How many cats is too many?
August 29, 2006 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Help me settle a disagreement with my fiance - how many cats is it reasonable for two people in a flat to have?

There's no limit on pets in the lease, so that's not a consideration. What say you, hive mind? How many cats is just too many?
posted by dial-tone to Pets & Animals (73 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by smackfu at 4:33 PM on August 29, 2006

How big is "the flat"?
posted by alan at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2006

One or two is reasonable. Three and you're a little odd. Four is borderline weird-o. Five is certifiable craziness.
posted by dendrite at 4:36 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm with dendrite on this one.

One or two. More is pushing it.

(oh, and I guess you're not the cat lover)
posted by knapah at 4:39 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's not a chalk line, so much as a grey slope from normal to insane-catperson-hood.

For a place with 1-2 people, I'd personally go with:
0-2 normal.
3-4 cat lover.
5-6 Excessive. Suspicion that the owner may have abandonment issues :)
7+ Warning bells. Person at risk of a lonely death with only feline companions who have overrun the house, and will feed on the corpse when the catfood runs out. :-)

Note: Kittens do not count towards those totals.

Note: One-year old cats are not kittens. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:40 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I propose:
Cat_max = ceil( (x - .5)^-2 + 2 )

where x is the number of people residing in the domicile.

So if you live alone, then you can have a maximum of six cats

with two people, you can have a maximum of 3 cats
posted by mulligan at 4:40 PM on August 29, 2006 [3 favorites]

One person may have 3 cats. For each additional person, add 1 cat. So two people can have 4 cats.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:41 PM on August 29, 2006

And we should also probably include some sort of age function added to that which lets you get even more cats once you pass the age of 55, providing that you are not married.
posted by mulligan at 4:42 PM on August 29, 2006

We have a rule here that cats may not outnumber people.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 4:42 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Spinn from had a lovely equation for determining how many cats was too many based on the number of occupants and square footage of the house. Any more than the limit, and you'd become a crazy cat lady. It was put together on a lark, but surprisingly, trying it out on a few different scenarios, it actually seemed to come up with reasonable results. Sadly, his site is down so I can't get it for you.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:46 PM on August 29, 2006


And I think 2 is a nice number for the cats too.
posted by fire&wings at 4:47 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by oxford blue at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2006

0-2 depending on total rooms, square footage, and number of sofas for them to shit behind.

s+(ft squared)+r/the dow

ok I just think 0-2
posted by Megafly at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Dendrite has it.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 4:52 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I go with 2: a cat for each, with no cat left out.
posted by LeisureGuy at 4:54 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Simple rule of thumb. As many as you like, but no more than one of any sex.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2006

My sister and I discuss this all the time. Our feeling is that barring some cat disaster [where you postively must take a cat or it will die a gruesome death, or a newly moved out roommate] the answer is N+1 where N is the number of people living in the house. Sure, you can have more, but then you are a crazy cat lady/dude. I am a librarian, I know these people and I know this.
posted by jessamyn at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I also agree with Dendrite.
posted by meta87 at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2006

Even I'd say more than four is really pushing it. I've had as many as six at one time (plus three dogs, in a reasonably large house with four people), and that was far too many, that's a swarm of cats, they were everywhere, like cockroaches.

I'd say three and MAYBE four, certainly no more, assuming you have enough space to provide adequate litterboxen. I prefer having fewer pets as a general rule, the more you have, the harder it is to pay adequate attention to each animal (not just affection, but health), and the more cats you have, the harder it is to do things like feed them individually (which is a need which often arises with cats), or figure out which one's got diarrhea, or which one's bleeding.
posted by biscotti at 4:56 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'd go with Dendrite... but with a small stipulation...

Depending on how often someone will be home, and whether the can can actually get outside (Our apartment had a balcony that our cat could jump on/off), I'd start with 2 cats so they can play with each other, instead of ripping shit to shreds while you're away.
posted by hatsix at 4:56 PM on August 29, 2006

1 less than enough to smell.
posted by JamesMessick at 4:56 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Most strata and building managers set the limit at 2.
posted by acoutu at 4:57 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

"If you have to ask ..."
posted by spaceman_spiff at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2006

One cat, and then that cat needs its own cat, so two cats total.
posted by padraigin at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2006 [3 favorites]

here are the determinants, so far as i am concerned:

1. size of apartment
2. how many bathrooms (i.e., how much litterbox space)
3. how many people live there and will care for the cats
4. how much you care about a clean apartment
5. will you have frequent guests, and/or are your friends allergic

two is a good number for two people in a standard one-bedroom.
posted by sdn at 5:01 PM on August 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

Two is the perfect number of cats. I should know. I have 3. Once you have 3, it's the slippery slope. You wake up one morning and you have 8.
posted by lois1950 at 5:03 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with two cats.

Cat Story:
I once met up with a friend in S.F. We were both going to stay at his friend's 2 bedroom apt. Since I have allergies, my friend said, "I know Mark has a cat or 2, so bring pills."

Mark had 21 cats!!!! My friend didn't think that nearly as odd as I did. 21 is TOO many, imo.
posted by Bear at 5:05 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

21 is TOO many, imo.

21 is a mental illness.
posted by biscotti at 5:09 PM on August 29, 2006

The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
CAT, n.
A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.
(Ambrose, me thinks, would say two)
posted by hortense at 5:10 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

i recommend two females of similar age. of the cat combinations i've had, this was the most successful.
posted by mdpc98 at 5:13 PM on August 29, 2006

Mark doesn't have 21 cats. 21 cats have Mark... as thier personal ape-slave. See also.
posted by maryh at 5:13 PM on August 29, 2006

Up to 3 cats -- Fine

4 cats -- You're pushing it

5 or more cats -- seek counseling. It's a flat not a farm, for god's sake.
posted by bim at 5:17 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Two! We just adopted adorable 4-month old brothers. I'd feel horrible if there was a third wheel out there that wasn't getting someone's undivided attention.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:17 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

There's a common formula for figuring out the optimal number of litterboxes for multiple cats: Lb = c + 1, where c is the number of cats. This is because cats will sometimes harass each other over litterboxes, so it's best to have one for each cat, plus one in case the others are being monopolised.

Simply insert your maximum number of litterboxes for Lb, then derive the number of cats from there.
posted by vorfeed at 5:20 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

No more than two (and I think you should have two if you're going to be out a lot). definitely no more cats than people.
posted by crabintheocean at 5:37 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

i recommend two females of similar age. of the cat combinations i've had, this was the most successful.

The general wisdom is that opposite-sex cats tend to get on better. Which is not to say that same-sex cats never do, but your chances of peaceful success are greater with opposite-sex cats. I have had the worst luck with two females of similar age, so...
posted by biscotti at 5:41 PM on August 29, 2006


Otherwise you're the strange cat people.
posted by filmgeek at 6:04 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Two. I had to suffer through three cats in a two-bedroom apartment. I am no longer a cat person.

My rule for cats-per-person would go something like "no more cats than can be effectively kicked." In order to kick you must rest your weight on one foot, so basically one cat per person.
posted by lekvar at 6:10 PM on August 29, 2006 [3 favorites]

Two's the limit. Three is borderline crazy, any more than that and you're definately full-on crazy.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:24 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Cats need cat company, so it should be either 0 or 2 as the minimum. We've had as many as 4. It's manageable, but not good. 3 is the upper limit for general sanity. Then you can see that every cat is eating properly, that every cat gets petted, that every cat's coat is brushed, and that every cat gets to the vet. More than that, and all of them get neglected somewhat, or you spend every waking minute tending cats.
posted by clarkstonian at 6:35 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

We had three cats in a small two bedroom and I am still a cat lover. If I had the space I would have four of them. But it's an individual thing, people shouldn't have more cats than they feel comfortable with. Two is probably a good number if one of the people is not a big cat person.
posted by Melsky at 6:36 PM on August 29, 2006

My personal rule is that the number of bedrooms equals the maximum number of cats that can be supported. In my case, that leaves me with 3 cats, and it's worked out nicely that each has staked a claim on a different bedroom.

I will say, though, that the jump from 2 to 3 was considerably more work than going from 1 to 2. I suspect it's because competitive pooing and whatnot is all the more exciting for the little pea-brains with the extra player.
posted by Sangre Azul at 6:40 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

1 cat is lonely. 2 is an excellent number, as they keep each other company while you are out. I have not experienced more than 2 cats in my house, but I would suggest that you should only consider 3-4 cats if one of you is home a lot. More than 4 = crazy cat person, or someone who fosters cat for the shelter.
posted by Joh at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2006

I think you can go up to four in a house (as long as there are no other pets in the equation), but two in a decent sized apartment is OK. Since two cats is essentially no more work than one, the only reason to have one is draconian landlord limitations or if you live in a tiny studio apartment.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Hmmm... ex-Crazy Cat Lady here. I had four cats. The first to arrive was Charlie. My ESO wanted an adult cat, so Charlie came home with us from the shelter. He was sweet, but really stupid. I wanted kittens, two to be precise, but decided to wait until Charlie acclimated before adding more cats.

About a year later, a friend needed to find homes for the remaining three kittens from a litter. I convinced ESO to let me have two of them, but when I had to pick two from the three, I just couldn't decide. I took all three.

Charlie hissed and spit for a few days, then ended up loving those kittens as if he were their momma. I don't think he was smart enough to know that he wasn't part of the litter.

I loved them madly. They were like a herd o' cats, but they sure kept each other company. Most cats will seek out their own space territory. Not these guys. Often, I'd come home and find all four cuddled up on the sofa. They always sought out each other. My lap was always full of cats.

When I moved in with The Boyfriend™ I had to find them a good home, since The Boyfriend™ is allergic to cats. A wonderful friend took all four of them, so the family could stay together.

Having revealed my own lunacy, I recommend no more than two. Four cats demand an awful lot of attention, and the daily chore of keeping the litter clean was daunting. Vet bills were horrid, too. It's also difficult to find a cat-sitter for a herd of furry friends, whereas two can be kenneled for long vacations.
posted by Corky at 6:49 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I used to be a journalist. This involved going into people's houses and meeting their pets. From empirical observation of hundreds of households:

0-2: normal people
3: marginal kook
4: undiagnosed mental disorder
>4: diagnosed mental disorder

This is independent of the size of the house, but only includes cats living indoors.
posted by unSane at 7:22 PM on August 29, 2006 [4 favorites]

A lot has to do with the size of the apartment. I'd say no more than 2 cats per thousand square feet, or 100 square meters, of living space.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:22 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Haha, unSane. My mom has 5 cats. And she's been diagnosed.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:24 PM on August 29, 2006

The funny thing is that people seem to be able to have a lot of large dogs and still be sane. Small dogs, however, should be treated as cats for the purposes of this rule of thumb.
posted by unSane at 7:32 PM on August 29, 2006

I recall my parents had 5 at one time. That's REALLY all you want.
posted by JamesMessick at 7:32 PM on August 29, 2006

A lot of people are suggesting that a cat needs kitty company while you're out. We had two cats for a while; then one of them died. The one who survived seems far happier now. I'm beginning to suspect foul play. Stick with one cat.
posted by jknecht at 7:37 PM on August 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

You should probably be arguing about how many cats you want, not how many is "reasonable."
posted by callmejay at 7:57 PM on August 29, 2006

Three is entirely reasonable. Two can be a bit weird because the two (unless they grow up together) can be competitive, in my experience. Having one is fun because the one cat will likely be focused on people, affectionate.

More than three is bats (to mix species).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can't believe no one's cited the universal rule. Hell, even my 11-year-old daughter can quote it. Know how many cats qualifies you as a crazy cat person? Two more than I have.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:35 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

We have two female cats who are from the same litter, and they HATE each other. When they were kittens they snuggled and loved each other; no more. They were both spayed as soon as they were old enough, so that had nothing to do with it.

As much as I love kittens, next time I would like to get two adult cats from a shelter, hopefully a pair who already get along. And I think 2 is the perfect number of cats regardless of the number of people in the family.
posted by peep at 9:19 PM on August 29, 2006

One less that the other couple in your friends group.

I think this goes for all pets. For example, we have 3 rabbits I (see profile of pix! Vote on who's the schmoopiest!!), and though we consider ourselves crazy pet people, we pale when held against the light of some friends army turtles, band of cats, or phalanx or dogs.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:42 PM on August 29, 2006

All of them are the schmoopiest. All of them.
posted by redsparkler at 9:55 PM on August 29, 2006

One person can have 2 cats without being crazy. Two or more people can have 3 cats. Any more than that and you're a crazy person.
posted by Justinian at 10:43 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Beef Wellington, totally. Dutches rule!
posted by cabingirl at 11:01 PM on August 29, 2006

We got two adult cats - 1 neutered male, one spayed cat - from a shelter. They get along just fine - and would be lost without one another, even though they're fawning, loving pets. So, adopting 2 adult cats works fine - just make sure there are plenty of litter boxes.
posted by clarkstonian at 4:19 AM on August 30, 2006

another data point: the people i knew who had the most cats (four, in one case; 12, in the other) either rescued feral cats or fostered cats. in both cases, they fed outside ferals, too.

the apartment of the 12-cat people was odd, as if the humans were extraneous.
posted by sdn at 4:20 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

At one point we had twenty plus cats in a tiny three-bedroom apartment. We moved to a house for the cats, and through nature (red tooth and clawed - we have a jungle with snakes and monitor lizards nearby) and old age, they've gone down to six cats now. And four dogs and two guinea pigs and four kids...

Always two cats are better than one, if they get along. An older cat and a youngish one paired together are nice. Cats tend to carve out territories - we had groups that lived in each bedroom, and they all had their favourite spots and so on.

If you're serious about getting more than five or six cats (we lived near a popular dumping spot for strays and after a while got known as the people who would take odd or ill cats), then seriously consider cat shelves and furniture. Our cats adored the shelves and climbing bits. Cats like to go vertical and you can give them heaps of space to run around in if you put cat-friendly steps and shelves around your walls, freeing up your space.

Another thing to consider is how much time and attention you'll give them. We had 2-3 cats who were very people-focussed and sought out attention. The rest liked us well enough, but were mostly involved in their own petty dramas which were truly amusing to watch - alliances shifting, one cat abandoning territory in exchange for another's prize cushion spot and so on.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:22 AM on August 30, 2006

In the country-side, i'd say a few more than in a cat-friendly neighborhood in a city, and if you are down to apartment level, even a few less than that.

That said: if your friends can smell that you have cats, then you have too many.

And even worse, if they don't even need to visit you and can still smell that you have cats, you have significantly too many, even though that may only be one or two.

I like Corky's comment about cat-sitter too. It can be very demanding on your family, if you expect them to cat-sit every time you go on vacation.
posted by KimG at 6:10 AM on August 30, 2006

for two cat lovers, there's no such thing as too many.

for one cat lover & spouse/partner, three is probably the limit. I should ask my husband what he'd let me have.

I'm just about to buy my first house, and the first thing I plan to do is populate it with a pair of cats. There will be more in future. Goddamn rented flats with no pets allowed.

caveat - I speak as one who is clearly headed for Crazy-Cat-Ladydom.
posted by corvine at 6:22 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

As someone with many cat-loving and city-dwelling friends, who merely tolerates the fiends: 2. Three is crazy.
posted by dame at 8:37 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:45 AM on August 30, 2006

Two cats.
posted by Savannah at 8:46 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

One of my best friends had a two-cat apartment with one roommate (one cat each.) The moment a third cat joined the gang, the apartment started to reek like ammonia. It wasn't that the third cat was was that three cats, together, were problematic.
posted by nekton at 8:49 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I say three is a good number. I'd love to be the crazy cat lady and have four or five, but we're in the process of buying a townhome and we're already pushing the rules having two cats and a dog.
posted by deborah at 11:23 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

dial-tone, you have to update the thread to tell us how it worked out. you're right, by the way, three cats is too many for your married home, and since you only brought one to the marriage, it's hers that has to go. :)
posted by anildash at 6:17 PM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

21 cats can also be a violation of a city ordinance, too. :)

I think that 2 cats is a nice number.
posted by drstein at 4:35 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

As the owner of two cats (female siblings who get along wonderfully) who are getting up there in years, I strongly recommend no more than two. The vet bills and new medications they each need are 'spensive. Plan ahead.
posted by aine42 at 9:45 AM on September 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

It is my considered opinion that the number of cats should not exceed the number of laps.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:08 AM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

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