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