How many cats are in the world (2022)?
We don’t know EXACTLY how many cats that there are in the world in 2022. That’s because it is impossible to count them. We do know that domestic and feral cat numbers are increasing and wild cat numbers are decreasing. You have to break down the cat population into domestic cats, feral cats (including stray cats) and wild cats. Perhaps the best estimate that I have seen for the combined population of domestic and feral cat in the world is 600 million (Dr Bruce Fogle’s Complete Cat Care page 6). In the past I have guessed the number to be around 500 million or half a billion. The sad aspect of this statistic is that most of them are feral cats. The estimate comes from scientists who are meant to know what they’re talking about! But the truth is that they are guessing as well.
Only one jurisdiction on the entire planet has made a concerted effort to the count domestic and feral cats in their area of operation: Washington DC. They came to the figure of 200,000. On my estimate that it more than the entire population of wild cats in the wild!
The guessing doesn’t just stop at domestic and feral cats. We don’t know how many wild cats there are in the world (exactly). In fact, in respect of some wild cat species we really don’t know how many there are at all. The experts have stopped trying to guess numbers. They admit that they don’t know. Or the numbers are guesses and they are a tiny fraction of those for the domestic and feral cat population.
Let’s try and do a few off-the-cuff mathematical calculations. I’m going to estimate that the total number of wild cats in the world, taking all species, is going to be upwards of 150,000 individuals IN THE WILD. It is therefore interesting to do a pie chart showing this combined number against the total number of feral and domestic cats. I’m sure that you will agree that the resulting chart is somewhat shocking to say the least. Here it is and Google Docs can’t make a pie chart. It ranks the wild cats as zero as the differential is so vast.
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Humankind has manipulated these populations to dramatically increase the number of domestic and feral cats and dramatically suppress the number of wild cats of all species. It is all due to human behaviour indicating humankind’s massive dominance over animals.
For instance, scientists estimate that there are about 20,000 lions left on the planet. Generously, there are about 4,000 tigers (3,500 Bengal and 500 Siberian) left on the planet. There are possibly more tigers in Texas (upwards of 5,000) as pets in captivity than there are in the wild across the entire planet. As for the cheetah, there are about 7,000 left. For some small wild cat species such as the Andean Mountain cat there might be about 1,000 left on the planet. This very low figure will apply to many other small wild cat species.
Please be aware that the Internet is very misleading on the number of individual wild cat species that are left on the planet. For example, you will see the figure of 50,000 pumas left but when you go to the website where the experts are meant to know how many pumas are left (IUCN Red List), they don’t specify a number. They have simply left the space blank. So don’t automatically believe the Internet.
Numbers might be approximately right but all population numbers of cats are going to be either very good estimates or wildly inaccurate. Counting wild cat species is difficult and is carried out with camera traps and assessment of scats (droppings). And as mentioned, nobody is counting the number of domestic and feral cats in the world so these are pure estimates.
Can you see the trend? If you combined all the wild cat species of which there are about 37, the overall number is going to be a tiny fraction of the number of domestic and feral cats on the planet. And the reason is obvious. It is human carelessness and self-indulgence.
The fact that the majority of the 600 million domestic and feral cats on the planet are feral is a horrible indictment of the carelessness with which humankind discharges its obligations in respect of its relationship with the domestic cat. It’s an abject failure almost. There should be no feral cats if humankind was doing a good job of cat domestication. And humankind is killing off the wild cats through habitat destruction, trophy hunting and persecution through poaching for body parts. Horrible.
I hate to be the bringer of bad news and I hate to moan about humankind behaviour but there is no other conclusion.
Below are some more articles on populations.