.

I started thinking maybe we should keep them. Initially, Ted said, “No way, our house is too small.” Not including our basement and a not heated foyer, the square footage is about 950 ft. How could we have room for 3 more?

Meanwhile, no one was stepping up to adopt the 2 orange kittens and I was starting to get attached. I spent time with them and Violet every day to continue their socialization.

Are you crazy? That’s too many cats.

I started asking friends and coworkers what they thought about us having six cats. Most people said having six was crazy! Some joked that I was on my way to being a crazy cat lady. Overall, the responses were negative.

Three people gave me positive responses. Dawn who had had 5 or 6 cats in a similar-sized house and it worked out okay. Alice had 5 cats in her childhood. She shared that each cat found its own space.

My boss at that time, Eric, asked me if we had the means to care for six cats. Yes, we did. Then why not keep them? Be keeping them we kept 2 cats in a good home and out of the homeless cat programs (humane society and cat rescues) and off the streets as community cats.

The Vet

At the time of the rescue, our local community did not have low-cost option to determine if Violet and the kittens had leukemia or FIV. The closest location was about an hour away. We opted to take the cats to our regular veterinarian.

We mentioned to the vet that we were considering keeping some of the kittens. He gave us some advice on how to make more space for additional cats and also gave us an article to look over.

We realized that we could do several of the suggested items.

Having six cats has worked out fine

After some deliberation, we decided to give it a try! We kept the two orange kittens and named them Jake and Elwood (yes, they are named after the main characters in the Blues Brothers movie).

We did a slow integration letting them smell each other through a door. And then spending a short amount of time in each other’s area. There was an adjustment period. Just over two years later and things are mostly good between all the cats.

Lina still hisses at Jake and Elwood when the chase her. Buster will play and cuddle with Jake and Elwood. Violet has transformed from standoffish to asking to be petted.

What about the cost?

The initial cost was significant. We paid to have Violet and all the kittens tested for FIV and Leukemia. And then Violet, Jake, and Elwood received the standard set of shots and were spayed and neutered. And we bought some more cat stuff (which was not really required).

The cost of food doubled. Violet has been sick once (turns out too much wet cat food gives her the runs) and Jake and Elwood have not needed any extra vet visits beyond the annual visit. All of our extra vet visits have been with the older cats, and we would have incurred those costs regardless of adding three more cats.

The blessings of cats

We love living with our cats. And are very happy with our decision to add Violet, Jake, and Elwood to our family. It was super fun which Jake and Elwood interact with each other as kittens.

And the sweet moments when Jake will cuddle up with Ted on the couch. Elwood and Jake still spend time chasing each other through the house. Lina and Kilala are still best friends. Violet doesn’t do any cuddling but has started to follow me around a bit. Buster will snuggle with Jake and sometimes Elwood too.

Lina and Kilala
Buster and Jake
Buster and Jake

Sometimes (when they feel like it!) they greet us at the door when we come home. Buster will almost always take a nap with me. And when my mother-in-law passed away, Buster was there to give me extra affection. And Kilala will often sit with me while I practice the organ.

More on each cat can be found on the Meet the Cats page.

We have recently adopted cat 7! A kitten my niece rescued but was not able to keep. We’ve named him Taco.

How many cats do you have? Did you get them all at the same time?

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

21 thoughts on “Going from 3 to 6 cats”

  1. How many litter boxes do you have? With 7 cats, you should have 9 so each cat can have its own space, ideally.

    We found a little stray that was no more than a month old, an orange tabby that we named Orange Juice. We weren’t able to keep Juicey as our Gabby doesn’t do well with other cats, but we did find him a wonderful home with our aunt who had just lost a cat.

    It’ s so good to see someone who thoughtfully rescues cats in need <3

    • We have 12 litter boxes. some of them are not used every day. They seem to have there favorites.

      I’m glad you were able to find a good home for Juicey!

    • We didn’t really intend to have 12 litter boxes. It just sort of happened over time. When we brought in Violet and the kittens, we put 2 in the area they were in. When we decided to keep the cats, we kept the litter boxes too.

      And we already had some in the basement. Not quite sure how we ended up with 10 in the basement. We have 3 in one room and 7 in another. We have them in two rooms because Buster is picky about litter boxes…I will write up a full blog post someday about it!

  2. Two locations ago, there were a lot of community cats. We earned the trust of the matriarch and almost all of her progeny and got all but one of them spayed/neutered and either adopted them ourselves or in the case of one family of very small kittens, they were taken by a friend who did rescue, and she reported that they all got adopted. Our family was larger than yours in a house of 1,100 sq. ft. and in our fenced yard compound. In the last location, 10 were in our 1,600 sq. ft. home and 12 in our secured barn compound. It can absolutely be done, with proper care and supplies. Good on you for putting your caring into action! and for your great site/blog/socials.

    • sounds like you’ve done a lot to help the cats in your area! The setup for the outdoor cats sounds great. thanks for helping them!

  3. We have 6 cats too. Dragon, Winter, Summer, Autumn, Gidget, and Olive. They are all rescues. We started with two and then found Moma Gidget with her three babies out in the in heat and brought them in to be part of our family.

  4. Thank you for your post. A couple of months ago a pregnant cat was hanging around, we live in Puerto Rico currently and there are cats everywhere and she was friendly, whereas most cats around here are feral, so we assumed she had a home, so we weren’t feeding her. But she would come by every few days to say hi, then leave within 10 mins… until… we wake up one morning to her and 6 new-born kittens in our yard. Today they are almost 10 wks old and we are struggling to find them homes. In PR, cats are everywhere, and even shelters struggle to find cats/kittens homes, so they fly them to the states to get adopted. And being around them this long, we’re slowly becoming super attached to them. We’re considering keeping them if we can’t find homes for them… and we plan on moving back to the states and flying with them… that’s a whole another task! But I am glad I came across your post about having 6 cats, I thought it would be strange, but I know it can be doable.

    • Hello Kelly,
      How did things work out for you and the cats?
      I am in the same situation.
      I currently live in PR and I have 6 ferral /outdoor cats (one showed up and gave birth to 5). They are now 1.5 years old. I will be moving to Kentucky and do not want to leave them. I’ve been wondering how I would handle 6 indoor cats.
      This post helped.
      Hoping you (Kelly) can give some positive results and tips from your experience as well.


  5. Thank you for this post! I have 3 cats all 2 years old from different adoptions. And recently came across 3 kittens that I have become so attached to. I have had no success at finding them homes and have been so scared these babies will end up in the wrong hands, I have almost made up my mind to keep these babies and have 6 cats in all which my family thinks is too much since I already have 3 dogs. I will have to do up our basement and put some litter boxes down there ❤ Thank you for your insight!

  6. Thank you so much for this. I recently happened upon 5 kittens that I’ve become too attached to let go of. Everyone I’ve told thinks I’m insane and responses are overwhelmingly negative! Thank you for making me feel less insane💛

  7. I now have 5 y’all are helping me feel better too. They’re all my babies! So entertaining. You don’t want to separate them they’re little families even if not related.

  8. I am almost scared to say this but I know I top the amount. I currently own 9 cats/kittens. All taken in at different times, most related and children of the feral mom I feed when I see her. When I first moved into our house I saw, who I named Old Mama, on my neighbor’s back porch with at least 6 half grown kittens. This litter had Buddy and Lil Mama. Buddy has in the past couple of years become an indoor/outdoor cat to my neighbor, and he actually visits me often. I managed to have snip alliance come out twice and spay/neuter Old Mama, a couple of her adult kids, and the dominant tom. Then they never managed to catch Lil Mama:( She has gone on to have maybe 4 litters since then. I have managed to save a couple from each litter and between me and the neighbor we own a total of 15 cats and work together to find any kittens we rescue good homes. The ones I own now are likely permanent residents of my home and my babies since I raised several from a week or less old. Kinda hard to give a baby away once you’ve raised it by bottle like that. The ones I kept are little trouble makers or now grown and was never wanted by anyone as kittens, they were pretty basic as far as color. There’s just so many kittens needing homes all the time it seems. I am trying so hard to get Lil mama spayed but mine had to be fixed first and she is extremely hard to even get near, even after 3 years of feeding her. I’m still trying and will continue to care for her and the few fixed siblings and Old Mama and my cats are happy and well cared for, I’m certainly not rich but I make sure they’re health is a priority.

    • Sounds like Lil Mama will need to be trapped to get fixed. I hope it works out for you to get them all fixed soon.

      And I agree, there aren’t enough homes for the kittens and cats.


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