There are Over 200,000 Cats in Washington D.C.


Have you ever had a desire to know how many cats are running around in the city where you live? Apparently, officials in Washington, DC had such a desire, so much so that they spent the last three years conducting a comprehensive study in order to find the answer. It might surprise you to know the number of cats that are living in Washington DC, but the more surprising thing is how they carried out the study in order to arrive at a conclusion in the first place. It’s all rather interesting, even if a little baffling.

Cats, Cats and More Cats

So, how many cats are living in Washington, DC? Believe it or not, there are approximately 200,000 of the felines who call that city home. Keep in mind, this isn’t just feral cats that we are talking about. It’s also cats living in shelters and even cats who are living inside homes with families. The city really did go all out to get as complete a headcount as possible, even to the point of asking homeowners whether or not they had cats and if so, how many.. You might be surprised that there are so many cats living in one city, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. Washington, DC is no small town. It’s a major city that incorporates a fair amount of space. As such, there are quite a large number of cats in the area. You already know how city officials determined whether or not there were cats living inside people’s homes, with the aforementioned questionnaire. However, you might be intrigued to know how they came up with the rest of their information.

Cameras Everywhere

So, how did they come up with numbers for the feral cats running around the city.? As it turns out, they installed roughly 1,500 cameras around the city, all of them equipped with motion sensors. That way, whenever a cat would walk by, it would trip the motion sensor and the camera would subsequently snap a picture. Over the course of the last three years, city officials have painstakingly examined each and every one of those photos in order to identify and count the number of cats that they see in the pictures. From there, they were able to come up with a solid idea of how many feral cats they were dealing with. They left the cameras in place for three years for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, the number of cats in any feral cat population is naturally going to fluctuate from time to time. There are times when it is far larger than it is at other times. Therefore, they had to look at the number of feral cats and then take an average of what they were seeing. In addition, they had to be sure that the cats they were seeing could be positively identified. As a result, it took them the duration of the three years in order to both make a positive identification and average out the fluctuating numbers.

More Work to be Done

Setting up over 1,000 cameras and taking snapshots of everything that moves for a three-year period seems a bit excessive, but the city didn’t stop there. In addition to sending out the questionnaires to homeowners asking them about their pets, they also sent someone to investigate every single shelter in the Washington, DC area in order to determine the number of cats that each shelter was currently housing. Again, there were challenges involved here because the shelters obviously don’t always have the same number of cats at any one given time. That’s where the city decided to revert back to the same formula they were using with the cameras to take pictures of the feral cats. They decided that they would take an average of the number of cats housed by each shelter over the three-year time span. From there, they could determine with a reasonable level of accuracy how many cats were living in the Washington, DC area in total.

The Number is Still Growing

It might seem shocking to think about 200,000 cats living in a single city, but it’s not as many cats as you might find in places like New York City. At the same time, it’s important to realize that this number is still growing. Despite the fact that city officials have tried to get the feral cat population under control, the number of cats within that particular population are still growing at an alarming rate. The truth is, city officials expect that the current number of cats could double within the next three to five years.

It All Starts With Research

Of course, the goal in all of this is for the city to figure out a way to better control the feral cat population. After all, less feral cats also means that there will be less cats in shelters as the overall problem becomes less and less severe. It all starts with learning how many cats they have to deal with at the present time and then figuring out ways to effectively control that population in the most humane way possible. One thing that they have done is ask residents who own cats to ensure that their cats are either spayed or neutered. This is another source of cats that end up over running shelters, as many people neglect to get their cats spayed or neutered and then end up taking kittens to shelters because they don’t know what else to do with them. Once the city has these issues better addressed, they plan to focus more on the feral cat population itself. Washington, DC marks one of the first cities that is trying to take steps to deal with these types of issues. There is a huge feral cat population in other cities, as well. New York and Chicago come to mind almost immediately. Perhaps the efforts that are currently underway in Washington, DC will eventually pay off in other cities as well.

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