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Multiple cats, in space and time

How many cats is too many cats?

I get asked this all the time. The answer is, “That depends.”

Why Cat People Can't Ever Get Anything Done... (woman on couch using laptop, covered in kittens)

It depends on the cats; not so much their number, as how they blend together. It’s about what they need, and what we need. It’s about what resources we are sharing, and how they are shaped.

atomic weight

Just as different elements have different densities, our cats can repel, or attract, other cats. As I explain in my post, Is there a cat formula for multiple cats?, how much room cats need is partly a function of their Cat Types.

Alpha cats need room for all that running and playing and exploring. Gamma cats need room because they inhabit their spaces so devotedly, and “feel” the presence of other cats more than average. Beta cats might need the least room, because they are the most comfortable with sharing.

When I get up in the morning, I feed the cats first of all. By the time I am finished getting ready for work, it’s not unusual to see all four cats on my side of the bed, enjoying a post-breakfast snooze with each other.

How much room do they need? At this point, not much.

How well our cats get along is going to make an enormous difference to how well they tolerate each other’s presence, no matter where they lie along the Cat Type Continuum.

changes in time

If our rambunctious kitten mellows with age, they will need less room to scamper in. If our lively adult cat reaches double digits, they might spend more time snoozing somewhere.

Or, not.

We might get a kitten to liven up that mature cat; and they do. Now we have two kittens racing around the place. We might have gotten a high energy cat who grows out of kittenhood without slowing down.

When Tristan and Mithy are chasing each other full tilt, they need a lot more room, and we are grateful that we can open our apartment door and let them run up and down the interior stairs to burn off that energy. When Tristan reached his adolescence, we invested in cat trees, to expand our space vertically, since he needed more climbing and jumping space.

In The Saga of Biff, his people discovered how much security they could give him by putting up a cat tree with generous shelves. Biff felt close enough to his new humans to seek them out, but then this would get him into situations where he would get scared again.

Our cats grow and change. As they become more socialized, they can “get into each other’s space” more. As they shift from heedless kitten to mature adult, they gain etiquette understanding and more self control and confidence. All of this helps cats cope with each other’s proximity.

As our James Bond grew less and less active in his late teens, Mr WayofCats used my own cat space calculations to convince me we could take on a fifth cat. (Not that I ever need much convincing.) Now, with four cats who are ten years old and under, we don’t have the room for such an addition.

Part of what made this mad scheme work is that Mr WayofCats picked Mithrandir, a recovering feral. This made him more “Beta on the Gamma side” than the choice of an energetic Alpha kitten. Those are the kinds of kittens who need more space, not less, as they grow up.

reachable resources

There are other considerations beyond the physical space our cat collection might need. There’s the financial demands of food, furniture, and medical fundamentals.

I learned to run my Cat Civilization on a budget, but neutering, early vaccinations, and periodic checkups are still part of the picture. My cats eat less when I buy better food, but that is still an unavoidable expense. Litter is another item we don’t skimp on, while our investments in our Litter Robots is worth every penny. But it is still an investment.

I have learned that if we don’t pay one way, we pay in another. Spending to keep my cats at their healthiest lowers medical expenses. I used to take care of the cats’ litter boxes with a lot of space and time; now I need to spend more money than time, since I must use efficiency instead of room.

Cats blend the demands of a passionate hobby and a close friendship. They are going to require a certain amount of our resources, especially if we want things to work well.

And of course we do.

human attention

The real non-negotiable in our cat equations is how much attention we can pay to each cat; according to their needs.

Cats also differ in their need for our attention. Kittens need more supervision, adolescents still more, adults less, and seniors, who already “know the ropes,” least of all. Aside from anything else, I could probably have nine senior cats in the same space, with less trouble, than three kittens.

Reverend Jim is happy with a couple of short, intense, sessions a day, while Tristan takes advantage of my increased availability on the weekends to spend even more time with me. Olwyn is either asleep or near Mr WayofCats, while Mithy needs his heart “topped up” every hour or so he is awake.

Cats tend to develop their own attention styles in accordance with their personality and our lifestyle. Since Tristan’s person is a reader and writer, Tristan gets plenty of opportunity to stretch out on my lap or shins the way he loves to do. I spend some time each day doing play sessions for everyone who needs it; which can be five minutes or half an hour.

When Mr WayofCats and I cuddle on the bed to watch a movie, all the cats join us to get their special ways of attention. We throw sponge balls, pause the movie to dispense treats, and make room for them to cuddle, too.

There’s lots of ways we can incorporate cats into our lives at home. Which is exactly what pleases our cats.

Being a part of our lives.

    Remember, cats do not obey the laws of physics. We cannot use regular math to figure things out, we must use Cat Math.

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