Lots of cats in a home

Q. How many cats are too many? I live in a house and I have five, and people are telling me that I’ve gone over the line.

A. Are you happy? Are you taking care of yourself? Are your cats happy? Are you taking care of them? Is your house in reasonably good shape, and are you able to keep it clean and healthy? Are you able to pay for your needs and your cats’ needs, and have a reserve for a rainy day? Are you able to keep the cats from being a nuisance or a hazard? Are they altered to prevent unplanned litters?

If the answer to all those questions is yes, and you’re not breaking any law (or homeowners association rule) regarding the number of cats in your dwelling, then you are just fine. And my answer would be the same if you had one cat or 20. There are some people who don’t take good care of a single pet, while there are other people who can take great care of five or 10 or more. Is it going to work for most pet lovers to have that many cats? Probably not, but as a veterinarian, I can tell you that it does work for some. If you’re willing to put the time and the money into providing proper care for your cats, it can work for you, too.

Pet Owner vs. Animal Hoarder

Your friends and relatives mean well; chances are they’ve seen shows on TV about animal hoarding, and that has sparked their concern. But it’s not the number of pets that defines someone as a hoarder — it’s the behavior. Animal hoarding is a mental illness, and as such, it’s related to other forms of hoarding that don’t involve animals.

Now about those questions I asked: If you answered no to some or all of them, then yes, you do have more pets than you can care for. Ask your veterinarian for referrals to reputable shelters and rescue groups that can assist you in finding responsible homes for enough cats so you are not overwhelmed by the remainder.

If “overwhelmed” describes your normal state of mind, then you may need additional help. Please contact your doctor or a local mental health agency in your area for assistance, because chances are your problems may reach beyond your inability to care for your pets properly.

If you’re handling it all just fine, though, then you’re not a crazy cat lady — you’re just crazy about cats. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

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