How Many Stray & Feral Cats Are There in the US? 2023 Facts

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 the majority of us don’t understand that they turn out to be certainly one of 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 problem of unowned cats has all the time been a group 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 scale and well being of stray cat populations, a lot of the blame for the state of affairs (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 consultants is that the homeless cat inhabitants is rising and at the moment 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 some of the basic points 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 scale back the pressure on welfare teams and the present homeless cats in our communities. However whereas the 85% spay and neuter charge in 2020 was higher than the 82% in 2000, it was additionally a considerable lower from the 93% charge in 2016.

The drop-off comes amidst a pandemic lower in obtainable spay-neuter providers. Lockdowns severely hindered veterinarians and staffing in animal welfare teams, creating new obstacles in offering crucial medical procedures. The consequence was an estimated 2.7 million lacking surgical procedures from 2020 via 2021, a certain setback for these teams attempting to regulate feral and stray animals.

3. Roughly 15% of cat homeowners lose their pets in some unspecified time in the future throughout a 5-year interval.


Cats and canines will need 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 charge for canines. Extrapolating the numbers primarily based on APPA calculations, the examine estimated that over 3 million cats grew to become misplaced and by no means returned residence 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 residence 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 canines once they wander from residence. Loss charges are related for each pets. But whereas many of the 93% of canines 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 completely 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 manner of finding them. Circumstances of cats returning due to identification are uncommon.

A excessive proportion of people that lose their cat think about them “indoor-only” and thus don’t observe sufficient 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 Rely)

Cat adoption charges have elevated from 59.5% in 2019 to 64.6% in 2022. In the meantime, feline euthanasia decreased by 5%. The optimistic pattern happens as intakes outpace outgoing animals, probably on account of slowing adoption charges for the reason that pandemic pet growth.

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

Prior research in Montgomery County, OH, confirmed canine homeowners started looking for lacking pets inside in the future. Round 75% contacted shelters, and ultimately, three-quarters of all homeowners retrieved their pets.

In contrast, cat homeowners waited three days earlier than looking out. 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 a couple of days earlier than releasing or euthanizing them, it’s potential that many homeowners needlessly lose pets on account of 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)

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

Within the Ohio research, practically 50% of canines 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 likelihood of discovering them.

Worse nonetheless, these cats with microchips nonetheless aren’t assured to search out their manner residence. Solely 38% of cats in shelters with microchips return to their homeowners, primarily due to dated data. Whereas 1 / 4 of householders in one other Ohio State examine didn’t return calls, most microchips had incorrect cellphone 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 firms, scanners, and databases making it complicated, time-consuming, and sometimes not possible to search out proprietor data. Even with up to date data, 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 response to the ASPCA, 27% of cat homeowners bought their pets as strays, a charge that helps Greatest Associates Animal Society information, which put stray adoption at 24%. In the meantime, solely 4–6% of acquired canines have been strays, although that is seemingly due extra to decrease availability. At a inhabitants of round 1.3 million, stray and feral canines aren’t practically as prevalent as group cats in America.

Potential pet dad and mom might 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’d 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 Rely)

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

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

The Impression of Stray and Feral Cats

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


Maybe the worst facet of the stray and feral cat drawback in america is the impact on wildlife. As with the stray cat inhabitants, the numbers are not possible to specify, however the next are what consultants 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 varied illnesses, 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% likelihood of survival. Trauma is the most typical reason for loss of life. But, whereas mortality is excessive, the common cat’s speedy reproductive charge sustains the outside inhabitants.

11. 88% of discipline providers contain the trap-neuter-release of cats.

(Shelter Animals Rely)

Utilizing shelters as a halfway level for getting pets into houses isn’t the one manner welfare teams are addressing the road cat and canine situation. Subject providers are essential to decreasing stray animal populations and serving to homeowners whereas relieving shelters. Companies embody trapping and neutering, group training, and returning misplaced pets.

The Shelter Animals Rely 2021 dataset breaks down discipline service interactions with stray cats and canines 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 numerous, however providers overwhelmingly concentrate on one activity, portray a transparent image of the distinction between stray cats and stray canines in America.

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

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

Regularly 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 seemingly 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 group cats within the nation, the overall pet cat inhabitants nonetheless exceeds a few of the increased estimates.


How Many Animals Does a Cat Kill Every 12 months?

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 residing specimen of the Stephen’s Island wren. The flightless songbird endemic to the New Zealand island was extinct in lower than a yr.

Globally, research have related cats to 63 extinctions, presenting vital issues over the affect of cats, whether or not stray, feral, or owned. Within the U.S., many supply the counterargument that additionally they cull non-native species, such as rats and house mice. With the true affect in query, activists on each side of the talk can’t agree on one of the best ways 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?

Consultants 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 data and elimination providers, typically involving trap-neuter-release to quell numbers with out harming the livelihood of current group cats.

Governments, shelters, and consultants are essential in offering training and sources, however homeowners retain essentially the most accountability in decreasing the homeless cat inhabitants. 1000’s of pet cats go lacking annually, and even people who come residence can considerably have an effect on native stray cat numbers and endanger wildlife.

Cat homeowners should admire the possibility and impact of missing pets, even these they think about 100% indoor animals. Accountable adoption, containment, neutering, and identification are essential. By stopping replica, decreasing abandonment, and making it simple for shelters to find homeowners, the potential for pointless euthanasia and packed shelters shall be a lot much less frequent.

Ultimate Ideas

Our accountability to cats extends far past these we name pets. Stray and feral cats are a group concern, a multitude we created that does little greater than make our favourite animals endure and negatively affect the atmosphere. The options are easy. However compliance shall be essential if we hope to take care of these optimistic traits we’ve seen in homeless cat statistics.

Featured Picture Credit score: Lea Rae, Shutterstock

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