This Country Has More Cats Than People. The Feline-Loving Nation Where Kitties Outnumber Humans

Introducing the Cat Population Crisis

Cats are one of the most popular pets globally, but in some areas their populations have grown out of control. This overpopulation of stray and feral cats has become a serious issue with significant impacts to local ecosystems and public health.

Feral cats are domestic cats that have reverted to wild behaviors and survive outdoors in groups called colonies. Their populations can explode rapidly since cats can begin reproducing as early as 6 months old and give birth to multiple litters per year. Feral cats compete with native species, spread diseases, and can cause nuisance complaints and property damage with their waste and destructive behaviors.

Certain areas around the world are facing a major crisis from exploding populations of stray and feral cats. One country where stray cats now far outnumber the human population is Cyprus, an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. Various factors have contributed to cats proliferating unchecked on Cyprus, creating an urgent situation requiring solutions.

History of Cats in Cyprus

Cats have a long history in Cyprus dating back thousands of years. According to the Cyprus cat Wikipedia page, cats were first introduced to the island by humans in the Neolithic period around 7500 BC. Ancient Cypriots revered cats and often depicted them in art and jewelry. Cats had an important role controlling rodents and venomous snakes on the island.

The cat population expanded more rapidly after the 4th century AD when, according to Byzantine legend, Saint Helena sent hundreds of cats from Egypt and Palestine to Cyprus to help rid the island of snakes. Cats were able to breed and multiply on Cyprus with little outside influence over the centuries. This resulted in the development of the distinct Cyprus cat breed that is adapted to the island’s environment.

During British colonial rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, more cats were brought to the island by British settlers and administrators. Interbreeding occurred between the local cats and foreign breeds. After Cyprus gained independence in 1960, cat numbers continued to grow as the human population expanded and cats were allowed to breed freely.

Current Cat Population in Cyprus

According to research, there are now estimated to be around 1.5 million stray and feral cats in Cyprus compared to just over 1 million human residents (source). This means there are significantly more cats than people living on the island. Some estimates suggest the cat population in Cyprus may even be as high as 2 million.

The cities with the highest populations of stray cats include Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, and Famagusta. Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is believed to have the most stray cats roaming the streets. With an estimated human population of only 326,000, the hundreds of thousands of stray cats overwhelm the city.

The massive population of stray and feral cats in Cyprus has developed over many years due to cats being allowed to breed freely. Additionally, many Cypriots consider cats sacred animals and are unwilling to spay or neuter them. The warm climate of Cyprus also enables cats to breed year-round.

Impacts of the Stray Cat Population

The large population of stray cats in Cyprus has many negative impacts on the environment and public health. One major issue is the spread of diseases among the cats, including feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus, which are highly contagious among cat populations (BirdLife Cyprus, 2022). These diseases can also spread to owned pet cats. Stray cats also carry ticks, fleas, worms and other parasites that can be transmitted to humans, pets, and wildlife.

Another problem is predation on native wildlife by stray cats. Cyprus is home to many rare and endangered bird species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Stray cats are extremely effective hunters and kill large numbers of birds, reptiles and small mammals (BirdLife Cyprus, 2022). This has severely impacted populations of native species already struggling to survive.

Stray cats also cause a public nuisance with behaviors like fighting, spraying, caterwauling, digging through trash, etc. They can damage gardens, spread smell, and generally be a disturbance for neighborhoods with large populations. People may start feeding strays, which often makes problems worse by encouraging more cats to congregate.


Efforts to Control the Cat Population

The large stray cat population in Cyprus has prompted efforts by the government and animal welfare organizations to try to manage it. One controversial method that has been used is culling, where cats are rounded up and euthanized. This practice has drawn criticism from animal rights groups, but some argue it is the only way to control the population (

More humane methods focus on spaying and neutering to prevent the cats from reproducing. Local municipalities have funded trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs to capture, sterilize, and then release cats back to their colonies. However, TNR efforts have trouble keeping up with the continuous influx of stray cats (

Animal welfare groups also try to rehome adoptable cats, both locally and internationally. But adoptions alone cannot address the sheer number of street cats in Cyprus. Faced with limited resources, shelters struggle to care for the cats long-term.

Controlling Cyprus’ cat population faces difficulties like lack of widespread spay/neuter services, no centralized approach, and resistance from some who feel the cats belong on the streets. Developing an ethical, effective strategy requires ongoing efforts by government, nonprofits, and communities.

Controversies Around Stray Cats in Cyprus

The massive stray cat population in Cyprus has sparked debate and controversy over how to humanely manage the cats while protecting public health and ecosystems. Some argue the cats are part of Cyprus’s culture and efforts should focus on sterilization and adoption (Cyprus Mail, 2023). However, others raise concerns about diseases, predation on wildlife, and quality of life for the stray cats themselves.

Those against culling argue it is inhumane and ineffective, as sterilized cats keep new cats away. They emphasize trap-neuter-return programs to stabilize numbers. However, some conservationists argue the cats decimate bird and reptile populations, and spread diseases like toxoplasmosis. There are also public health concerns around cats contaminating food and water. Supporters of cat culls cite historic culling on certain islands to protect endangered species.

The debate remains heated, with animal welfare activists staunchly against culling. Compromise suggestions include creating cat sanctuaries, limiting cat populations in key wildlife areas, and increasing spay/neuter initiatives. However, with limited resources and over 2 million stray cats, sustainable solutions remain elusive. The path forward requires creative, humane approaches balancing public health, environmental protection, and animal welfare.

Cats have long held an important place in Cyprus culture and folklore. This helps explain some of the opposition to reducing the large stray cat population on the island.

Cats were first introduced to Cyprus thousands of years ago and over time became an integral part of myths and legends. According to Cypriot folklore, saints Helen and Nicholas once visited Cyprus and disliked all the snakes on the island. They asked for help getting rid of the snakes and cats came from Egypt to eat the snakes. Since then, cats have been respected and revered for ridding Cyprus of snakes.

There are many folk tales involving cats, portraying them as clever creatures. The Cyprus Cat is also considered to be a national symbol of the island. They are featured on local pottery, jewelry, and postcards. Many Cypriots believe hurting or reducing the cat population would be an affront to an animal so culturally significant.

Cats hold a special place in religion as well. It’s believed cats are beloved by Greek goddess Artemis. There are also folk beliefs that harming cats angers Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of Cyprus. With such cultural and religious importance, it’s understandable why many Cypriots oppose reducing the stray cat population.

Efforts by Animal Welfare Organizations

Several animal welfare organizations in Cyprus are working to help spay, neuter, and care for the country’s large stray cat population in a responsible manner. Some of the main groups involved in this effort include:

Animal Rescue Cyprus, the largest animal shelter in Cyprus, provides free rescue services for abandoned and neglected animals. They have dedicated vehicles to pick up stray cats and bring them back to their shelter for care.

CAT P.A.W.S Cyprus, a registered charity, works to spay and neuter stray cats as well as find homes for adoptable cats. Their priority is controlling the cat population humanely.

The Malcolm Cat Protection Society runs an animal shelter focused on rescuing, neutering, and rehoming stray cats. They aim to make a difference in controlling the cat population on the island through their spay/neuter efforts.

These organizations provide care, food, housing and medical treatment for the stray cats of Cyprus. At the same time, they work to address the population crisis through an ethical approach focused on spaying/neutering. Their efforts are making a real difference for animal welfare on the island.

Potential Solutions Going Forward

While Cyprus’ large stray cat population poses challenges, there are humane solutions that can help manage the numbers while still accommodating cultural appreciation for cats on the island. Some potential ways forward include:

Expanding Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, which humanely trap stray cats, spay/neuter them, and then return them to their original locations. TNR helps stabilize populations long-term without euthanasia. Successful TNR requires dedication and funding, but can make a big impact over time. For example, this Reddit discussion highlighted TNR’s potential.

Increasing education around responsible cat ownership, such as the importance of spaying/neutering pets, proper outdoor supervision, and not abandoning unwanted cats. Cultural attitudes play a role, so outreach could encourage more responsible cat care while respecting Cyprus’ affection for felines.

Creating more shelters and sanctuaries specifically intended to house unadoptable stray cats, providing them a permanent home. This allows healthy stray cats to live out their lives cared for, while decreasing breeding and not euthanizing animals.

Implementing registration, microchipping, and breeder permits for all pet cats, to promote responsible ownership and breeding. However, costs of registration should be kept low so as not to deter compliance.

Increasing public funding for animal welfare programs. With more resources, organizations can expand lifesaving efforts like adoption events, medical care, and TNR. But funds should focus on long-term population control versus short-term feeding programs.

Considering designated cat zones in certain public areas, where stray cats are intentionally supported with food, water and shelter. This concentrates populations in controlled areas versus having cats roam neighborhoods freely.

With a nuanced, multifaceted approach, Cyprus can humanely manage its stray cats while maintaining the felines’ cultural significance.


The issue of the overpopulation of stray cats in Cyprus is a complex one without any simple solutions. With an estimated stray cat population ranging from 100,000 to 500,000, cats significantly outnumber the human population on the island. This massive population of stray felines causes issues like the spread of diseases, attacks on native wildlife, and quality of life concerns in cities and villages.

However, efforts to control the stray cat population in Cyprus have been controversial. Catch and euthanize programs implemented by the government have been met with public backlash. TNR (trap-neuter-return) efforts by animal welfare organizations have helped, but have not fully resolved the issue. Cultural attitudes about cats as beloved, independent creatures have also complicated matters.

Going forward, a multifaceted approach is likely needed. Continued TNR efforts, adoption programs, education, and responsible pet ownership must be part of the solution. But compromises may be required, such as restricted cat breeding and containment laws. With cooperation between the government, animal groups, and the public, it is hoped that the cat population in Cyprus can eventually reach a more sustainable level.

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