After my mother passed recently, I took responsibility for her four cats—even though I already had four of my own. I did so because the other siblings wanted to just throw them in a shelter, even though a couple of the cats were in the family for close to 20 years. Those siblings are not animal lovers and refused to help with any of the cats. (Sometimes I think some humans should be thrown in cages or shelters instead; the ones who just have no compassion.)
In any case, managing eight cats is definitely not easy, especially on my own. They have different personalities, quirks, and annoyances. At first when taking them in, I became discouraged and overwhelmed by it all.
Thankfully I have several bedrooms. So I set them up in their own rooms and made them as comfortable as possible. It took time for me to get used to the idea of managing so many cats on a daily basis. I also had to learn to keep things in the proper perspective so that I could keep my head on straight and continue with a normal semblance of a life.
If you are in a similar situation, caring for multiple cats, here are a few tips for how to manage them while keeping yourself mentally balanced.
1) Put Cat Cleanup Time into Perspective
Recognize that clean-up for cats only takes about 10-15 minutes per day. Then you have the rest of the day to yourself. Close to 24 hours! When you put it in that perspective, it doesn’t seem so stressful. Invest in a long handled litter scooper so that you don’t have to bend over, trust me on this one.
2) Make a Once Per Month Errand Run for Cat Supplies
Get enough supplies (cat food and litter) to last you for the month so that you only have to make one trip each month. Keep everything stacked in one convenient place. I usually get about two and a half bags of food and two packs of litter. I like to buy litter that comes in individual packs so that I can keep small bags in each cat room. They are easier to carry than lugging one 38-40 pound pail around.
3) Don’t Feel Bad About Having to Put the Cats in a Room
I used to allow a bunch of cats to run around my house and they would drive me batty! Constantly meowing at me, running around my feet, begging for my food, and sleeping on top of me. They can be very comfortable in a room as long as you keep them supplied and make sure the room is temperate in the summer and winter. If you feel guilty, consider the fact that cats at shelters have to live in kennels and don’t have much room to move around. A special cat room with towers and toys is like a mansion compared to that, plus it helps them calm down.
4) Invest in Medium to Large Cat Feeders and Waterers
Choose cat feeders and waterers depending on how many cats you have. Ideally, they will provide them with food and water for up to a week before needing a refill. This helps minimize your need to keep filling up bowls each day.
5) Remember that Cats Are Very Self-Sufficient
Know that cats are very self-sufficient and can be fine on their own for three to four days if necessary as long as you leave them plenty of litter in a big box, food, and water. So, if you need to skip a day of cat cleanup for a mental health day, or to take a weekend trip for self-care, do not hesitate to do so.
6) Avoid Spoiling Your Cats
You have to stick to a routine with cats. They are creatures of habit and will eventually adjust to the routine. But if you break it to cater to them, they will start to want things that way all of the time. They can be very demanding and will start to think they are in charge. For example, I allowed one of my cats to sleep on the bed in my room for a few nights and he started to take over my space, waking me up at night. When I finally had to put him back in his space (in this case the living room) he started yowling and scratching at my bedroom door. Hold firm and get them back into their routine—it usually takes a few days for them to readjust. If you have a particularly insistent cat, there are motion activated sprayers that will discourage the behavior.
7) Invest in Litter Genies to Place Next to Each Litter Box
Litter Genies are handy contraptions that trap litter waste so that you can easily dispose of it after a few days. Not only that, it keeps the litter smell under control. I also spray the litter waste with a bit of bug spray before releasing it into the bag. If you don’t want to keep buying the refill bags, you can use old grocery bags or go environmentally friendly with biodegradable pet waste bags.
8) Keep a Supply of Nature’s Care Peppermint Spray
You can spritz your cats’ litter boxes with this peppermint spray every now and again to minimize the smell of cat waste and keep the box clean. It’s also a safe alternative to regular bug spray, so usually okay around pets. Use in moderation until you’re sure. Use it to spray around cat areas and open windows.
9) Give Them a Comfy Place to Curl Up
If you don’t know by now, most cats will tend to find a special spot to relax and sleep. It might be a chair, a mat on the floor, or a cat bed. Make sure you give them options. And in warmer weather, open a window so that they can sun bathe and feel a breeze. You might want to invest in a cat window seat.
10) Indoor, Outdoor Cats
If you decide you want to let your cats roam outside, make sure you treat them with a reliable, safe, flea and tick treatment. Revolution is an option to explore — you can get a box when you take your cat to a Petco (Vetco) or PetSmart veterinary visit on the weekends.
11) Make Sure Your Cats Are All Neutered or Spayed
Unless you want a whole new litter of cats to take care of, make sure that all of your cats are spayed or neutered. There are low cost spay and neuter clinics where you can get this service and shots for about $50 or $60.
12) Define Your Own Sanctuary
Though you have decided to care for a lot of cats, you still have to find time for self-care. Find a place in your home, whether it’s your bedroom or a small home office where there are “no cats allowed.” And be strict with that. This is where you go to get peace, rest, do yoga, or get work done.
13) See if You Qualify for a Small CareCredit Balance
One of the things a lot of pet owners worry about is vet bills. A CareCredit card will allow you to take your cat to most vets for an exam, cover the expenses (including blood tests and meds) up front then pay small installments each month. If you pay the balance within a certain amount of time, sometimes there is no interest.
14) Show Them a Bit of Love When You Can
One of my more demanding older cats has a tendency to follow me around, beg for food, and generally try to coerce me into doing his bidding throughout the day. On occasion, I’ll pick him up and just kiss him on the head. He seems contented for a while and just curls up and goes to sleep. Be patient with them — they just want attention and a little love like you and me.
If you’re in a similar situation as I am, managing multiple cats, hopefully these tips will help you. Know that what you’re doing is admirable and it’s possible to get into a comfortable routine for yourself. Remember YOU matter first, because when you’re doing well, you set a good tone for your home.
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