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Cat Housing: UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program

The following is from the Summer 2010 issue of Protecting Animals, American Humane’s quarterly journal for animal welfare professionals. Used by permission. To learn more, visit

From the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program

Colony Housing
Group housing needs to be done with care. It is not appropriate to simply “dump” cats into groups, nor is it a good idea to continually mix and match. Housing groups should be kept as stable as possible (i.e., avoid constantly adding new cats to replace cats who are adopted).

A minimum of about 19 square feet of floor space per cat is recommended to avoid high stress levels in group housing areas. Vertical space can be used in the space calculation/allocation for cats (assuming there are shelves, etc., for them to use). No more than 10-12 cats should be housed in each colony room, regardless of the size of the room. The one reason not to have only colony housing for cats in shelters is that it has been shown that single cat housing is less stressful during the initial shelter stay. There is scientific data indicating that group housing can relieve stress during long shelter stays, but may increase stress for cats that are put into group housing in the first few days of their shelter stay. Importantly, some cats are never comfortable in group housing, so shelters need to have single cages for them as well.

Single Housing
The UC Davis recommendation for singly housed cats is that they have at least 10.8 square feet of floor area. The typical shelter cat cage is barely half this size. If this cage size is not practical, shelters should aim to at least provide enough housing space so that each cat has:

– Enough space to stretch to full body length

– At least a 3-foot separation between feeding, resting and elimination areas

– Room for an adequately sized litter box and a hiding box

– Sufficient floor space for locomotion and play For more information on cat housing and other topics, visit the Shelter Health Portal at

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