15 ‘facts’ about the feral cat populations of various cities

It’s quite interesting and instructive to take a look at the stray and feral cat populations of various cities of the world. It helps us understand the relationship that citizens of these cities have with domestic, stray and feral cats. In some countries and therefore in some cities feral cats are sometimes referred to as community cats. This is an informal relationship between unowned cats and the community who feed them but that is about as far as it goes. It is an unsatisfactory relationship at heart which perpetuates poor cat caregiving, but it is better than the alternative: true feral cats without TNR support. TNR supported feral cats often live decent and even good lives.

Feral cat in Los Angeles
Feral cat in Los Angeles. Image: LA Times. If this is a problem, please contact me.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
  1. My attention was drawn to this topic by a news item online (Local Today) which stated that the Los Angeles‘ feral cat population is estimated to be between 1-3 million, according to “experts”. The population of Los Angeles is around 3.8 million people which gives you an idea as to the relative size of the feral cat population compared to the human population.
  2. The article (referred to at 1 above) states that the reason behind the high number of feral cats is a lawsuit which commenced in 2009 and which resulted in a court order demanding that the spaying and neutering of community cats must stop. I take that to mean that before the court order the city of Los Angeles was contributing financially towards TNR programs. That stopped and the burden fell upon organisations like Stray Cat Alliance to carry out the work on a charitable basis. The problem was too big for them to fully cope and therefore the feral cat numbers rose.
  3. An earlier article from the Los Angeles Times states that an estimate based on modelling concluded that the number of “cats on the street” will go down from 342,915 to 296,196 in 30 years due to the city offering 20,000 vouchers annually for free spaying and neutering to experienced volunteer trapping groups (TNR now supported by taxpayer). This number of feral cats is much less than the one mentioned above. Once again this highlights the difficulty in counting! I prefer these numbers and the fact that LA now supports TNR and is banking on it reducing feral cat numbers.
  4. Chicago has a feral cat population size of between 200,000-500,000. The human population of Chicago is 2.6 million covering 227.63 mi².
  5. San Diego has an estimated feral cat population between 300,000-500,000. The human population of San Diego is 1.4 million.
  6. London, UK is said to have an estimated 250,000 “urban stray cats”. That is another description for feral cats. The human population of London is around 9 million. You can see, therefore, that in London there is a relatively low number of feral cats in relation to the number of people. I have never seen them and I have visited London hundreds of times. I am sure that weather plays a major role here because California is known for good weather which allows feral cats to proliferate with less attrition from a harsh climate.
  7. Sydney, Australia, does not have an estimate as to the number of feral cats in that city. However, the experts claim that there are about 2.8 million feral cats on the Australian continent.
  8. New York City has about 500,000 stray and feral cats. This would be another estimate. It’s important to recognise that point because most cities don’t know for sure how many there are. The human population of New York City is 8.5 million.
  9. Washington DC is the one city in the world where they’ve done an actual count of the number of cats. Remarkably, that count found that there are only 3,000 feral cats in the city. There are around 200,000 domestic cats. This is a remarkably low number of feral cats. To count the cats the city employed motion activated cameras at over 1,500 locations. Each location was surveilled for 15 days for a total of 22,950 days of observation. They accumulated 1.2 million photographs. The project cost $1.5 million
  10. In 2008, Washington DC passed an ordinance that promotes the utilisation of trap-neuter-return (TNR). This may be and probably is one good reason why the feral cat numbers are low in that jurisdiction.
  11. Istanbul has an estimated 125,000 feral cats on the streets. This would seem to be an underestimate as you see lots of feral cat in Istanbul. If the number is true, then it is a very low number relative to the human population which is around 14 million with an area of about 5000 km². When you compare that with Los Angeles you can see that the feral cat “problem” of Istanbul is much less than that of Los Angeles.
  12. Shanghai, China has an estimated 270,000-3 million stray and feral cats. The huge disparity in the estimate tells us how imprecise the estimates are. Shanghai is an enormous city of 26.32 million people. I expect the higher number of feral cats to be more accurate.
  13. Mumbai cannot provide us with an estimate as to the number of feral cats. It will be high.
  14. Moscow has hundreds of thousands of stray and feral cats. There are no precise figures. The numbers will be lower than in some other cities because of the weather conditions.
  15. Conclusion? Can any conclusion be drawn from this list? The standout number is Washington DC where they’ve actually counted the number of cats rather than estimated the number and where the number is much lower than in other cities. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from Washington DC’s administrators.

In Los Angeles you will be able to keep a pet cat or dog that you find

Cat still in Halloween costume ends up at Los Angeles shelter after biting his owner

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