Categories: ownership

How many cats are killed on American roads each year?

According to the Wikipedia numbers it is cat roadkill Armageddon in America. But accuracy is a problem and the question has to be limited to countries like the USA or the UK because accurate data is hard to come by and even for these countries there is quite a lot of guesswork because you have to extrapolate the numbers. By this I mean that you carry out a survey for a small area and multiple the numbers to reflect the entire country. But is it accurate because some parts of the country will be different to the area surveyed?

Picture in public domain. Caption added by PoC.


Anyway, having got that out if the way, Wikipedia says that 26 million cats are killed on American roads each year. The figure was worked out by starting with a survey in 1993 carried out by 25 schools in New England involving 1,923 roadkills. The numbers from that survey were extrapolated by Merritt Clifton, the editor of Animal People Newspaper.


The number of 26 million is heavily contradicted by the number of 5.4 million cats killed on US roads presented by The Pet’s Tech website. They don’t say where their numbers come from which highlights the fragility of these numbers. In truth no one is counting. The public is not that bothered which in itself tells us something about humans and their relationship with the domestic cat and dog.

Don’t know feral cat numbers

Another issue is that we don’t know how many feral cats there are in the US. This is important in providing an accurate figure with respect to roadkill of cats because it is likely that a good proportion of the cats are feral.

Once again people estimate that there is an approximate equal number of feral cats (or slightly less) to domestic cats in the US. The estimate is around 50 million but this is a wild estimate. Washington DC is actually counting the number of domestic, feral and shelter cats in a four year project to enable the administrators to really understand the impact feral cats have on wildlife (and other phenomenon). It is time for accuracy on numbers.

Wikipedia number wrong?

If there are an estimated 90 million domestic cats and 50 million feral cats in the US (making 140m), 26 million roadkills represents 19% of the total cats in America. Therefore I conclude that the Wikipedia number is too high. If it is correct it is roadkill Armaggedon for cats in the US.

Dogs roadkill much lower

It is interesting to note that according Wikipedia an estimated 6 million dogs were killed on the roads. This is 23% of the cat total. Considerably less. I don’t have the reasons why. We have to speculate. I think one reason is that cats can be pretty poor at gauging the movement of oncoming traffic. They tend to dart out rather than wait. Although I have seen cats wait and time their run across roads.

Compare UK

For a comparison, it is estimated that around a quarter of a million (250,000) cats are killed on UK roads annually. In the UK almost all cats are allowed outside while in America a substantial percentage are kept inside all the time. Obviously a major reason for keeping cats indoors is to protect them from being killed on the roads. Another is predation by coyotes and a third is mad people who want to abuse and kill cats for the fun of it.

Do people care enough?

This is about cat ownership. The truth of the matter is that far too many cats are killed on roads. It is the same for all animals. Too many Florida pumas are killed on roads. It is a major threat for these scarce wild cats. But as the human population grows rapidly in America to fuel economic growth the danger that traffic presents to outside cats increases. The numbers killed on roads can only increase going forwards.

There is no doubt that there will come a time, perhaps 100 years from now, when the law in the US will dictate that domestic cats are kept inside the home. It is a natural consequence of human population growth.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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