The Cat Capital of the World. Which Country Has the Most Feline Friends?


Cats are one of the most popular pet animals around the world. With their independent and affectionate nature, it’s no wonder that so many households choose to adopt a feline friend. This article aims to explore which country has the largest population of domestic cats. We will examine cat ownership rates in different regions, factors that affect feline populations, and cultural influences that make certain countries more “cat-friendly” than others. Understanding where cats are most prevalent can provide insight into human-animal relationships and how best to address issues like overpopulation and care for these beloved pets.

Measuring Cat Populations

Determining exact global cat populations is challenging due to the large number of unowned and feral cats around the world.

One common method for estimating cat populations is through trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs. These programs involve trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and then returning them to their colony to live out their lives without reproducing. By tracking the number of cats captured and sterilized in an area, researchers can estimate the overall population size.

However, TNR programs are very labor intensive and expensive to operate at a large scale. Many communities lack the resources for widespread TNR, making it difficult to extrapolate local cat counts to national or global populations. There are also challenges locating and trapping all feral cats in a given area.

Another approach is using owned cat population data to model and estimate the number of unowned cats. For example, surveys on household cat ownership rates can provide estimates on the total owned cat population in different countries. Researchers then use mathematical modeling to estimate the number of unowned cats based on ecological factors like prey density and habitat.

While no method can determine exact global populations, researchers agree cats likely number in the hundreds of millions globally. Improved monitoring techniques and modeling will help refine population estimates over time.[1]

Cat Ownership Rates by Country

Cat ownership rates vary significantly between countries around the world. According to Statista (, the United States has the highest rate of cat ownership at 43% of households owning at least one cat. The UK comes in second with 32% of households owning a cat.

Some other cat ownership percentages by country include:

  • Australia – 29%
  • New Zealand – 35%
  • Germany – 14%
  • France – 24%
  • Spain – 18%
  • Italy – 17%
  • Sweden – 16%

In Asia, cat ownership rates tend to be much lower compared to Western countries. For example, only 11% of Chinese households own a cat. The rates in India and Indonesia are even lower at 2% and 1% respectively (World Population Review,

Overall, higher levels of economic development, urbanization, and individual wealth seem to correlate with increased cat ownership globally. But cultural factors also play a role, with cats being more prized as pets in Western societies compared to some Asian and African countries.

Factors Affecting Cat Populations

A number of cultural, religious, economic, and other factors can impact cat ownership and the populations of domestic cats in a given country. Some major influences include:

Culture – Cultural attitudes and traditions related to cats vary significantly around the world. In parts of Asia, cats are highly revered, while in other areas they face abuse or neglect. Ancient Egypt viewed cats as sacred creatures, while some Western cultures historically associated cats with witchcraft.

Religion – Some religions restrict pet ownership or impose special rules. For example, cats are seen as impure in Islamic tradition and largely avoided in Muslim-majority countries. Strict Jewish kosher rules also discourage pet ownership.

Economics – The ability to afford proper pet care limits cat ownership in poorer regions. More affluent countries and higher socioeconomic groups within countries tend to have higher rates of cat ownership.

Geography & Climate – Cats are adaptable but prefer temperate climates. Extreme cold or heat can reduce stray cat populations. Urbanization also promotes higher owned cat populations.

Laws & Regulation – Laws around animal welfare, licensing requirements, sterilization programs, and restrictions on breeds impact cat numbers.

Demographics – Household size, age, and gender demographics shape demand. Women, seniors, and small families show greater propensity toward cat ownership.

In summary, cultural traditions, religious beliefs, economic factors, geographic conditions, regulations, and demographics all play a role in cat ownership rates globally.

Countries with the Most Household Cats

Estimates of cat populations can be difficult to determine precisely, but surveys and pet industry reports provide a general sense of which countries have the most household or pet cats. Here are some of the top pet cat countries:

1. China – China is estimated to have around 100 million pet cats, the highest number in the world. With a large overall population and rising rates of pet ownership, China has seen rapid growth in its cat population (Source).

2. Russia – Russia has an estimated cat population of around 17 million across households. Cats are popular pets in Russian culture. Stray cat populations also contribute to the high totals (Source).

3. Brazil – With around 12.5 million pet cats, Brazil ranks third in the world. However, Brazil also has a very large stray cat population, which likely pushes the total even higher.

4. France – France is estimated to have around 9.5 million pet cats, which works out to around one cat for every 7 people. Cats are deeply ingrained in French culture.

5. Italy – There are approximately 7.5 million pet cats in Italy’s households. Italians are known as cat lovers, with stray cat colonies dotting many Italian cities.

Addressing Cat Overpopulation

Countries with high cat populations often struggle with addressing issues like cat overpopulation and feral cats. Uncontrolled breeding leads to large numbers of unwanted cats that end up in shelters or on the streets.

Spaying and neutering pets is crucial for controlling reproduction rates. Low-cost spay/neuter programs, subsidies, and education campaigns can increase sterilization rates. For example, Bikini Beach Cat Rescue runs low-cost clinics to help caretakers of feral cat colonies.

Trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs are effective for managing feral cat colonies humanely. Cats are trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped, and returned to their outdoor home. TNR stabilizes populations and improves cats’ health and behavior.

Addressing cat overpopulation requires a multi-faceted approach, including responsible pet ownership, widespread spaying and neutering programs, and properly managing feral cat colonies. With dedication and community involvement, high cat populations can be humanely and effectively controlled.

Impacts of High Cat Populations

High populations of free-roaming cats can have significant impacts on the environment, agriculture, and disease transmission. Cats are natural hunters and can prey on native wildlife like birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. One study estimates that free-ranging domestic cats kill between 1.3–4.0 billion birds and between 6.3-22.3 billion mammals annually in the United States alone (Loss et al., 2013). This predation pressure can negatively affect wildlife populations, particularly birds and small mammal species. Cats tend to prey more on native wildlife species than on non-native pests, compounding their impact (Trouwborst, 2020).

In agricultural areas, large populations of feral and stray cats can also prey on poultry and livestock. They may spread diseases like toxoplasmosis and rabies to farm animals through feces contamination. Rodents and birds drawn to farm animal feed can further spread diseases picked up from cats.

High cat density increases the risk of disease transmission to other cats, wildlife, and humans. Common feline diseases like feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, and rabies can spread rapidly. Zoonotic diseases that transfer from cats to humans include toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, plague, and more. Reducing outdoor and feral cat populations can help control disease outbreaks (HSUS, n.d.).

Overall, large outdoor and feral cat populations have demonstrated ecological damage. Controlling populations through trap-neuter-return, adoption programs, and habitat modification may help mitigate negative impacts (Loss et al., 2013).

Cultural Significance of Cats

Cats have long held cultural significance in many countries with high cat populations. In Egypt, cats were revered and associated with the goddess Bastet. Killing a cat was a crime punishable by death in ancient Egypt [1]. The goddesses Freyja and Frigg were linked with cats in Norse mythology. Cats were seen as magical creatures and familiars of witches during the Middle Ages in Europe [2]. In Islam, cats are admired for their cleanliness and Muhammad’s fondness for them. Black cats are considered good luck in the UK and Japan. Maneki neko figurines are common in Japan as they symbolize good fortune.

Cats continue to be popular pets and cultural icons. Their independence and mysteriousness make them figures of interest across many cultures. Superstitions, folklore, and religious associations surround cats in countries with high feline populations.

Notable Cat Breeds

Some of the most popular and beloved cat breeds originate from countries with high cat populations like the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. Here are a few examples:

The Maine Coon is one of the oldest natural breeds originating in the United States. Known as the “gentle giant,” Maine Coons are large, rugged cats that adapted to the harsh New England winters. They have a distinctive physical appearance with a long, shaggy coat and tufted paws.

The British Shorthair breed has ancient roots in the United Kingdom. Originally working cats with thick, plush coats to withstand cold weather, British Shorthairs are now gentle companion cats. They have a distinctively stocky, rounded body and come in a variety of color patterns.

Two established breeds from Russia are the Donskoy, known for its lack of coat and wrinkled skin, and the Siberian, a fluffy, triple-coated breed adept at surviving frigid Siberian winters.


In summary, the country with the most household cats is the United States, with an estimated 94 million cats living in homes. High cat ownership rates in the US are likely driven by cultural attitudes, economic factors enabling pet ownership, and low restrictions on cat breeding and sales. Countries like China and Russia also have tens of millions of cats, but precise numbers are difficult to determine. Key takeaways include:

  • The US, Russia, and China have the most household cats globally based on available data.
  • Higher cat populations correspond to higher economic development, enabling spending on pets.
  • Cultural attitudes and preferences dictate cat ownership rates in different regions.
  • Uncontrolled cat breeding leads to stray and feral cat overpopulations.
  • More research is needed to precisely track global owned and unowned cat numbers.

While cats provide companionship as pets, high populations of uncontrolled, unowned cats can impact wildlife and public health. Balancing cat ownership practices with population management efforts remains an ongoing challenge worldwide.

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