Welcome to the very first "official" post of Furbaby Fridays with Dr. Tammy. I say the first "official" post since last year I had talked about a variety animal/pet related topics on Not Enough Time in the Day. After nearly 20 years as a veterinarian, I've seen and experienced quite a few memorable cases. Some of them would break your heart just as much as others would make you smile. Today I'd like to talk about a topic that quite a few people don't ever think about until they have a problem.
Just How Many Cats Is too Many for One Household?
If you put ten veterinarians in one room and ask this question, you will undoubtedly get ten different answers. Over the years I've come up with one criteria that will help you determine if you should have a cat in the first place and just how many you are willing to share your space with. Drum roll please...you need a MINIMUM of one litter box per cat. That's right. I said one box per cat. The rule of thumb is actually one box per cat plus one. So if you have two cats, you should have at least three litter boxes.
But I live in a small studio apartment? I can't have more than one box.
Well, then you shouldn't have more than one cat. Sure, two cats may do fine with the one box if it's a large one, but once you start adding the third, fourth and fifth cat to your furbaby family, you are asking for a world of hurt with only one litter box.
Cats are very territorial. If they start to feel crowded or stressed in any way, they are going to start exhibiting behavior problems. The first of which is inappropriate urination. This doesn't just mean spraying urine on walls, doors and windows. Stressed cats will start urinating on bedding, furniture and clothing. You name it, they will pee on it.
Stressed cats can develop a syndrome called FLUTD: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This can be a life-threatening condition in male cats. Cystitis can develop because of the stress causing the cat to be unable to urinate and it's bladder to fill. Toxins normally expelled from the body through the urine will then back up causing kidney problems, even kidney failure, electrolyte imbalances that can cause a fatal arrhythmia, not to mention the cats are in excruciating pain. It's not pretty and requires an emergency run to your veterinarian.
The second most common behavioral issues with a crowded cat household is aggression directed at one or more of the other cats, or even human family members. Many cats are euthanized every year because of aggression towards humans. Most of these cases could have been avoided if the warning signs were noticed from the beginning.
My cats do just fine with one litter box because they know if they start peeing on my stuff, they will be banished outside.
Good luck with that. As a veterinarian who has to treat outdoor cats for injuries from fights, dog attacks, hit by car/truck injuries, not to mention the contagious viral diseases that affect cats, I always recommend cats stay indoors. My two cats are indoors and they are quite happy. They have four litter boxes, multiple toys and scratching posts to keep them busy and we give them individual attention. We don't have fighting between them and we don't have any urinations or defecations outside of their litter boxes. Now if someone could find a way to retrieve all the bottle caps they've tossed under the stove and refrigerator, life would be "purrfect" for them!
If you live in an area where your cat is able to go outside and roam around without being exposed to the dangers I described above, more power to you. The folks who live in heavily populated areas should think twice about letting their cats roam. You may not mind having strange cats in your yard, but your neighbors may not be so happy about it. Some cities also require outdoor cats to be licensed and others have a limit on how many you can have in the house so make sure you check with the local animal control office for the local regulations.
Think twice about bringing home a cat!
I'm not saying DON'T have a cat or several cats as part of your family. I want you to think about a few things first before you bring that cute little fur ball into your home.
1. Is your living space big enough for the required number of litter boxes?
2. Are you willing to scoop out those boxes at least once a day and completely clean them out at least every other week?
3. Do you have a local veterinarian to be sure each cat is healthy before you bring them into your home and to help you keep them healthy afterward? This includes vaccinations, annual checkups, grooming if long haired, nail trims, dentistries, and proper nutrition. (For you vegetarians and vegans: cats are CARNIVORES. Their diet has to be mostly MEAT. If you can't handle the idea that your pet has to eat meat, then don't get a cat.)
4. Cats and dogs are a lifelong commitment. You can't just get rid of them when they no longer suit your needs/desires.
5. Are you willing to give up being the Master of your house? Once a cat enters, everything and everyone is there to serve them. ;)
I hope this post helps to give you some insight on what it takes to be the "guardian" of a cat. You can't make them fit your lifestyle. They allow YOU into theirs. Once you are "in," it's your responsibility to make sure they have everything they need to keep happy and healthy for many years to come.
Until next time...