How many cats can come from one cat show on cat pyramid chart

How many cats can come from one cat shown on cat pyramid chart

How many cats can come about from one cat in 7 years? Can it really be 420,000 kittens? The numbers are exponential, but one needs to take pause when throwing out what the numbers because they may not be valid.

It’s important to shock people into understanding how explosive pet overpopulation is, but it’s also a good idea to be as factual as possible because misleading information has a way of coming back to haunt you, kind of like the adage, what comes around, goes around.

How many cats can come from one cat : 10 million in 9 years?

When I wrote an article on pet overpopulation last fall, the local shelter kindly gave me a chart, showing the unbelievable extent of cat and dog overpopulation. The numbers on the chart indicated each kitten can have a litter at 6-months. The results are exponential with one cat having an average of 2.8 kittens per litter creating over 11,606,077 kittens within 9 years if left unchecked.

The chart for dogs was similarly disturbing. One dog’s offspring can result in 4,372 dogs in 7 years. I, for one, was stunned. I knew unchecked, they could have a lot of kittens and pups, but not quite this many. I also learned that while the mating season has traditionally been from March to October, it’s getting longer. Some have reported, mating season never stops, and is perpetual year round.

The numbers represented in this chart are indicative of a perfect world, and we live in anything but a perfect world, especially for cats, dogs and other companion animals.  The charts are effective. They do make an impression. They make people think about why it is so important to spay/neuter their pets.

Cat Little Yellow ponders do these cat overpopulation pyramid charts shock people into taking spay/neuter seriously?

Cat Little Yellow ponders how many cats can come from one cat.

They are not totally deceitful because if every cat survived, they would be on target. But they don’t. Kittens die when they are born. They die from disease. If they are allowed to roam outside, they are victim to predators and accidents. If they end up in shelters, they are many times euthanized. The numbers for feral cats, cited below, are much more grim.

Alison Grasheim, Deputy Director of Communications, Alley Cat Allies, a national feral cat rescue, advocacy organization, shared the following information. “More than 70 percent of cats who enter our animal control and sheltering system are killed there. For feral cats, that number rises to virtually 100 percent. Spay/neuter is one part of many things communities can do to stop killing animals.

Is it realistic to think over 11 millions cats can come from one cat in 9 years? Hundreds of media reports have repeated that startling stat — in the past month alone. It also turns up on many websites for animal advocacy groups who want to see more aggressive spaying and neutering, and urge people to adopt more cats.

I did some digging, and discovered that no one wanted to claim ownership of this stray stat. The number is often attributed to the Humane Society of the United States, which lists it on a page of stats on the Humane Society’s website. But the group told me it’s not the source of the figure.

She goes on to say that even though no one claimed responsibility for creating the charts and stats, it’s been used as an advocacy tool for spaying/neutering cats for at least 18 years. Well let’s add another 6 to that to bring us into 2012, and make it 24 years.

It’s pretty obvious that this chart is theoretical, based on each female cat living to reproduce and each and every one of her offspring continuing to reproduce for all 7 or 9 years. If cats are feral, that is never going to happen. And even with our domestic free roaming, or even inside cats, not every cat will survive to a comfortable old age.

Cat overpopulation chart unbelievable and baseless

“The much-repeated quote that one female cat can produce 420,000 kittens in just 7 years is unbelievable and baseless. No science supports this projection, only hunches. Science disproves this projection by factoring in true birth rates along with newborn and juvenile mortality. According to wildlife biologists, the reproductive and offspring mortality rates of free-roaming cats are similar to wild carnivores. One female cat averages six kittens per year and 75% of her kittens die before reproductive age. When using these criteria, math experts calculate that one female cat and her offspring will produce 100 cats in seven years, assuming that all adult cats remain alive for all seven years. Although still an overestimate, this figure is far less daunting and realistic.”

However, these numbers would not be applicable to many free roaming cats, that are not feral (wild cats that live in colonies). Many people, especially those that live in rural America, take the chance of letting their kitty out for a little fresh air, corralling them back to safety for the evening. It would appear these cats would have a much higher mortality rate. And of course, there’s the cats that only live inside, and they live even longer, up to 20 or more years.

Mallory Kesley, Media Coordinator of the ASPCA, shared this information. “It’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States. Estimates indicate there are up to 70 million cats. The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is 1 to 2 a year with the average litter being from 4 to 6 kittens. An average dog produces 1 litter a year with 4 to 6 puppies.

Yet, only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, she said. About 75 percent of owned pets are neutered. The ASPCA estimates that five out of ten dogs in shelters and seven out of ten cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them.

Cat overpopulation pyramid chart shocks people into thinking about spay/neuter

The cat overpopulation pyramid chart has shocked people into thinking about spay/neuter, and it’s the only thing that makes people sit up and take notice.

The cat overpopulation pyramid chart shocks people into thinking about spay/neuter, and may be the only thing that makes people sit up and take notice.

Whether the chart is accurate or not, it bring credence to the fact that cat overpopulation is a huge issue, and all we need to do is make sure we spay/neuter our pet to avert this national crisis.




Cat overpopulation national crisis could be averted by spay/neuter

Spay/Neuter will prevent explosive cat overpopulation

Cats are hardwired to reproduce; only way to stop feline overpopulation is to spay/neuter

February 2: the clock is ticking to cat mating season. Spay/neuter your cat today

What do you think about these charts? Should shelters and animal rescue groups continue to use these statistics, even though they are flawed?




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BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

14 Responses to How many cats can come about from one cat? Take pause before throwing out the numbers

  1. […] How many cats can come about from one cat? Take pause before throwing out the numbers […]

  2. […] How many cats can come about from one cat? Take pause before throwing out the numbers […]

  3. False data helps no one. The shelters should present more honest figures.

  4. Daniel says:

    i’ve just seen one of those scheme before. and it made no sense whatsoever.

    just think about it,cats exists since earth day 1, and Sterilization is a fairly new technique (i’d give it less than 100 years since it has been used on cats) so if it’s true that a couple of cats can generate +26k cats in 4 years, by now, we’d be literally covered in cats.

    • Adam says:

      While the numbers are exaggerated, the problem is real…

      Cats did not exist as we know them since day 1, nor did they exist in any manner in many places…

      The fact remains that cats are the single most destructive creatures after humans on this planet! They are literally exterminating entire species across the globe! Countless extinctions in countless species have occurred directly due to cats overwhelming foreign environment…

      Outside of Europe, possibly parts of Asia or Africa, cats are just not native to the environment & are causing massive destruction. Even worse still, is feral cats & far, far worse still is colonies of feral cats! They can quite literally eat out the entire community of all small creatures!

      The devastation is incredible & inescapable… For that matter, all feral cats & the vast majority of “outdoor” cats live pretty awful lives filled with pain, fear, violence, killing & death…
      There’s no pretty, pretend Disney life they lead… Most are hit by cars, disease or as the supper of larger predators…

      What life is that for the cat or its victims? Remember of course, the cat is the only creature other then man to kill for pleasure, to attack for no reason, torture for entertainment & then leave the creature to die of its injuries uneaten… Each cat typically kills & maims hundreds & hundreds of small animals every year…

      On the other hand, the only way to keep a cat indoors is through surgical alteration & keeping the poor creature penned up against their nature! The cruelty of that is equally bad…

      Worse still yet, cats are the root vectors of very serious infectious diseases that are becoming very, very serious & reaching pandemic proportions.

      This disease causes human women to miscarry & deliver deformed babies… In other animals, the effects are varied but cats are largely unaffected by the infection but are prolific carriers.

      Even worse, they have spread the infection to the wildlife & especially raccoons… Unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid being in contact with raccoon urine/feeces…

      Originally pregnant women could avoid cats/litter boxes, but with transmission to raccoons, it’s not all around us & unavoidable! This will cause an epidemic of new infections eventually…

      This is just the tip of the iceberg… I like cats as much as the next person but we have to stop this before the cats truly screw us all over!

      OK, I can accept if you just must have a cat, fine, put the animal on a leash & take it outside or build a secure large outdoor pen that nothing can get in or out of… But don’t just let it wander unsupervised or controlled!

      No exception, you must secure your animals from any opps pregnancies! I don’t care how you do it, I prefer vasectomies/tubal ligation but there’s loads of options… Pick one but don’t just wait for kittens to start sprouting from everywhere!

      Trust me, even if it’s just 1 & she can have 8+ babies, 6 months later the kittens can each have 8+ babies, no matter what the actual number it gets out of hand very fast… Just as the innumerable amount of panicked people who feed a stray cat quickly discover!

      The other issue is if you have cats, you will attract neighborhood feral cats straight to your door at all hours screaming, it’s hideous! Every time you feed 1 stray cat, others will follow!

      In addition, if you have cats, you will attract all the neighborhood rodents… Wait a minute, what’s that??? Don’t cats kill rodents, yes & no… They do prey occasionally on rodents but mostly the small ones, huge rats not so much!

      More importantly, it’s been proven that rats are frequently infested by a parasite that controls their brains & makes them attracted to the odor of cat urine to complete it’s life cycle! Thus many diseased rats will be attracted to whatever the cats are…

      As it turns out, cats & rats are inextricably linked in a common life cycle that results in the fact that if you have cats, you have rats… That’s not to say that you can’t get rats without cats but it’s not the same…

      More importantly, a good rat dog is far more effective at controlling pest populations, specifically target pests not nontarget species, they kill cleanly, humanely & can be trained not to eat it to prevent disease transmission & they don’t torture for amusement…

      They will keep a property free of pests for the occasional loving pat & bowl of food! They also will not attract pests & actually repells them! There’s really no legit reason that anyone needs a cat…

      I understand that some just like cats & if so fine, but don’t make the rest of the world suffer for your amusement! Keep your cat indoors, in a secure outdoor pen or on a leash under your control.

      I should not have to fear my pregnant wife (hypothetical, I have no wife) might get a disease that causes her to miscarry or deliver a deformed baby because you didn’t care enough to keep your animal under your control & not using my garden as their bathroom!

      Nor should me or my dog have to come outside to discover his pet wild bunny that lived under our deck mauled & shredded into tiny pieces spread over our yard because you want your cat to experience the outdoors! (actually happened, I can still see my pup with the bunny’s hind quarters crying because his friends was gone!)

      It is not a right to have any animal you want & it’s certainly not a right to be allowed to do whatever you want with that animal while all else be dammed!

      Yes, for a considerable amount of time cats have evolved next to humans in some places… But that does not excuse willfully ignoring reality & harm done…

      If we don’t entirely eliminate all feral cats, we will be in considerable trouble & more importantly, it will be a terrible disgrace & national shame!

      We must stop treating feral cats like a cash cow to just get free kittens from! Besides, just about no sane human wants a feral cat! They are insane & completely unmanageable!

      I had a rescued feral kitten for a short time & it was the worst decision I have ever made… The kitten basically screamed near continuously, never could be house broken, sprayed everywhere, couldn’t be alone for a second, was scared of the dark, uggg… It was awful!!!

      Literally all night, every night it screamed continuously! It took me about 4 weeks to give up & find a no kill shelter to give it to… Now, if I ever find a feral cat in need, I’m taking it to the vet to be euthanized.

      It took the rescue months to find a home, the cat never adapted to domestic life & was returned & rehomed multiple times before living with an angel foster…

      The kitten would of been better off dead! The rescue wasted loads of resources & money on a case with no hope of success, they lost a great foster because the cat couldn’t be around other animals… It was just a fiasco all around!

      There’s so many great, needy animals that deserves great forever homes but not enough homes to go around… To lose 1 home for a single animal that otherwise could take several personal animals & the odd foster is a waste. For that 1 insane cat, several good animals lost a home! How does that make sense?

      I would love to be able to offer perfect forever homes to every animal in need but it’s just not possible. We have to make wise choices with finite resources & at this time we don’t have the resources to insure every animal in need has a good home!

      So we can’t rightfully blow all the resources on 1 or a few intractable cases! We owe a duty to all animals to do our best with what we have & sometimes that means fighting like hell for a good one & giving the intractable one a final mercy by euthanizing them!


  5. Great blog!!! I will subscribe to your rss and will return. 🙂

  6. Chris says:

    Statements provided need to backed up with facts. Just because the ASPCA, or HSUS, PETA, etc, says something doesn’t mean it’s true:

    “The ASPCA estimates that five out of ten dogs in shelters and seven out of ten cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them.”

    Actual data provided by independent sources shows there are several times more people looking to add a pet to their family than there are pets being killed in U.S. shelters every year. These are people who haven’t yet decided where they will get their new pet from. The notion that there “aren’t enough homes” doesn’t really hold up too well.

    See this article by Christie Keith from the SF Gate,

    • BJ says:

      Do you have more up to date information on your post. This is something I’d like to follow up on. Thanks for posting.

  7. Hello! I really like your website!! I will definitely return soon.

  8. Kent Butler says:

    NO these spurious numbers should not be used. Citing / using information one knows to be false just to make a point – any point – is irresponsible and unprofessional. You don’t want to sound like a political hack, we’ve got too many of those. (I used those numbers, too, until I discovered they are false.)

    • Adam says:

      Thanks for standing up for the truth… It’s too easy to just ignore the issues & it takes guts to admit that you were wrong…

      I know I’ve been guilty at times in the past for using other bad data & it really does discredit us all when we allow it…

      Frankly, those numbers, assuming well nourished with no restrictions on food supply & basic human intervention, those numbers can skyrocket… Buy reality is not all survive, fewer still make it to breeding age & diseases/starvation rata go up with population density…

      But no matter how we slice it, no matter how we look at it, the situation quickly gets out of control & becomes unmanageable…

      It’s just a matter of time! As every person who ever tried to feed a feral cat quickly discovers, it does not matter if 1 cat can produce 100 or 100,000,000, it’s still equally disaster, unmanageable & shameful!

      The idea of TNR is ridiculous, if neutered/spayed, they are just usurped by another feral cat & often killed… Not to mention that it is an outright disgrace & tragedy that we actually return domestic animals never intended to be homeless back to the hell of the street!

      That along makes TNR completely immoral… If we did that with any other animal, it would abandonment & criminal abuse charges would be coming, along with public outrage!

      At least have the decency to give them a final mercy & euthanize them! Then at least their suffering is at an end & people can’t continue to profit off them with free kittens to sell!


  9. Andrea Dorn says:

    Great topic, one that definitely needs discussing!

    I remember seeing this chart waaaaaaay back in the ’70s when I first entered the veterinary field as a vet tech. I didn’t believe it then. Now that I’ve had experience with pedigreed cat breeding and feral cat colonies I know that many kittens die if they are even born alive.

    I had one feral cat that could never raise a single litter past the age of 6 weeks until I finally caught her. When she had her last litter they all became extremely ill at 6 weeks of age and I nursed them back to health. Otherwise they probably would have died in the wild.

    Yes, the overpopulation of cats and dogs is a critical situation but let’s find a more reasonable stat to work with.

  10. BJ These stats are clearly overstated. To be honest, I’d prefer a clarification of these stats, or a more accurate picture, but I wonder if they’d lose their impact?

    thanks for your clarification

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Catpersonable BJ Bangs

An award-winning journalist, photographer, and communication's professional, BJ blogs about everything cat, their humans and their interconnection, giiving reason to Paws for Reflection.

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