I had a client come in last week with ANOTHER stray kitten she had found along a rural road. I cannot tell you how many cats she has because I have never counted how many are in her file. Let's just say her file is not a manila file folder, but a 3-ring binder.a 4-inch-thick one! She has a true "clowder" of cats. (like pack of dogs).
Now normally at this point you would say to yourself "oh no, she did it again" but not in this instance. If fact, I could not have been happier for this 8 week old, flea infested, tape-wormy, emaciated, ear-mited, ragamuffin. He had just won the stray kitty lottery. As is true with every one of her cats, within just a few minutes we had leukemia/FIV tested, vaccinated, de-wormed, de-fleaed, de-mited, and de-termined that this was one cute, fun, lucky furball.
This kitty's huge home was built for cats. There are rooms just for them to climb and play, perches to look outside, jungle gyms, and a buffet of foods. They are "cat ered" to their every whim. A catopia on Catalina Island. There is also a separate building for cats, kids to play with them, a nursery for youngsters and a separate HVAC. If this kitty sneezes wrong we will get a phone call. If we need a CT (I gotta say it.) "cat scan", Purdue will get a call.
So here it goes. Does this client have too many pets? Not a chance. She has the time, money, knowledge, and desire to be a great cat mom. Obviously, this is not the norm. She is truly an exception to the rule. So how many is too many then? Most people in this situation are referred to as "hoarders" and these poor animals (and people) live in deplorable conditions. On the other side of the coin we see single pet homes where there is not even minimal care.
The only time we end up seeing the worst pets in these situations is when they are rescued by humane organizations and everyone rallies to help out, treat and place these abused cases. Therein lies the value of having some sort of legal recourse for these situations. I am not convinced however it is about numbers of pets, but more importantly about quality of care of any number of pets even if only one.
It seems every animal control agency has different rules as to how many pets are acceptable, which to me underscores it is a random number. Taking care of 5-6 cats is easy compared to 5-6 dogs. Furthermore, 5-6 yorkies (I have 2) is different than 5-6 bulldogs (I have 1). Do you count rabbits, guinea pigs, or hamsters? Where you live also enters into the debate. We have clients who live on farms with indoor cats, indoor dogs, barn cats, and outdoor dogs. They all are vaccinated, spayed/neutered and get great care. So how many is too many?
Now let's really complicate things. What about strays? Many of our clients take care of stray cats. (Which we have also done for years around our office). It is hard to ignore stray cats just trying to get a square meal. Ideally we recommend trap/neuter/release if they cannot be fostered so that there aren't more unwanted kitties in the world. Are these cats yours and counted?
Consider foster organizations. There are absolutely wonderful animal caretakers out there that work with organizations to temporarily take care of unwanted pets, young and old, until they find their "forever home". These are some of the most dedicated animal lovers I have met. Yet, some are afraid of agencies that would confiscate and cite them for too many animals.
These foster homes provide the best situation a stray could ever find. Lots of pets to socialize with, people, often kids and in a home environment with 24/7 care that makes adopting them out so much more successful. I don't understand the logic in only allowing them to stay in a shelter, in cages unattended, getting "cage stress" and exposed to countless diseases and then hoping to adopt them out. I thought there was overcrowding in our shelters? Why shouldn't fosters be utilized then? Under supervision, yes.. Discouraged, absolutely not.
The unintended consequences of this is dedicated fosters will go underground and hide their desire to help which hurts everyone. Do the math! Someone who fosters has to take up enormous time, energy, and money out of their pockets and then place the foster in someone else's home and they call this "A SUCCESS". What animal hater does this?
The cynical side of me wonders if there are ulterior motives in agencies that have a dictatorial philosophy. Invariably that means power and money. In a reasonable world, animal control agencies and adoption agencies would share in the donations, control, and care of these animals and work together for a similar goal. However, unlike the very animals we are attempting to care for, egos get in the way. Then "absolute power corrupts absolutely".
So how many pets do I have? Just the right number to.wow, look at the time, gotta go.