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New study determines exactly how many cats are living in Washington

Wednesday, September 29th 2021, 2:54 pm - Washington, D.C. has a lot of cats.

After a three-year investigation, researchers have concluded that Washington, D.C. is home to about 200,000 cats.

That figure only includes domesticated cat breeds, and not wild cats, like bobcats and lynx.

For reference, there are about 685,000 people that call the city home, according to 2020 U.S. Census data.

DC Cat Count conducted the survey, intended to quantify the number of indoor, outdoor, and shelter felines inhabiting the city. The organization set up motion-triggered cameras at more than 1,500 sites, and workers walked more than 530 km of routes to manually count cats.

"Owned" cats, defined as “those who are fed by a caretaker at least once per week,” were counted using a census-inspired survey.

"Understanding how cat populations “work” is a key to managing them successfully," DC Cat Count says on its website.

"It matters because the applied goals (i.e., “big picture” goals) we have for our cat management programs—like reducing the number of outdoor cats over time with a trap-neuter-return program or keeping more and more cats in homes and out of the shelter system—are population-level goals."

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Graphic created by Cheryl Santa Maria. Image sources: sandro bolo/pixabay, kirgiz03/pixabay, Serena Koi/Pexels


Cats are natural predators, and when left to their own devices, they will hunt. Research suggests outdoor cats kill between 100 million and 350 million birds in Canada each year, making cats one of the primary sources of bird mortality in the nation.

Letting cats roam outside can also significantly reduce their life expectancy because, unlike dogs, they won't remain inside an enclosed yard. While an indoor cat typically lives 10-15 years, sometimes longer, outdoor cats can expect to live 2-5 years.

Exposure to the outdoors can put cats at risk of contracting diseases, being hit by a car, or coming into contact with a larger predator, like a coyote.


As of 2020, about 58 per cent of Canadian homes reporting housing at least one dog or cat. About 7.7 million dogs and 8.1 million cats inhabit the country.

As of 2020, there were about 38 million people living in Canada.

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