Sources of Cats in U.S. Households


One in three U.S. households—37 million in all—has at least one pet cat, with an average of 2.2 cats living in each cat-owning household.[1] That adds up to roughly 82 million pet cats living in people’s homes throughout the country.[2]

But pet cats make up only part of the total U.S. cat population: scientists estimate that the size of the stray and feral cat population rivals that of the pet cat population.[3]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communities Care For All Cats—Pet, Stray, and Feral

A look at where Americans are getting their pet cats reveals that communities are actively involved in the care of all cats—pet, stray, and feral. The millions of Americans all across the country who open their homes to stray and feral cats create a dynamic and continuous flow of stray and feral cats into the U.S. pet cat population.

Friends and Family—the Most Common Source of Pet Cats

Forty-three percent of all cat-owning households obtained at least one cat from a friend or family member, making friends and family the single most common source of cats.[4]

Income was a significant factor in a household’s likelihood to have adopted a cat from a friend or relative: 64% of households earning less than $35,000 had adopted a cat this way, compared to only 33% of households earning $35,000 or more.[5]

 

Stray and Feral Cats: A Large and Continuing Source of New Pet Cats

The stray and feral cat population is a significant source of pet cats in U.S. households. More than a third—34%—of all cat-owning households adopted at least one cat as a stray.[6] In addition to people adopting adult cats they find outdoors, kittens born to stray and feral cats are also prime candidates for adoption.

Interestingly, the amount of money a household earns has no bearing on that household’s likelihood to have adopted a cat as a stray: roughly a third of all cat-owning households in all income levels has adopted at least one stray cat.[7]

 

Pounds and Shelters: Not a Significant Source of Pet Cats

Just 16%—less than one-fifth—of all cat-owning households have adopted a cat from an animal pound or shelter.[8]

 

Only 3% of Households Went to a Breeder for a Cat

Some animal advocates have a misconception that breeders produce a significant portion of the pet cat population. But only 3% of all cat-owning households have obtained a cat from a breeder.[9]

Endnotes

[1] Chu K, Anderson WM, Rieser MY. Population Characteristics and Neuter Status of Cats Living in Households in the United States. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2009; 234:1023-1030.
[2] Id.
[3] E.g., Levy JK, Crawford PC. Humane Strategies for Controlling Feral Cat Populations, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004; 225:1354-1360, 1355 at Table 1; see also Levy JK, et al. Number of Unowned Free-roaming Cats in a College Community in the Southern United States and Characteristics of Community Residents Who Feed Them, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003; 223:202-205, 204.
[4] Chu K, Anderson WM, Rieser MY. Population Characteristics and Neuter Status of Cats Living in Households in the United States. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2009; 234:1023-1030.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.

  © 2012 Alley Cat Allies