How many cats is too many in the house

Many factors determine how many cats are too many cats. The number of cats will vary by situation.

The first time I was accused of having too many cats was when we decided to add three cats at the same time, taking our total up to 6 cats at the time.

Note: The information below is only about indoor house cats as “how many is too many” for feral cats, cat colonies, and barn cats is different than indoor pet cats.

The focus of this article is how many cats is too many, not if you should have a cat or not (that’s different criteria).

Questions vs. a specific number

If you want a specific range, stick with 1-3 cats. I made this number up using the United States average number of about two cats per household (if the cats are friendly with each other).

Once you get to 10 or more (also a made-up number), you might want to check yourself. From my own experience of living with nine cats, I know the amount of work it can be and how the dynamics between cats change with the number of cats. I love living with cats, but will not pretend like its easy all the time or that I never get tired of scooping litter boxes.

Because the number of cats that is too many isn’t the same for everyone, we will go over questions that will help you (or whoever you are checking up on) determine how many cats are too many cats for you.

Apply the questions below to your situation. Maybe you want to know how many cats is acceptable. Or perhaps you are thinking of adding more cats or are wondering if you may have too many already, or you think someone you know has too many cats and want to evaluate their situation (try to be objective if that is you!).

Questions to help you determine how many cats are too many: 

  1. Is this a cat hoarder situation?
  2. Are you following local laws and renting rules?
  3. How much space do you have? Can you do catification projects?
  4. What’s your budget for cats? Can you cover vet care and all living expenses?
  5. How do your cats feel about the other cats?
  6. Do cats fit your lifestyle and family? Are you able to spend time with each cat on most days? What about when you travel?
  7. Can you say “no” to the pressure to take in more?
  8. Does your house stink?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click them and make a purchase, I will be paid a commission.

Cat Hoarding

If you suspect someone you know or you may be a cat hoarder, please seek local help.

There doesn’t seem to be a certain number of cats that is the tipping point to be considered a cat hoarder. However, any significant amount of cats could be a cause for concern.

The condition of the living space and a lack of care of the cats are red flags.

I am not an expert on cat hoarding and recommend you read this article. It includes a list of questions to help you determine if someone is hoarding cats and provides suggestions on how to assist the person and the cats.

The cat hoarder usually believes they are helping the cats and may have a mental illness.

Follow local laws and renting rules

Your community may have a local ordinance that dictates the number of cats you can have in your house. If your local laws state that four cats are the limit, then any number of cats over 4 is too many.

It may be tempting to try and get away with it or assume no one will notice. I am not going to advocate for law-breaking. Instead, perhaps, you’d like to work with your community to have the law revised or removed.

Landlords and apartment complexes may have rules for the number of cats you can have or may say no cats at all. They may also charge an additional fee for each cat. Will you be able to afford any additional fees?

In both of these situations, I did not recommend having more cats than the law or landlord limit. I’ve seen too many sad stories in Facebook cat groups of people needing to quickly re-home a cat (or cats) because the landlord or cat hater neighbor found out. It’s stressful for the human having to give up their beloved cat(s) and the cat(s) having to move to a new home (or shelter).

Below, is a video summary of the main points in this post.

Space considerations 

I disagree with the made-up rule that says you should only have as many cats as bedrooms! And I also will not be able to provide a specific square footage per cat.

For your living space, how many cats can be comfortable? The size of your home will be a factor. A 3,000 square foot home is better equipped for more cats than a small one-bedroom or studio apartment.

Some cats are more territorial than others and will need more space to be away from the other cats.

Are you willing to catify your home (remember to respect the rules if you are renting)? Catificaiton is projects like adding vertical spaces for your cats such as cat towers, cat beds, window seats, cat shelves, plenty of scratcher boxes or towers, interactive toys, and catios. The goal is to provides more living areas and enrichment for your cats.

Do you have space for as many litter boxes as needed to accommodate your desired number of cats? More cats require more litter boxes unless you or someone in your home is able (and willing) to scoop soon after a cat uses the box. Or if you are using non-clumping litter, can you provide fresh litter often?

We didn’t know about catification until we were considering keeping Violet and 2 of her kittens that we had rescued from the yard. Don’t feel bad if this is your first time hearing about it!

Our vet sent us home with information, and one of the first things we added were window seats.We have three of the window seats below. As you can see, they can hold more than one cat! You can get this cat seat here (affiliate link).

3 cats resting in the window seat

3 cats in the same window seat!

Do your cats like other cats?

Some cats do not want any other cat friends, so any number above one cat would be too many. If you have a very cat aggressive cat, two cats will be your too many.

When a relative needed to re-home her cat (not going to explain why here), we wanted to try and keep him so her kids could visit the cat. While he liked all the other cats, not all the other cats liked him, and since we were still working on peaceful cat relationships with Charlotte (cat #9), we decided a different home would be best. One of my coworkers adopted him, and he’s been very happy and quickly made friends with her other cat.

And our first cat, Lina, really hasn’t liked any of the other cats that well (besides her littermate Kilala who has passed). She tolerates the others well enough (no actual catfights, just some occasional hissing). Adding the tenth cat felt too stressful for her and some of the others. So we know our limit now.

How many cats fit into your budget?

Cat expenses can add up. You have too many cats if you are not able to afford their care.

That could be two cats or ten cats or more, depending on your financial situation.

Adding one more cat may not seem like much more cost. Twice as much food, depending on your litter box setup and system, you may need more litter boxes and additional vet visits.

More cats mean more problems, according to my vet. And that’s turned out to be true with my cat family. The more cats you have, the more likely you are to have a cat with problems. And problems can lead to more vet visits.

Special Circumstances: The budget and cost considerations are intended for your normal life. Needing temporary help to be able to keep your cat due loss of income from a layoff or other unforeseen circumstances (such as a pandemic) is different than consistently not being able to afford your cat. Please get assistance from pet food banks or low-cost services. And consider beefing up your emergency fund once back to work.

Vet Care Costs

Vet bills should also be taken into consideration. Do not adopt a cat (or more cats) if it means you will always have to ask for help with vet bills, or worse yet, not take your cat to the vet when it needs help because you can’t afford it. Cats should not suffer because you are broke or bad at managing money.

My best tips for paying for the vet are here.

Cats are likely to cost more as they age, and potentiality develop diseases.

When Kilala was 12, she was diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid. She needed a pill twice a day every day, and she lived with the disease for over three years before passing away. There were most expensive treatments than a daily pill available, but the pill worked out okay for her. She was great at taking a pill (no fighting with me or biting – most days).

Vet care also includes an annual check-up or vaccines.

Buster had five rotten teeth at the same time! His teeth were okay at the previous annual vet visit. He wasn’t acting differently, but the vet explained the bad teeth were causing him discomfort.

Because of the dental issues that aren’t always obvious to the human, I recommend the annual vet visits. Cats could suffer for years with dental problems if their teeth are never checked!

Examples of possible vet costs

  • Annual vet check-up and vaccines. Generally, it’s recommended for cats to at least get the distemper vaccine and rabies. Cats going outside can also get the Feline Leukemia vaccine. You are likely to be able to find articles that support getting vaccines or skipping them. I am not going to debate the pros and cons here. My cats get annual vaccines.
  • Spay or Neuter. If the cats you adopted do not come “fixed,” spay or neuter will be another expense.
  • Dental work. Several of my cats have needed teeth removed or cleaned, which was revealed at their annual vet visit. This is an example of a cost that is more likely with an older cat.
  • Flea medication. If your cat goes outside sometimes, flea prevention medicine on the cats (like Revolution) will protect your cats from fleas (and other stuff) and reduce the chance of a flea infestation in your home. If you (or a visitor) bring fleas into your home, more cats creates a higher treatment cost.
  • Random stuff that happens: hot spots, diarrhea, allergies, can’t poop, etc. (this list is from my cats). There are lots of stuff that can come up!
  • Aging cats. As your cat ages, it may face additional health problems. Blood work may be required and ongoing treatment.

If your cats get sick, will you able to get the cat care she deserves and needs?

Your lifestyle and family 

More cats can be more work. Are you up for it? There will be more litter scooping, more litter boxes to clean occasionally, more food bowls to wash, more water bowls to clean, and more vacuuming (if the cats use cardboard scratchers as usually cardboard pieces scatter near it as the cats use their claws on it). And then washing out wet food cans and disposing or recycling them.

Are you willing to scoop more litter boxes every day or perhaps train your cats to use litter robots? Strategies like habit stacking from the Atomic Habits (affiliate link) book can help you make litter box scooping a habit.

What if you have a messy cat? What is your tolerance? This could be stuff like your cat sneezing all over (my Taco has chronic sinus issues), litter box misses, dirty butt, and the cat “butt scooting.” Some of my cats are better at keeping themselves clean than others!

Can you keep up with the cleaning?

Are you or others in the home and able to spend time every cat every day? I end my Caturday Newsletter every week with “Pet your cat every day.” If you or your family members are not able to pet and spend at least a few minutes a day with each cat, then maybe you have too many cats.

Do you travel so much that your cats think you are a pet sitter when you come home?

If your cats scratch your couch a bit, will you have a meltdown? Are you able to provide enough cat-friendly scratching alternatives?

Is your family in agreement with the number of cats? If not, stick to the lower amount.

Cat sitting on a cat shelf

Elwood on a cat shelf

Can you say no to more cats? 

Once you have more than the average number of cats, people will say, “what’s one more?” when they are looking to re-home their cat or find a stray.

One more can get you to too many! Know your limit.

Will you be able to set boundaries and say “no” once you’ve reached your limit? The pressure to adopt one more can come from the people you live with, close friends, or relatives, making it even harder to say no. I’ve been asked by friends of friends!

Does your house stink?

If your house smells like too many cats, you probably have too many cats. In general, cats are clean animals. They clean themselves often!

The smell from not being able to keep up with litter box cleaning, litter boxes misses, puke on the carpet, etc. could be a sign that you are not able to keep up with the cleaning.

Since you live in your house, it’s easy to adjust to the smells and not notice them, so you’ll need to ask visitors (and ask them to be honest).

There could be exceptions to the stink guideline. For example, my basement stinks from years ago, when Buster was peeing on the basement carpet, which went unnoticed for a while.

I did my best to clean it up with Nature’s Miracle (affiliate link), but never got the smell to go away completely. So really, the carpet needs to be removed as it’s below the carpet or areas that are dried and cannot find the source. But logistics feel complicated, so we just ignore it and don’t invite people into our basement. Our main floor (which has eight litter boxes) doesn’t have an overwhelming cat smell.

The key here is, are you in denial about the smell or not? And if you find out about the smell, are you willing to do something about it?

If you are thinking of adding more cats, can you keep up with the cleaning?

What do if you feel like you have too many cats?

Here are my suggestions:

  1. If you think you or someone you know is a hoarder, review the cat hoarding section near the beginning of this post.
  2. Stop taking in any more cats and be firm with anyone that asks you to take in more. If you do not add any more, can you afford proper care at all your current cats? Can you increase income if money is the issue?
  3. Decide if re-homing some of the cats would be best for the cats (even though difficult for you). Re-homing may be best if you are over the landlord limit or local limit and not able to move somewhere that allows for the number of cats that you have.
  4. If some of your cats are not getting along, before re-homing, products like Feliway may help (we are using this) or possibly reintroducing the cats slowly to each other.
  5. Ask a close friend or family who’s been in your home to help you evaluate if you really can’t decide.

Summary

To determine how many cats is too many, consider your budget for cat care, vet visits, ability and willingness to clean up after the cats, the cats’ relationships with other cats, your lifestyle, and your strength to say “no” to adopting more cats. Know your limit.

This article is not for cat hoarders. Also, it’s about indoor cats only. Cat colonies and barn cats will not use the same criteria as used for indoor cats living in your home.

My goal was not to give you a specific number but to provide questions to help you determine what the right amount is for your home.

If you can afford the cats care (food/vet), spend time with them, and they get along with each other, are not overcrowded, Then you have an okay number of cats for you. This could be two cats, six cats, or it could be the ten or more cats.

infographic listing the 8 considerations for how many cats are too many

About The Author
Heidi has been living with cats since 2003 and sends out a weekly cat tip in the Caturday Newsletter. You can sign up for it here. It's free!