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As a kid, I dreamt of owning a castle filled with all the homeless cats I could find, but being older now, somewhat wiser and a cat parent of two, I see a couple of flaws in my childhood dream.
It takes work to keep my multi-cat household happy, but even though I can’t have all the cats in the world, I sometimes catch myself thinking of getting a third kitty
Are three cats too many?
Having three cats can be overwhelming, but with enough space, money, and the right living conditions it can be perfectly normal. Before getting a third cat, you’ll need to consider your cats’ personalities, and whether you have the time and resources to keep them happy.
We might not have a universal cat number that works for everyone, but we can tell you what it means to have more than two cats, so keep on reading!
Is Three Cats Too Many?
We often think that cats are solitary animals, and while it might be true to some extent, just like the lion, our kitties are mostly social creatures.
According to Gary M. Landsberg, DVM, most cats are solitary hunters, but they are also “social animals that, in feral conditions, live in groups consisting mainly of queens and their litters.”
But what about house cats, would they be happy to share your home with more than one cat?
Well, house cats are usually spayed and neutered which reduces their aggression, especially among males, they also get along better with humans and other cats, and they tend to be more gentle and loving.
This goes to show that there’s nothing wrong with having three cats if their needs are met. Three cats could clearly get along, and there are plenty of cats that share a deep bond, especially if they were raised from the same litter.
However, being a cat parent can be challenging regardless of the number of cats you have. So, it’s definitely a decision you shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I’m sure that there are plenty of cat owners who are happy with the furry trinity living in their homes. I mean Taylor Swift herself has three cats!
What To Consider Before Getting A Third Cat?
It’s easy to see that having three cats can triple your responsibilities as a cat parent and if you’re thinking of growing your cat family then this decision must be conscious and well-thought through.
So, let’s take a closer look at the possible changes you will experience and the things you need to consider.
Your Cats Personalities
While all the points in this section are very important, I think your cats’ personalities are going to play a major role in whether you’ll get a third cat.
While cats are social creatures, they also have their own unique character and they can react differently to a new family member. The power dynamics will most likely shift at least for the first few days and maybe months. This shift might have a negative or positive impact on all three cats.
For the cats that are very friendly and laid back, this transition might be easy and you’ll notice the three getting along with each other in no time. My best friend often helps foster cats and kittens find a new home, and her cat is just like that and she’s is always happy to meet other fellow cats.
Then again certain cats have a less positive outlook on life, and they tend to keep to themselves, so the new arrival might rub them the wrong way. My cats would never be that open-minded. Even during their first introductions, they would fight, and even to this day, they have days when they don’t get along or they keep to themselves.
But even the friendliest of cats might not give you the results you want. As you can imagine a third cat can have an impact on the friendship both of your cats already have. Your two cats might become jealous of one another, which can lead to behavioral problems and even aggression.
Introducing a new cat to an existing group is most likely to cause stress no matter what unless you currently have zero cats and you’re thinking of adopting three kittens from the same litter.
Cats from the same litter will have an established familiarity, and while they still might act out when they’re older they will also have learned how to behave towards each other.
You’ll also have to consider the personality of the cat or kitten you’re adopting. If it’s a shy and “antisocial” cat they might be uncomfortable living with a group of unknown cats. If they’ve been raised to be around other pets then they might be more easygoing and integrate smoothly into this new pack.
It’s also easier to introduce a kitten than an older cat. They are less sensitive and are just beginning to build their social skills and develop their personality. This means that they can learn to accept the rules the older cats have already established.
One thing is certain, the arrival of a new cat could change everything and it’s your responsibility to figure out whether your two cats can handle it.
Being aware of how well your two cats will welcome the third kitty doesn’t only depend on how well their personalities match, but also the size of your house or apartment.
Of course, cats don’t require a mansion, but they take their territory seriously, and to create a cat-friendly environment you’ll have to be very strategic.
To make sure all your cats are using their litter boxes properly, ASPCA suggests “to have a litter box for each of your cats, as well as one extra.” It’s also best to spread them around your house, instead of placing them next to each other, otherwise, they’ll see them as one giant litter box.
You’ll also need to keep their food and water bowls separate from the litter box area and depending on your cats’ individual diet you might have to feed them separately from the others.
It’s clear from the litter box alone that you’ll need more space for three cats, but that’s not all. You’ll also need to add cat trees designed for multiple cats, or cat shelves to create elevated areas where your cats can hide and have some alone time when needed.
With the right space management, you can utilize even the smallest of houses, but it will take lots of planning and changes, to keep your cats from fighting over their territory.
While money isn’t everything, and cats aren’t the most expensive pets to keep, a third cat is still an extra mouth you’ll need to feed.
Some cats also require specialized diets, which can cost you more, and certain breeds like the Maine Coon eat more than the average-sized cat. Let’s not forget that you’ll also have to buy an extra litter box and three cats will use up more litter.
Aside from the food, and litter, you’ll also have additional vet bills to pay. This includes occasional treatments, procedures like spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and of course their yearly checkups.
To create the perfect environment and keep your cats entertained you’ll most likely need to purchase additional cat trees, cat beds, and toys.
While with one or two cats these things seem manageable, a third cat can have a major impact on your finances. Let’s not forget possible travels, that require cat carriers, and additional charges from certain airlines.
So, before you start looking for another cat, it’s always a good idea to sit down and figure out what extra expenses might come your way, and if you’re able to make such a long-term commitment.
Finally, one thing that we tend to overestimate is how much time we have on our hands, and I’m definitely guilty of that.
Adopting the third cat means that you’ll have to dedicate a lot of your time and energy to keep them all happy, more so during the introduction and integration period.
Usually, the new cat will need to be separated and gradually introduced to your cats, which can take weeks and months. A third cat may affect your two cats and you might have to separate all of them and work slowly towards a smooth reintroduction when all parties are less aggressive or stressed out.
Even when the introduction period is over, you’ll have to train the new cat to your house’s rules. Some kittens might require litter box training, others might be very active and you’ll have to make sure they don’t get into trouble.
Then you also have to consider the extra time you’ll need for more regular litter box maintenance.
Feeding might also be more demanding especially when the new cat or kitten keeps eating your cats’ food or vice versa.
Play is also an essential feline need, and now you’ll have to entertain not one, not two, but three cats. And while they could play with each other, this still won’t satisfy their hunting instincts.
As a cat parent, you’ll need to interact with your cats, otherwise, they might end up fighting and releasing their frustration onto one another.
How Many Cats Is Too Many?
Sharing your home with cats is an amazing experience and there’s no wrong or right when it comes to numbers.
For some owners like myself, two is just about right, but for others, this number can be more than three. It all depends on the individual owner, the type of environment they can offer, and the attention they can devote to their feline companions.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can have an unlimited number of cats because you will find it hard to care for each kitty.
You might think that cats don’t necessarily need our full-time attention, but they’re still dependant and are in need of our care.
Having too many cats on your plate, you’ll have a hard time bonding with them individually and this could lead to either jealousy or stress. It will also be difficult to monitor your cats and a sick cat or one that’s having a hard time living with their cat-mates may go unnoticed.
Cats that feel neglected, or are being bullied by other cats can begin to show behavioral problems like aggression, litter box aversion, excessive behaviors like mewing, and overgrooming.
The best thing you can do for your cats, and yourself is to stick to a number that feels comfortable to all of you and makes your lives easy!
What About Three Cats And A Dog?
Whether you want to bring an additional cat, a dog, or both to an already multi-cat household, my previous concerns and thoughts remain the same. But I must note that a dog is definitely an animal that requires a different set of responsibilities and they’re less independent than our cats.
By bringing home a dog you’re once again adding stress to your feline companions and changing the existing dynamics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it doesn’t have to end badly, but this new addition can have a negative impact on your three cats in three different ways if you don’t handle the introduction properly.
Let’s not forget that you’ll have to add daily walks into your routine along with regular cat play. You’ll also need to keep an eye on all your pets to make sure there’s no fighting or bullying.
Some dogs tend to eat cat feces at worst and cat food at best, so you’ll either have to keep the litter boxes in an area where the new doggy has no access, purchase a litter box enclosure that they can’t enter, or a dog-proof litter box.
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Of course, it’s not all bad, and for many pet parents out there this lifestyle works, but I’m sure they’ll also tell you that they had to put a lot of effort into it.
Just like this happy cat and dog family!
The last point I want to make is that, no matter how many pets you want to have you need to think about your own limits, and of course, you need to think about your existing cats and how well they will be able to handle a new cat and a dog, or just a dog.
Can Three Cats Live In A Small Apartment?
As I’ve already mentioned above, cats don’t necessarily require a ton of space, some of them are happy to spend all of their time in one room and some cat parents don’t have more than one room to offer.
Of course, a tiny apartment might not be the best deal for three cats, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make it work.
You’ll have to figure out how you can have three to four litter boxes available in your apartment. One way is to get litter boxes that are suitable for small apartments, like top entry, or corner litter boxes. You can also use litter box enclosures to hide the litter boxes and use them as additional storage space.
With limited space, you can also add more “room” by adding cat shelves on certain walls. Cats love to observe things from up above and with enough shelves and extra tall cat trees, your cats will have more vertical territory and space.
Most of the apartments I lived in were tiny but with some DIY projects, I managed to make use of my walls, and I created plenty of hiding spots. So, I truly believe that small spaces can motivate you even more to create a space that’s true cat heaven!
How Many Cats Are You Legally Allowed To Have?
The number of pets we have is usually dictated by our own capabilities and by our cats’ needs and personalities, but the law also has a say in this.
Depending on the country, or state, you’re living in, you might face legal pet limits. For example, in America, State Illinois there’s a three-dog limit for single-family units, while in Currituck County in North California the limit is four adult cats and dogs.
In Canada, Toronto the law states that “no person can keep more than three (3) dogs and six (6) cats in and about any dwelling unit.” In Greece where I live, the number of pets you can have depends on the size of your house, but generally, you can have three cats in an apartment.
So, before taking in a third cat it’s important to look up whether it’s legal in your area. But even if you’re allowed to have three or more pets it’s important to keep in mind that people who own more pets than they can properly care for, could face legal consequences and be charged with animal cruelty.
Unfortunately, we can’t adopt all the cats in the world, and it’s not beneficial to us or the cats either. Even if you’re retired or spend most of your time at home, taking care of a large number of cats is a tiring task.
Not everyone has the energy and time to keep up with cleaning and hygiene can become a major issue for pet owners, especially if the number of cats is too large. In these situations, bacteria from feces, parasites, and diseases can be difficult to control and eliminate, which can be harmful to cats and yourself.
I also understand that animal hoarding is a complicated and delicate topic. People that try to take in a large number of cats that they’re unable to care for usually suffer from mental illnesses, and they need our help and proper care.
If you think that someone from your friend group or your family, or even your neighbor, is taking in too many cats and they can’t keep up with the care, perhaps you could try and help them, by contacting a professional or helping them find the support they need.
Some countries even offer services to help people that happen to be hoarding animals and they can also protect the animals themselves.
At the end of the day, there’s no magic cat number, and I truly believe that it’s better to have three, four, and even five cats that get along and are happy to live with each other than having two cats that are constantly fighting.
With three feline companions, you’ll get three times more kitty-love, but it also means that you’ll need to try three times harder to keep everyone happy, and the question is whether up for it!
Now tell us, are you thinking of getting a third cat, and will your cats approve?