Saturday 30 March 2024

Cat domestication is a failure in the United States

The statement in the title seems to be exaggerated and plain wrong. It seems to be too negative and unhelpful. It can't be true can it? There are millions of domestic cats in nice homes in America. They are well cared for. They are happy. They live good lives and their human caregivers are nice people. This is all positive. It indicates that cat domestication in America is successful from both the cat and the human's perspective.

But I cannot agree for this reason. And below my reason there some detail on this thanks to Bing's co-pilot who did some research for me.

Cat domestication is a failure in the United States
If you weigh the unhappiness experienced by feral and stray cats and compared it to the happiness experienced by domestic cats in good homes, which is the greater? See below for more on this.

I'm told that the recent figures from the United States estimate that there are 82 million pet cats living happily in people's homes throughout the country. I'm also told that the population of stray and feral cats in the United States is estimated to be between 60 and 100 million. Some estimates are more conservative ranging from 30 to 80 million. Notwithstanding the difference in these estimates, you can see that there is a very similar number of feral and stray cats to the number of domestic cats.

A stray or feral cat lives a very tough and harsh life in both the urban and semi urban environment in the United States. It's hard for them. PETA, the animal advocacy charity consistently state that feral cats are miserable. They argue or have argued that it is more humane to euthanise feral cats rather than operate TNR programs for them. They want to pull them out of their measurable existences and send them to heaven.

A lot of people disagree with that including Nathan Winograd but they make a point. It is difficult to arrive at a conclusion other than that feral and stray cats are likely to be unhappy or indeed miserable, living relatively short lives compared to their domestic cat cousins. 

They are preyed upon by coyotes and other predators, they are shot at by miscreant and unpleasant cat hating people. They are poisoned by similar people. They are denigrated by others who don't want them in the neighbourhood. They are euthanised at cat shelters because they don't want feral cats. There are people who say they should be put back where they came from and left to die.

All in all a bad picture for the millions of feral and stray cat in the United States. If you are going to work out the success of cat domestication you have to weigh up the pros and cons. You have to carry out a balancing act between the good and bad.

Negative spin-off

Stray and feral cats are a negative spin-off, a bad consequence of cat domestication. They are there thanks to the carelessness of humankind. They are a failure in cat domestication. They should not exist at all. Every feral cat is a symptom of failure in the human-to-cat relationship. This was not the end game envisaged by humans when cat domestication first started.


And think of the wildlife that feral and stray cats kill. A lot of people don't like that. This is another aspect of failure in the cat domestication process.

'Weighing' the good and bad in cat domestication

Now let's imagine we add up all the pain and misery suffered by stray and feral cats in the United States. Let's put that pain and misery on a scale and call it negatives. Now let's add up all the happiness and contentment enjoyed by domestic cats in nice homes. Let's call that the positives.

My argument is that the negatives are the same "weight" as the positives" and therefore he cannot say that cat domestication in the United States is successful.

I can add a further factor here. Of the approximate 82 million domestic cats in America at this time, not all of them will be happy. There must be a reasonable percentage who are unhappy because their caregiver simply don't do a good job. I'm going to guess and say that about 10%-15% of human caregivers of domestic cats are underperforming and the cats are unhappy. This further adds to the equation I mention above and it tips it in favour of cat domestication failure. What do you think?

Number of stray and feral cats in the USA - 2024

In the United States, the population of stray and feral cats is estimated to be between 60 and 100 million. These cats, once they leave the comfort of our homes, become one of America’s most impactful invasive species. They pose ecological, economic, and ethical challenges for animal welfare groups. The issue of unowned cats has long been a community concern.

Here are some key points about stray and feral cats:

  1. Origins of Stray and Feral Cats:
    • The general understanding among experts is that the homeless cat population is growing and currently sits at around 60–100 million cats. Some estimates are more conservative, ranging from 30–80 million.
    • Only 85% of pet cats are spayed or neutered. Spaying or neutering pets is crucial for controlling stray and feral cat populations. When pets escape or roam outside, they can mate with neighborhood cats, perpetuating the problem. The closer we get to 100% pet neutering, the more we reduce the strain on welfare groups and the current homeless cats in our communities.
    • Roughly 15% of cat owners lose their pets at some point during a 5-year period. Cats and dogs tend to roam when the front door swings open. However, only 75% of lost cats are recovered, compared to a 93% return rate for dogs. Over a five-year period, this translates to over 3 million cats becoming lost and never returning home.

The challenge of managing stray and feral cat populations requires a collective effort from pet owners, animal shelters, and governments to address this complex issue.

Number of domestic cats in the US - 2024

In the United States, cats are the most popular house pet, with approximately 90 million domesticated cats residing in around 34% of U.S. homes. That’s quite a feline presence across the nation!

To break it down further:

  • The average number of cats per household is 1.78.
  • There are approximately 123.6 million households in the U.S. according to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data.
  • Roughly 26% of households have at least one cat.

So, if we do the math, we get approximately 82 million pet cats living happily in people’s homes throughout the country. That’s a whole lot of purring companions! 🐾🐱

P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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