How Many Stray & Feral Cats Are There within the US? 2023 Info


Final Up to date on: November 8, 2023 by Crystal Uys

stray cats in the streets

Showing in over a 3rd of U.S. houses, home cats are so well-accepted that almost all of us don’t understand that they turn out to be one among America’s most impactful invasive species as soon as they depart the home.

For many years, stray and feral cats have offered animal welfare teams with a number of ecological, financial, and moral issues. But, the difficulty of unowned cats has at all times been a neighborhood concern. At the moment, it’s estimated that there are between 60 and 100 million stray and feral cats in america. Whereas animal shelters and governments shoulder many of the load in managing the dimensions and well being of stray cat populations, a lot of the blame for the scenario (and the options to it) falls on homeowners.

To lend some perspective to the present disaster, we’ll discover what number of stray and feral cats there are within the U.S., why they’re an issue, and the place homeowners could make a distinction.

Origins of Stray and Feral Cats

1. There are 60–100 million stray and feral cats in america.

(Zoonoses Public Well being)

The overall understanding amongst many specialists is that the homeless cat inhabitants is rising and presently sits at round 60–100 million cats. Different estimates are extra conservative at 30–80 million.

feral cats eating at the streets in a park
Picture Credit score: Murat An, Shutterstock

2. Solely 85% of pet cats are spayed or neutered.

(Humane Society)

Spaying and neutering pets are one of the vital basic features of controlling stray and feral cat populations. When pets escape or roam exterior, they will mate with neighborhood cats, perpetuating the issue.

The nearer we get to 100% pet neutering, the extra we cut back the pressure on welfare teams and the present homeless cats in our communities. However whereas the 85% spay and neuter fee in 2020 was higher than the 82% in 2000, it was additionally a considerable lower from the 93% fee in 2016.

The drop-off comes amidst a pandemic lower in out there spay-neuter companies. Lockdowns severely hindered veterinarians and staffing in animal welfare teams, creating new obstacles in offering crucial medical procedures. The outcome was an estimated 2.7 million lacking surgical procedures from 2020 by 2021, a positive setback for these teams attempting to manage feral and stray animals.

3. Roughly 15% of cat homeowners lose their pets sooner or later throughout a 5-year interval.


Cats and canine will wish to roam when the entrance door swings open. A 2012 examine discovered that roughly 15% of surveyed cat homeowners misplaced their pets over 5 years. However solely 75% recovered their cats, a stark distinction from the 93% return fee for canine. Extrapolating the numbers primarily based on APPA calculations, the examine estimated that over 3 million cats turned misplaced and by no means returned house over these 5 years.

a stray cat sitting at the sidewalk
Picture Credit score: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay

Misplaced Cat Statistics

4. 59% of misplaced cats that return house come again on their very own.


They don’t belong out within the wild any greater than their canine counterparts, however cats fail to garner the identical consideration as canine after they wander from house. Loss charges are comparable for each pets. But whereas many of the 93% of canine that confirmed as coming again within the 2012 misplaced pet survey did so as a result of their homeowners looked for them, 59% of cats returned by themselves.

The discovering suggests a a lot totally different method to seeking out misplaced pets. A separate examine from 2007 discovered that 66% of cats return on their very own, with neighborhood postings being the second-most frequent approach of finding them. Instances of cats returning due to identification are uncommon.

A excessive share of people that lose their cat take into account them “indoor-only” and thus don’t observe ample microchipping or marking strategies. Within the 2012 examine, lower than half of all misplaced cats wore a collar, and solely 15% had a microchip. Of the 55 discovered cats, just one returned because of a microchip or tag.

5. Lower than 3% of cats that enter shelters return to their proprietor

(Shelter Animals Depend)

Cat adoption charges have elevated from 59.5% in 2019 to 64.6% in 2022. In the meantime, feline euthanasia decreased by 5%. The constructive pattern happens as intakes outpace outgoing animals, probably attributable to slowing adoption charges because the pandemic pet growth.

A extra unlucky takeaway comes within the return-to-owner fee. Whereas cats had an 11% increased adoption fee than canine in 2022, a canine RTO fee of 18.5% vastly exceeded the two.8% RTO fee for cats. One rationalization may very well be extra unowned cats getting into shelters, given the upper variety of stray cats in comparison with stray canine. However the proprietor’s response additionally performs an important position.

Prior research in Montgomery County, OH, confirmed canine homeowners started trying to find lacking pets inside sooner or later. Round 75% contacted shelters, and ultimately, three-quarters of all homeowners retrieved their pets.

In contrast, cat homeowners waited three days earlier than looking. Solely 7% contacted a shelter, ready a mean of 8 days between follow-ups. Roughly half of all cat homeowners reclaimed their pets. As shelters typically solely maintain strays for just a few days earlier than releasing or euthanizing them, it’s doable that many house owners needlessly lose pets attributable to an absence of urgency.

kittens in cage in a shelter
Picture Credit score: Okssi, Shutterstock

6. Solely 38% of microchipped cats in shelters return to their homeowners.

(Ohio State College)

Homeowners calling shelters to see if their cats confirmed up is just one aspect of the RTO coin. The opposite aspect is available in pet identification and the company contacting the homeowners.

Within the Ohio research, almost 50% of canine had some type of identification (e.g., tag, microchip), however lower than 20% of cats did. With out homeowners calling to ask about their pets, shelters have a a lot decrease probability of discovering them.

Worse nonetheless, these cats with microchips nonetheless aren’t assured to seek out their approach house. Solely 38% of cats in shelters with microchips return to their homeowners, primarily due to dated info. Whereas 1 / 4 of householders in one other Ohio State examine didn’t return calls, most microchips had incorrect telephone numbers linked to them, weren’t registered, or had registration in an unknown database.

The issue isn’t solely on pet homeowners. Microchipping has no standardization, with varied unrelated corporations, scanners, and databases making it complicated, time-consuming, and sometimes unattainable to seek out proprietor info. Even with up to date info, the dearth of sources means shelters hardly ever find homeowners in the event that they scan the chips within the first place.

Stray Cat Adoption Statistics

7. Roughly one-quarter of acquired cats are strays.


In line with the ASPCA, 27% of cat homeowners obtained their pets as strays, a fee that helps Finest Buddies Animal Society knowledge, which put stray adoption at 24%. In the meantime, solely 4–6% of acquired canine have been strays, although that is doubtless due extra to decrease availability. At a inhabitants of round 1.3 million, stray and feral canine aren’t almost as prevalent as neighborhood cats in America.

Potential pet dad and mom may seemingly do extra to assist stray cats in shelters. The 27% of cats acquired as strays within the ASPCA’s most up-to-date numbers are considerably decrease than the 35% in 2012. Though 85% of individuals state they might look into adopting their subsequent pet from a shelter, solely half that quantity lastly achieve this.

two feral cats on the table
Picture Credit score: Nathalie Jolie, Unsplash

8. Round 13% of shelter cats die on the shelter.

(Shelter Animals Depend)

In line with the ASPCA and the Shelter Animals Depend database, the cat euthanasia fee in shelters is roughly 13–17%. Numbers have declined dramatically up to now decade, with whole euthanasia numbers for cats and canine dipping beneath a million in 2019. For comparability, shelters euthanized roughly 2.6 million in 2011.

The advance in outcomes for cats and canine is much more stunning while you look again a number of many years. Within the Seventies, shelters euthanized 12–20 million cats and canine yearly, which will get extra egregious when you think about the variety of pets was half of what it’s right now.

The Affect of Stray and Feral Cats

9. Free-ranging home cats kill 6.3–22.3 billion mammals every year in america.


Maybe the worst aspect of the stray and feral cat drawback in america is the impact on wildlife. As with the stray cat inhabitants, the numbers are unattainable to specify, however the next are what specialists estimate free-ranging cats kill yearly in america:

  • 3–22.3 billion mammals
  • 3–4 billion birds
  • 228–871 million reptiles
  • 86–320 million amphibians

Though outdoor-owned cats contribute to the numbers, unowned cats account for 89% of those deaths.

The domestic red cat caught the bird and holds it in its mouth
Picture Credit score: Klimek Pavol, Shutterstock

10. Solely 25% of feral kittens survive previous 6 months of age.

(Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Affiliation)

Even with a accountable proprietor, kittens have a tough sufficient time navigating the assorted ailments, defects, and different hazards that threaten them of their younger lives. Within the city wild, the place assistance is rare or non-existent, feral kittens have solely a 25% probability of survival. Trauma is the commonest explanation for demise. But, whereas mortality is excessive, the common cat’s fast reproductive fee sustains the out of doors inhabitants.

11. 88% of area companies contain the trap-neuter-release of cats.

(Shelter Animals Depend)

Utilizing shelters as a halfway level for getting pets into houses isn’t the one approach welfare teams are addressing the road cat and canine situation. Discipline companies are essential to lowering stray animal populations and serving to homeowners whereas relieving shelters. Companies embrace trapping and neutering, neighborhood training, and returning misplaced pets.

The Shelter Animals Depend 2021 dataset breaks down area service interactions with stray cats and canine and the outcomes, whether or not the animal underwent trap-neuter-release (TNR) or returned to their proprietor following a microchip scan. The roles are various, however companies overwhelmingly concentrate on one activity, portray a transparent image of the distinction between stray cats and stray canine in America.

Over 88% of area companies in 2021 concerned TNR for cats. There have been 16,829 reported instances of cats being trapped, neutered, and returned to the world the place brokers picked them up, accounting for 99.8% of all TNR actions. In the meantime, canine made up lower than 3% of all area pickups. Amongst these, over 93% returned to their proprietor.

a stray cat walking on the streets
Picture Credit score: Gansstock, Shutterstock

Ceaselessly Requested Questions About Stray and Feral Cats within the US

What P.c of Cats Are Strays?

Due to ever-increasing adoption charges, stray and feral cats on the streets doubtless now account for lower than half of all cats in America. Over 45 million households had at the least one cat in 2022. Whereas there are broadly 30–100 million unowned neighborhood cats within the nation, the full pet cat inhabitants nonetheless exceeds a few of the increased estimates.


How Many Animals Does a Cat Kill Every Yr?

One cat kills about 100–200 mammals yearly, eradicating animals with stunning effectivity. In a well-known case examine of a cat’s killing capability from the late 1800s, Tibbles, a lightkeeper’s cat, and her offspring killed each dwelling specimen of the Stephen’s Island wren. The flightless songbird endemic to the New Zealand island was extinct in lower than a 12 months.

Globally, research have linked cats to 63 extinctions, presenting essential issues over the impression of cats, whether or not stray, feral, or owned. Within the U.S., many supply the counterargument that in addition they cull non-native species, akin to rats and home mice. With the true impression in query, activists on either side of the controversy can’t agree on the easiest way to handle feral and stray cats.

(Individuals and Nature)

cat carrying a dead mouse in its mouth
Picture Credit score: Markos Loizou, Shutterstock

How Can We Management the Feral Cat Inhabitants?

Specialists agree that an built-in method is essential to scale back the variety of stray and feral cats within the U.S. Stray cat legal guidelines want clarification, visibility, and stricter necessities. On their half, animal welfare teams supply info and removing companies, typically involving trap-neuter-release to quell numbers with out harming the livelihood of current neighborhood cats.

Governments, shelters, and specialists are essential in offering training and sources, however homeowners retain probably the most duty in lowering the homeless cat inhabitants. Hundreds of pet cats go lacking every year, and even those who come house can considerably have an effect on native stray cat numbers and endanger wildlife.

Cat homeowners should recognize the risk and impression of lacking pets, even these they take into account 100% indoor animals. Accountable adoption, containment, neutering, and identification are essential. By stopping copy, lowering abandonment, and making it straightforward for shelters to find homeowners, the potential for unnecessary euthanasia and packed shelters might be a lot much less frequent.

Ultimate Ideas

Our duty to cats extends far past these we name pets. Stray and feral cats are a neighborhood concern, a large number we created that does little greater than make our favourite animals endure and negatively impression the atmosphere. The options are easy. However compliance might be essential if we hope to keep up these constructive traits we’ve seen in homeless cat statistics.

Featured Picture Credit score: Lea Rae, Shutterstock

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