Saturday 1 January 2022

Are 13 cats too many for a two-bedroom bungalow?

NEWS AND COMMENT: There is a discussion on news media as to whether 13 cats in a two-bed bungalow is too many in terms of cat welfare. And the answer, really, is simple. It depends upon the person. It is just about possible to manage 13 cats and keep the place hygienic and the cats healthy.

This 13 cat too many for a two-bedroom bungalow? Carole Walker has 13
This 13 cat too many for a two-bedroom bungalow? Carole Walker has 13. Image: ITV.

There is however, one hidden, potentially large negative: stress. Domestic cats are adaptable. But their natural home range may be 4 acres plus. It could be much larger. If you compress 13 cat into a two-bed bungalow, they're going to have a few square yards each in terms of home range and they are going to be overlapping home ranges. In fact, they have no home range of their own. It's all shared. This is liable to cause stress. Stress can come out in health problems.

You're liable to get some fighting so the basic starting point is not a good one. Arguably it is self-indulgent. But you can't automatically criticise people who keep 13 cats in one relatively small home because they might be excellent at their job and the cats might be able to adapt sufficiently and be fairly calm and content.

The problem is that 90% of the time it is not going to work out. In fact, it will work out badly. And this argument is rumbling around Carole Walker from Preston who has been on television, on ITV, when she was a host of Philip Schofield and Rochelle Humes. She was discussing how many cats are too many for one owner.

She claims, as she would, that she has the time and money to deal with the management of her cats, properly. In contrast, This Morning's vet Dr. Scott Miller said that 13 was too many under one roof. His argument is that felines are essentially solitary creatures and don't really appreciate living together with so many other cat companions.

And viewers of the television programme were divided. Some say that Carol does a good job looking after the cats and they appear to be happy. While others disagree and say that it is just too many.

Carole said:

"I've got a reasonable size two-bedroom, two-reception room bungalow, I've got an outside… area where they've got numerous climbers, they've got free access to that in the day. There's at least two or three beds throughout the house per cat, I've got the time and the finances to look after them."

Thirteen is her limit, however. She rightly says that she wants to make sure that she dies before her last cat! And she says that if they don't live to the age of 16, she considers it a failure on her behalf.

She said that there is the occasional "odd spat". But she argues that even if you have two cats in the home they can fight.

RELATED (note: Carol Walker is not a classic cat hoarder in my view): Cat hoarding: a spectrum of causes, reasons and personality types.

She said that they helped her a lot during the Covid lockdowns. The charity Cats Protection would argue that it is too many. They have a problem themselves with their chief executive resigning just three months into a 12-month contract because Linda Upson, the chairman of the charity has 18 cats in her three-bedroom house. Once again, she would claim that she looks after them properly and that they are content.

I have a close neighbour who has 10 cats. In my honest opinion she does not look after them properly. She has 10 cats because she wants ten cats. She is a natural hoarder of objects. She is not really considering the health and welfare of the animals in her charge. 

The home is smelly and the cats are confined to her home. They are full-time indoor cats. I feel very sorry for the cats. I almost feel like calling the RSPCA but that would cause a huge rift in neighbourly harmony. I keep quiet. 

It is the usual smell of ammonia from urine deposited around the home which emanates from the windows when they are open. She keeps the windows closed for that reason. How they can live in this background acrid smell 24/7 is beyond me. 

And how does an atmosphere saturated with ammonia gas affect the health of cats? That is a question which needs to be raised and hardly ever is.

However, Carol Walker, we are told, keeps her home clean and nice. This can happen but it is unusual in a home where there are more than 10 cats. Just on one small point: you've got to have 14 litter trays if you got 13 cats according to Jackson Galaxy, the well-known American cat behaviourist and television presenter. Where do you put them? The smell?

RELATED: Cat hoarding – full discussion.

Having 13 cats does not automatically mean that you are a cat hoarder. It might mean that, but it might not. It depends upon the mentality of the person. Carol Walker does not look like a cat hoarder to me. Cat hoarding is a mental illness. But having 13 cats is drifting into that classification in my view. It shows a lack of self-control and it indicates that the person is more focused on themselves and what pleases themselves as opposed to what is best for the cats. Arguably it is a selfish attitude.


  1. If they are solitary creatures how come at cat rescues that are open spaces the cats love to stay together? They also stay with their colony in the woods! Seems like people actually know very little about cats including vets.

    1. Cats are essentially solitary as their character follows that of the wild cat ancestor but over 10k years of domestication they've become quite sociable. As to colonies this is because they group around a food source for survival an accept the closeness to each other in deference to that objective. At cat rescues there are sometimes many cats in a relatively small open space because they are confined to that space. Multi-cat homes after often places of cat stress because their home ranges are too small and overlap too much.


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