Where do feral cats come from?

People ask, where do feral cats come from? Therefore I feel obliged to answer that question which I do on this page.

Feeding feral cats
Feeding feral cats. A significant number of Americans take it upon themselves to look after feral cats. These cats could be called community cats.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Feral cat might be the offspring of a feral cat. That is obviously one source. Lost or abandoned domestic cats can become unsocialised and become semi-feral or feral. Sometimes an owned, outside cat that is unneutered may produce offspring which become feral because they are born outside without an owner and no one comes forward to care for them. It is perhaps fair to say that the origin of all feral cats is a lack of careful ownership of domestic cats. Sometimes an apparently fully content domestic cat allowed outside might wander away from home and become feral of his/her own volition.

Essay on Stray Animals

In a lot of countries cats that we call feral in the West are considered to be community cats in the East: in Asia. These are semi-feral cats, cared for by the community in which they live. They live in around food sources such as shops and restaurants where business owners share in their upkeep. In these countries the semi-feral cat or community cat is the norm. These cats are often unsterilized and they produce more feral cats. There are community cats in the US as well. Studies from the West, South and Northeast United States tell us that between 9% and 22% of households feed free-roaming cats that they do not own.

Information about the proportion of owned cats that are allowed to roam freely is not readily available and varies widely between countries. Many stray cats at least potentially become feral.

Studies from the United States found that about 22% of owned cats were acquired as strays. In a study of 1997, Patronek and others found that 63% of cats entering a shelter were impounded strays although this related to a single community.

Clearly, litters from owned cats are a potential source of feral cats. A study in Massachusetts, USA concluded that over 90% of all cats, male and female, were sterilized. However, 15% of currently sterilized female cats had previously had litters. This is a potential major source of feral cats. Cat owners sterilizing their female cats after they have had a litter of kittens and not before.

We’re not sure how many feral cats there are in the United States. I have read that the number could be as high as the number of domestic cats (owned cats) but others believe that the number ranges between 25 to 60 million. I have seen a number lower than that at about 12 million. In warmer climates there are more feral cats.

4 thoughts on “Where do feral cats come from?”

  1. Feral or community cats have existed for thousands of years in the Middle East long before any pet cats in the West. Your pet or pedigree cat owes it’s existence to them. The assumption that living free is somehow unnatural is rather strange. It is completely natural. I admit they they often have a tougher time than pet cats but their numerical success indicates that their life style does not negatively impact their survivability which is what nature is all about. By the way the survivability of some pedigree cats is in serious doubt because of selective breeding and inbreeding Feral cats do better and are less subject to inherited genetic problems.

    • And perhaps cats were not seen as vermin by large segments of the population who seem to take delight in torturing them and their owners. With community cats and little intervention the healthiest will survive breed and be able to raise their young successfully.
      It is the natural culling of inferior specimens in every animal species.
      Breeding of purebred cats has become a farce. Each new generation is supposed to be equal to the parents in healthy genetic traits or better fad breeding has created mutants to entertain the egos of humans.
      Cats only thrive in general when they are born outside and the mother is an excellent hunter. My house cats have the instincts but would probably succumb to starvation, illness or predation before they adapted.
      I have a lot of emotional investment as well as monetary in my pets. Letting them out to be smushed under a car or shot by an intolerant neighbor or worse isn’t in the cards.
      The spread of incurable contagious cat diseases in the US is directly related to cats being allowed to roam, being dumped or simply born feral.

    • I’m no longer speaking to my husbands parents ,siblings etc over their shabby treatment of all animals including their draconian views on cats and even more bizarre bible interpretations that S/N is not natural under their imaginary friends laws.
      If you don’t S/N your pet you are not an animal lover you are simply contributing to the population of all pets that end up being killed without mercy in shelters and often die with horrible diseases and injuries including starvation. Lets throw freezing to death while starving.
      Kittens loved as babies and tossed out to fend for themselves while they sit in church and pretend with the rest of the fakers with their fish symbol firmly attached to their bumper and having a pot luck after reading from a book of fairy tales for an hour or so where they all stuff themselves with food while the pet the obligated themselves to is forced to scrounge for any scrap it can find never knowing safety and a full belly.
      Humans are 100% the cause of feral cats and yet after creating the mess their only solution seems to be kill, kill and kill some more while spewing facts from an altered dimension on why feral cats are bad all the while creating more.


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