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Worldwide cats: some eaten and tortured; others loved and revered

As I write about continental cats and cats around the world, I wonder how many cats are there? What country has the most cats? What is their life like? How does the cat fare in various cultures. Every continent, except Antarctica, with temperatures dipping as low as -128.6F, is home to Felis catus.

Today’s post will look at numbers about cat populations and  information about how well they fare, or don’t fare, in certain locations. According to the International IFAH, representing the European Animal Health Industry, there are 220 million cats worldwide. There could be more or less because the fate of ferals varies so widely.

In Egypt, where cats were once revered as gods, the street cats of Alexandria are living in misery and degradation. Causes.com sites Ada Ayda as one of the few people who single-handedly  go out on the streets daily to  get medical attention, feed and care for the cats. Her Facebook photo postings of the street cats is overwhelming, and there’s no doubt she and other unsung heroes who help street cats and homeless cats deserve endless kudos. Many of these cats live off  the tons of garbage lining the streets.  They get run over, dumped in the garbage, left on the street in paper bags. The horror is endless. With the revolution, the street cats of Cairo face increasing challenges because those that once fed them cannot scurry up the food or resources to feed them. But many rise up to the challenge with a strong humanitarian effort cited in an article in Animal People News.

Earlier this year, there were reports of military personnel in Afghanistan that had adopted stray cats on the base. The soldiers wanted to keep the cats even though the higher ups didn’t think it was such a great idea. One such article published in the Aug. 4, 2011 Washington Post talks about Reload this Page Threat to Feral Cats at U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. Another article in Stripes talks about U.S. soldiers and Marines smuggling cats onto bases across the country. Still others have wanted to bring home cats that they befriended while stationed there.

Cats in China have a mixed fate. As the country becomes an economic stronghold, living with cats becomes appealing in urban areas, but it’s more of a rarity than a norm. According to a 2006 report from the US Department of Agriculture, the pet population in China is difficult to estimate due to a reluctance of many pet owners to officially register their pets. But sources estimate that China has about 26 million dogs and 58 million cats.

In many Chinese provinces, especially those in the southern part of the country, cats end up on the dinner table. Numerous internet reports cite horrendous abuse by cat collectors who trap cats from the northern part of the country and transport them to to the southern province of Guangdon to be used as food.  Hundreds of cats stacked on top of one another in crates, so full they cannot even move, and cry out in pain. So atrocious is the abuse that goes so far as saying cats are skinned and then cooked alive. Apparently, the Chinese government has taken initiatives to crack down people that eat cats.

Eating cats is seen as acceptable by some cultures, and taboo by others.

There are reports of cats being eaten in other parts of Asia, including Vietnam and in certain cultures, a topic for another day. But in Japan, the cat is revered and seen as good luck. Because many apartments do not allow cats, cat café’s have sprung up, where people go for coffee, and hang out with a number of feline residents. Despite this, there are about 7.3 million cats living in households.

The Israel Cat Lovers Society talks about cat lovers in that country.

Australian households are home to 2.65 million domestic cats that are often considered to be valued members of the family. But according to Wildlife Extra,  there are potentially six times as many cats in the wild, and there is a movement to minimize their impacts on wildlife and “stop them moving into the wild where the damage they do can go unchecked”.

Ironically Russia has a huge cat population, second to only the United States in terms of per capita cat ownership, with 17.8 million.

Cats are extremely popular in Europe with the International IFAH stating there are 60 million on the continent. It does not break down how many are domestic, and how many may be feral. That compares to an estimate of over 86 domestic cats million in the United States. Stray Cat Alliance says the number of ferals could be as low as 13 million to as high as 87 million.

Other statistics cited by the Humane Society of the United States include:

  • About  86.4 million cats are affiliated with an owner.
  • Thirty-three percent of households own at least one cat
  • Fifty-two percent of owners have  more than one cat
  • On average, owners have two cats (2.2)
  • Twenty-one percent of these cats were adopted from an animal shelter
  • Cat owners spent an average of $219 on routine veterinary visits
  • Eighty-eight percent of these cats were spayed or neutered

In Europe, we find some interesting numbers as well.

  • In France, there are over 10 million cats
  • In the United Kingdom, there’s around  8 million cats
  • In Germany, it’s the same, 8 million cats
  • In France 51% of homes have a companion animal.
  • In the United Kingdom almost 1 in 2 households (47%) own a pet.
  • In Germany 16% of households own cats, more than 13% have dogs and over 5% other small animal

According to t Maps of the World,  the ten countries with the most pet cat population are:

 Ten Countries With Most Pet Cats

CountryNo. of Cats
United Kingdom7,700,000

8 responses to “Worldwide cats: some eaten and tortured; others loved and revered”

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  6. bjbangs Avatar

    Thanks Amy for sharing. It’s all very fascinating news about the kitties.

  7. amyshojai Avatar

    Wow, this is great information BJ. The stats are impressive.