Categories: Feral Cats

What percentage of cats are feral?

Conclusion: I’ll refer to the USA as I believe that they have the most domestic and feral cats of all the countries. We don’t know the percentage of feral cats because we don’t know the number of feral cats. However, we can guesstimate fairly precisely the number of domestic cats.

Collage: PoC.

Having made that negative and unhelpful statement, I am told that various studies in North America concluded that 59 percent of the cat population is feral or stray. The remaining 41 percent are ‘owned’ cats (Cat World by Dr Desmond Morris).

However, I know for a fact that nobody knows with a degree of precision how many feral cats there are in the USA. We can estimate the number of ‘pet’ cats at 94.2 million (source: Statista.com). But if don’t know the number of feral cats we can’t provide a percent for the number of feral cats out of a grand total. Therefore Dr Morris’ figure is suspect.

I have often read that the number of feral cats is around the same number as domestic cats which would give a percentage of feral cats at 50 percent. But I have also seen estimates of feral cat numbers which are much lower.

The Humane Society of the United States state that there are around a maximum of 40 million ‘community cats’ which I will take as meaning feral cats. If that is correct, and it will be another estimate, the percentage of feral cats is 40/134.2 x 100 = 30 percent.

As for other countries; no one is counting. The big issue as I have mentioned is that by their nature feral cats can’t be counted across a nation. We don’t know where all of them are. They hide and are secretive. If the US experts don’t have genuinely accurate figure no other nation will and some are far less likely to know. Many governments won’t know how many domestic cats there are in their countries.

That said Washington DC in the US are counting the number of feral cats in their jurisdiction. It is happening right now. I’ll be interested to see what they come up with. However, you won’t be able to extrapolate their figures when they are published to the entire country because there’ll be variations across the US. However, it’ll be the first precise count of feral cats in the USA.

As a rough estimate it is believed that there are around half a billion domestic and feral cats (combined) on the planet. A person described as a cat authority, Dr Peter Neville said that there are 400m cats in the world and that 100m are pets and 300m are feral and stray cats. If that’s correct the percentage of feral cats is 75 percent. Confused? I am.

Out of curiosity Dr Morris states that in the UK in 1885 there were 350,000 cats. PDSA claim that in 2020 there are almost 11 million. It is believed that there are a similar number of feral cats but I NEVER see them 🙂 .

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a 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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