Tricia Helfer Knows Cats
Hi Tricia, there is a neighbourhood cat I have befriended. The cat seems in good health and is very sweet, however, the cat doesn’t wear a collar and I am not sure whether he belongs to anyone in the neighbourhood or if he is actually a stray. If he is a stray, I would love to help bring him inside, but I don’t want to do so if he has an owner. Really, I would like to get this guy inside one way or another. Any suggestions for doing so without potentially stepping on a neighbour’s toes?
Without a collar, it is difficult to tell if he is a stray or not. As you said, the cat seems in good health and is sweet, but he could just have another friendly neighbour putting out food for him. To find out if he has an owner, you can take the cat to a vet or shelter and have him scanned to see if he is microchipped. It only takes a second for them to scan for a chip and does not cost anything. If the cat is not chipped, take him and put out some “Found” posters in your neighbourhood. A cat could have lost his collar but if he is not chipped and no one responds to your posters, then you have the right to try to help find this guy a good home—or keep him yourself! If he is chipped and/or someone responds to the posters, then maybe the fact that you thought he was a stray will be enough for the owner to consider putting a collar on him or keeping the cat indoors and safe.
Hi Tricia, I know you are an avid cat and animal lover and have a lot of cats! My question is, for a two-bedroom apartment, how many cats would you say is the max number? I have two now and am considering getting another, but I worry it may be too many for their comfort.
I applaud you for being concerned with your cats’ comfort.
Certainly there are a few deciding factors off the top that are simple logistics. For one, is there anything in your condo, co-op, homeowner’s association or rental agreement that prohibits you from having more than two? With cats, it is not that hard to hide being over the allowed number, but you should look into it if you are not sure and gauge if you should or can have more than two.
Other than that, the size of an apartment can vary a lot—a two bedroom could be 900 square feet or 2500 square feet. Going with a standard 1200 square foot two-bedroom, two cats seems like a good number, though three or four could certainly be doable. You will need another litter box and you may need to have them in separate locations, as the more cats you have, the more places you will need to designate as litter stations. If you have an alpha cat that is frustrated with a newer cat, the alpha may guard the litter box a bit; having another location for the cats to “go” will help with this situation. There are some really nice pieces of furniture that conceal a litter box, making it visually pleasing to have them around the apartment.
Consider also the personalities of the two cats you already have. If you got them separately, did they integrate well? Is one a strong alpha that may have an issue with a new cat coming in? When there is more space, of course, there is more room for them to all find their "spots." If you do go up to three or four cats, I would make sure that you have a few climbing trees or perches (if you do not already), as well as places for them to look out the windows, such as window perches or cabinets placed in front of windows. Also, little kitty beds and scratchers are a good idea, so that the space available to your cats is not just on the ground. Many cats love climbing, jumping, and being elevated, so if you have high places for them to get to, then your two bedroom is not just floor space square footage, but vertical space as well, providing other levels and layers of play and sleeping areas. Opening up your space in this way allows for a greater chance of harmony in a multi-cat home.
Hi Tricia, what are your top five favourite cat toys and why?
Cardboard boxes. Just like kids, cats often love the simplest things. In my house, new boxes arrive all the time, so whenever there is a new one, I leave it on the floor for my cats to play in. When they start to ignore it, I will take it away and then when a new box comes, they are super excited to have it to play in for a while.
Sparkly balls or catnip filled canvas toys. Each of my cats kind of gravitates to certain kinds of toys. I have a wicker basket—their toy box—filled with different types of small toys. Sparkly balls, small tennis balls, canvas or wicker balls filled with catnip, tiny stuffed animals. They each tend to grab a certain toy. For example, one of my cats, Prissie, loves the tiny sparkly balls. Another of mine, Bug, has a favourite green stuffed toy that looks like a dill pickle. He carries it around and then falls asleep with it as a pillow—though I would say in my household the most favourite is probably the little sparkly balls.
Feather or ball on a string. Wand toys are great for encouraging cats to exercise. Most cats love wand toys and will race around trying to catch it, keeping you on your toes as you dangle it just out of their reach. One of mine, Delilah, is too smart—she figured out at a young age that if she immediately chews the string/elastic of the cord once she’s snagged the toy/feather, it will fall off and she has the toy! I have to be quick playing with her!
Laser pointer. Cats love laser pointers and with a laser pointer you can still play with your cats even if you are laid up with a sprained ankle [or lazing on the couch watching TV!—Ed]
Cat room or climbing trees. I am fortunate to have the space to have an outdoor enclosure attached to my house that is filled with climbing trees and elevated walkways. If you have the space, even a small enclosure is a big deal to them. My cats LOVE their cat room. But, if you are in an apartment, climbing trees with different levels and compartments are not only essentially a large toy for playing on, but also great for cat naps. If you are short on space, there are some simple canvas ones that you can either hang on the back of a door or bolt to the wall like a piece of artwork.