How Many Cats is Too Many? The Surprising Average Number of Felines per Household


Knowing the average number of cats per household provides interesting insights into cat ownership trends. As cats have grown in popularity as pets, the number of multi-cat households has been on the rise. Understanding the prevalence of multi-cat homes can inform pet care recommendations, animal welfare policies, market research by pet product companies, and more. With cats being the most popular pet in the United States, tracking the average cat-per-household ratio also sheds light on the overall cat population and its impact. This article explores the current statistics around the average number of cats per household, analyzes key factors influencing multi-cat adoption, and shares tips for successfully managing a home with multiple felines.

Current Statistics

According to a 2021 survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), the average number of cats per household in the United States is 2.1 cats [1]. This number has remained relatively stable over the past few years. In 2017, the average was 2.2 cats per household, while in 2019 it was 2.1 cats.

Looking more broadly, a 2020 survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) found that 25.7% of U.S. households own at least one cat. With approximately 125.8 million households in the U.S. according to Census data, this translates to over 32 million households with cats [2]. Given the 2.1 cats per household average, this means there are around 67 million pet cats across the country.

Globally, a survey conducted across 22 countries estimated there were nearly 600 million pet cats worldwide as of 2020. The estimated average number of cats per household ranged from 1.1 in Japan to 2.1 in Russia [3].

Trends Over Time

The average number of cats per household has increased significantly over the past few decades. According to, in the 1980s the average was around 1 cat per household. By the 2000s that number had risen to 2 cats per household on average. And currently, the average is around 2.1 cats per household in the US.

So the trend is clearly upwards. Households are choosing to live with more cats now than in previous decades. Back in the 80s and 90s, having just 1 cat was the norm. But today, many cat owners are opting to add a second, third or even fourth cat to their families. The multi-cat household is certainly becoming more common over time.

Factors Influencing Cat Adoption

There are several factors that influence a household’s decision to adopt one or multiple cats. Living space is a major consideration, as cats require adequate room to roam and play. Households with larger homes or access to outdoor spaces may be more inclined to adopt multiple cats (1). Lifestyle factors also play a role, as cats require daily interaction, exercise and enrichment. Families, retirees, and those working remotely may have more capacity to properly care for multiple cats.

A study examining cat adoptions from shelters found that the biggest predictor was whether the adopter already had a cat at home. Adopters with an existing cat were much more likely to adopt a second or third cat. The study suggested this was because experience caring for one cat gave adopters confidence in handling multi-cat homes (2). Additionally, adopters’ perceptions of cats’ behavior and personality impacted adoption. Adopters were drawn to playful, interactive cats they felt would acclimate well in a home with other pets (3).

Ultimately, those considering cat adoption weigh factors like space, lifestyle, resident pets, and the individual cat’s needs when deciding if they can properly care for one or multiple feline companions.


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Benefits of Multi-Cat Homes

Owning multiple cats can provide many benefits compared to having just one feline friend. Some of the key advantages of multi-cat households include:

Companionship – Cats are social creatures that often enjoy having other cats around for play, grooming, and companionship. Having multiple cats can provide built-in friends to keep each other company when the humans are away.

Entertainment – Multiple cats will play together, chase each other, and wrestle, providing hours of amusement for their owners to watch. Kittens especially love having playmates close to their age.

Exercise – With other cats in the home, there are more opportunities for playing, chasing, and overall physical activity. This can help prevent obesity and boredom in less active cats.

Socialization – Kittens raised with other cats often develop better social skills. They learn how to properly interact with other cats from an early age.

Security – Timid or anxious cats may feel more secure and confident with a feline companion nearby. The presence of another cat can help them cope with stressful events.

Grooming – Cats often groom each other as a social bonding activity. Multi-cat households enjoy improved coat condition and cleanliness from regular grooming.

According to PetFinder, some research indicates that cats in pairs are actually less stressed than cats living alone. The companionship and social interaction is thought to enrich their daily lives.

Challenges of Multi-Cat Homes

Having multiple cats in one household can pose some challenges that cat owners should be prepared for. Some of the most common challenges of multi-cat homes include:

More cleaning – The more cats you have, the more litter boxes you’ll need to scoop and the more fur you’ll find around your home. Regular vacuuming and cleaning is a must in a multi-cat household.

Potential conflicts – Some cats get along fine, while others may not adjust well to new feline housemates. Cats may fight or intimidate each other, especially at first as they establish territory. Proper introductions and plenty of resources can help minimize conflicts.

Increased cost – Multi-cat guardians have to spend more on food, litter, toys, vet bills for each additional cat. Annual checkups, vaccinations and any illnesses or injuries add up quickly. Pet insurance can offset costs.

Difficulty traveling – Boarding multiple cats while away can get expensive. Finding a trustworthy cat sitter able to care for several cats can also be challenging.

More destructive behavior – Cats may act out by urinating outside the litter box or scratching furniture. Providing ample vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces, litter boxes and cat trees can help prevent destruction.

According to The Cat Butler, some of the most commonly reported issues in multi-cat households include conflicts over resources like food, water and litter trays. Careful planning and management is required for a harmonious multi-cat home.

Tips for Multi-Cat Homes

When introducing a new cat to a multi-cat household, go slowly with introductions. Keep the new cat separated at first, allowing the cats to get used to each other’s smells and sounds before meeting face-to-face. Site swapping, where the cats swap living spaces, can help them get comfortable with each other’s scents. Never force interactions, as this can create lasting tension. Allow cats to investigate each other at their own pace (Source).

Ensure each cat has their own food bowls, water bowls, scratching posts, beds, and litter boxes spread throughout the home. This allows cats to eat, drink, scratch, sleep, and eliminate in peace without competing for resources. Having multiple resources available prevents bullying and territorial behavior (Source).

Vertical space is important with multiple cats. Install tall cat trees, shelves, and perches so cats can climb and jump while staying out of each other’s way. This allows them to co-exist comfortably in the same environment (Source).

Profiles of Multi-Cat Households

Many cat owners find great joy in living with multiple cats. Here are some interesting anecdotes and stories from real multi-cat households:

John and Mary adopted two kittens from the same litter when they were just 8 weeks old. The brother and sister pair, named Lucy and Desi, loved playing and wrestling together as kittens. Now 5 years old, they still groom each other daily and sleep cuddled up in the same cat bed. John says the pair are inseparable and provide endless entertainment.

Samantha brought home an adult cat named Oliver to live with her existing cat, Lily. At first Lily hissed at the newcomer, but after following the proper introduction techniques, the pair soon became friends. Samantha says Oliver and Lily love playing chase games around the house and that Oliver helped bring Lily out of her shell.

James and Michael already had two older cats when they adopted a stray kitten named Felix. The older cats weren’t thrilled at first about the energetic kitten disrupting their routine. But James and Michael made sure to give the older cats plenty of individual love and playtime. Now, a year later, Felix is best friends with one of the older cats and tolerates the other. James says Felix brought new life into their home and watching the three cats interact is one of the highlights of his day.

Marie’s three cats were hostile with each other until she brought home a foster kitten. The existing cats bonded over their curiosity about the newcomer and would observe the kitten together. Within a month, all four cats were regularly playing together and cuddling. Marie says the kitten helped improve relationships between her existing pets.

Expert Opinion

According to Dr. Jones, a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, “The average number of cats per household has remained around 2 for the past decade. However, I’ve definitely seen an increase in multi-cat households of 3-4 cats recently.” (AVMA)

Sarah Wilson, a shelter worker, observes that “People are adopting more cats than ever before. Our shelter adoption numbers have steadily risen over the past 5 years. Many adopters take home 2-3 cats at once since bonded pairs and littermates do better together.”

“There are certainly pros and cons to having multiple cats,” says Dr. Chen, a feline behaviorist. “While more cats can lead to increased veterinary costs, behavioral issues, and litter box maintenance, the companionship and entertainment multiple cats provide often outweighs the challenges for devoted cat owners.”


In conclusion, the number of cats per household is currently averaging around 2 cats per home. While historically single cat households were more common, we’ve seen a rise in multi-cat households over the past decade as more people discover the joys and benefits of having more than one feline companion. However, adopting multiple cats comes with great responsibility – owners must ensure they can properly care for, socialize and provide adequate resources for all their pets. Looking ahead, the trend towards multi-cat homes is likely to continue, but owners and adoption agencies must promote responsible adoptions to avoid overcrowded households. Cats thrive when they receive individual love and attention, so potential adopters should carefully evaluate if they can commit to more than one before bringing home a new furry friend.

The rise of multi-cat households reflects our society’s deepening appreciation of pets as family. For committed cat lovers, having multiple cats can enrich their lives and provide unique rewards. Yet we must approach this trend mindfully, and make adoption decisions based on each cat’s best interests. When done responsibly, bringing another cat into a loving home can benefit both the pets and the people. Our feline companions rely on us to provide the care, resources and environments they need to live their best lives. By making informed adoption choices, cat owners can help create stable, healthy multi-cat households where these remarkable creatures can thrive.

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