Whether for religious rituals, pest control, or companionship, humans have kept domesticated cats since ancient times. Today, we have facilitated their populations to such a degree as to allow these curious carnivores to list among the most populous mammals on the face of the earth.
10. Japan (7.25 million)
Japanese people have a longstanding and loving relationship with cats. The affection towards cats is so great in the country that Japanese art and literature has scores of examples where the cat is the primary subject. The country even has its own ‘Cat Island’, namely Tashirojima Island in Ishinomaki City, where cats thrive in large numbers, and are often seen welcoming boats to the city's port. This Island also has a cat shrine, the Neko-jinja, where cats are worshiped with the hope that they will bring good luck. Another cat paradise in Japan is the Aoshima Island, in Shikoku, where the cat to human ratio is almost 100:15! These islands also serve as popular tourist spots for cat lovers from around the world. Besides these, many cities and towns of Japan also thrive in terms cat populations, and a large number of Japanese people own cats as pets. Hence, cat salons, cafeterias, and pet food shops are also found in abundance in these cities and towns. The total cat population of Japan is estimated to be around 7.25 million.
9. Ukraine (7.5 million)
Ukraine has an extremely large cat population of about 7.5 million. Though a large number of Ukrainian households have pet cats, the country also has a significant stray cat population. The treatment of strays in Ukraine has often been the subject of criticism by international animal welfare organizations. The country also lacks well defined laws defending animals and their welfare, which allows for large numbers of cats and dogs alike to be left abandoned on the country's streets.
8. Germany (7.75 million)
Germans love their cats. This is evidenced by the cat population figures from the country, estimated to be about 7.75 million-strong nationwide. However, as per recent reports by the government, the stray cat population in Germany has also soared to high levels, and currently there are millions of strays in the country. The free wanderings of un-neutered pet tomcats is held responsible for this staggering growth in the stray cat population. This is causing huge losses to property in the country, with stray cats being held responsible for almost €500,00 in damages to trees and flowers in 2014. However, as per popular public demand, government authoritites there had to put a ban on the killing of these strays, and instead introduced regulations on the free wanderings of the pet tomcats upon the streets of the country
7. UK (7.75 million)
The United Kingdom has a large percentage of its households owning a pet cat. The country also has some of the most well developed animal welfare laws in the world. However, despite this fact, the UK also has a large stray feline population. Here, 85% of the kitten litters are unplanned ones, which leads to high costs to shelter and board them, soaring from $3.1 million USD in 2010 to $4 million USD in 2013. Over the past few years, over 30,000 felines have ended up in Great Britain’s shelters, creating a ‘cat crisis’ in the region. Neutering before the cats get pregnant is believed to be the best preventative measure to resolve this issue.
6. Italy (9.5 million)
While pet cats in Italy enjoy a lot of privileges, stray cats are not far behind. They are allowed to roam around freely in the streets of the country under the admirable glances of their human lovers, as the country has a large number of no-kill shelters for its feral and stray cat populations. One of the most famous of Italy's shelters is the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, located in Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome, where a large number of stray cats of various breeds enjoy a free roaming status. The country also has a large number of Le Gattares. These are members of a group of women in the cities and towns across Italy who are the guardians of these feral and stray cat populations in their respective localities. They are specifically responsible for the feeding and caring for of these felines. The population of domestic cats in Italy is approximately 9.5 million.
5. France (9.5 million)
The French own cats for different reasons, with some doing so out of pure love for the furry creatures, while others are doing so for more practical purposes, like using the cats as a fashion symbol or for companionship. The country also has strict guidelines regarding pet ownership, and necessitates that cat owners must register their families' pet cats into the feline database compiled in the country. Every pet cat needs to have some sort of identification mark on it, like a tattoo on the skin or a microchip inserted underneath its skin, mentioning the details of the owner of the cat. This helps in identifying stray cats in the streets of the country. However, despite these measures, France continues to have large feral and stray cat populations, with reported cases of feral cat attacks on humans and dogs not being unheard of. Today, the total population of domestic felines in the country numbers around 9.5 million.
4. Brazil (12.5 million)
Though Brazil has a large (and still rising) domestic cat population, lack of recorded data makes it difficult to estimate the individual estimates for pet, stray, and feral cat populations in the country. The total cat population of Brazil is around 12.5 million. There was an estimated 37.6% rise in the cat population of this country between 2007 and 2012. Cat food sales in Brazil resulted in generating around US$869 million worth of profit for the pet food industry annually. Besides pet cats, a large number of feral and stray cats also help to account for the staggering cat population of the country.
3. Russia (12.75 million)
Russia has a burgeoning cat population which today stands at an estimated 12.75 million. Russians, in general, bear a warm hearted and loving attitude towards their animals. Many homes across the country own one or more cats, with most of these cats having been adopted from the streets. Meanwhile, a few also belong to top cat breeds, such as the Russian Blue. The domestic cats belonging to the Russian Blue breed have a fur color varying between a shimmering silver and a darker grey. These cats have great personalities, and develop close bonds with their owners, and hence are especially popularly sought out as pets. Besides the pet cats, Russia has also been known to have a notable stray and feral cat population, which still thrives in the streets of the country. Recently, media channels across the world were filled with the surprising news of a stray cat named Marsha saving an abandoned infant boy from his death amidst sub-zero temperatures in Obninsk, Russia. The cat kept the infant warm, and alerted the residents of the apartment where it resided, about the presence of the endangered infant. Soon, Marsha became a national, as well as international, hero.
2. China (53 million)
China is home to around 53 million cats. China, having the third largest pet industry in the world, definitely has a substantial pet cat population. However, besides pet cats, the stray and feral cat population of the country is also skyrocketing, with Beijing alone having thousands of stray cats. This has created a huge issue in the country, as stray cats are often held responsible for pollution, disease transmission, and traffic accidents. Prior to the 2008 Olympics in China, a large number of stray cats were eliminated. Most of the stray cats were abandoned by their owners for various reasons, such as moving from one place to another and the fear of cat-borne illnesses such as SARS. Luckily for the cats, there are a large number of animal welfare organizations working in China. These are trying to protect the cats from painful deaths, and are encouraging the government to implement more humane measures in controlling the domestic stray cat population.
1. USA (76.5 million)
Cats are one of the most favored pets of the USA's citizens. In the United States, one in three households own a pet cat, with an average of 2.2 cats per cat-owning household. However, pet cats are only a part of the total cat population in the country, which is estimated to be around 76.5 million. The Americans not only take care of their in-home pets, but also open their doors to the large numbers of stray and feral cats found there. A large number of households obtain their pets from family and friends, while stray and feral cats have been adopted by over 34% of American cat-owning households. Only 3% of cat-owners, meanwhile, obtain their pets from a breeder.
Which Country Has the Most Pet Cats?
The United States has more pet cats than anywhere else in the world. In the US, one in three households has a pet cat.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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