Damn, That’s a Lot of Cats …

The above picture shows one side of Miami Dade Animal Services mobile spay/neuter clinic. Check out the stats they’ve plastered on this massive vehicle: “One unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce 11,606,077 cats in 9 years.”

Let’s stop and think about that for a minute. 11 MILLION CATS IN 9 YEARS. All stemming from one unspayed cat. Does that sound logical to you? Given the number of unspayed ferals at large in the US, wouldn’t we be utterly overrun with cats if this statistic were true? The streets would be stacked 100 cats high everywhere we looked. They’d be fighting us for food. Frankly by now, they’d probably have driven humankind into homelessness.

So, in case you hadn’t guessed, this statistic is utterly and completely false. Numbers like this have been circulating for years as an attempt to convince people to spay/neuter, but I have to say – 11 million really takes the cake. That’s the brashest exaggeration I’ve heard yet. I emailed MDAS leadership to question where they got that number, but haven’t heard back. If I do – I’ll update this post with their source. To be fair to MDAS, however, this statistic is all over the web, too, ludicrous though it is. People have a tendency to accept numbers as true without actually verifying their legitimacy – I’m guessing that’s the case here. But a government body should know better. (If anyone knows the original source of this “statistic”, please let me know.)

Disseminating false statistics like this is a public disservice. While the importance of spay/neuter cannot be overstated, misleading people is NOT the way to go, especially from a government agency. Exaggerations and falsities don’t help the cause, and attempting to shock people into submission just doesn’t work.

What does work? Low cost spay/neuter and TNR programs. I’m a big fan of MDAS’ mobile spay/neuter concept – just not the ridiculous “statistics” they have plastered on the side of it.

So what are the REAL numbers? Based on mathematical modeling done by Wilford, DVM at the University of Washington, one unspayed female cat and one unfixed male cat would average 1.5 litters per year, with an average of 4 kittens per litter. 50% of a litter is female, with a 50% survival rate. The result? This female cat and her offspring would produce between 100-200 cats in seven years. HOWEVER, even this is high because it makes the following assumptions, which won’t always be true: no cats die during the seven years after surviving kitten-hood; no cats get “adopted” into homes; no cats get spayed and no cats become indoor only.

The Wall Street Journal also did their own assessment several years back, and came up with a range of between 98 and 5,000, depending on the number of litters assumed. Still a FAR cry from 11 MILLION.

These exaggerated numbers have been debunked time and time again – and yet they’re still used by regressive shelters and proponents of the status quo in attempts to shock people into submission.

As the Journal’s article said (and remember, this is in reference to the oft-referenced 420,000 claim, not the even-more-ludicrous 11 MILLION claim): “The earliest reference I could find to the cat-reproduction figure was a 1988 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (citing the Humane Society). If you take a mythical cat beginning in that year, and let her and her offspring reproduce at the theoretical rate over the 18 years since, you’d have a cat population of nearly 50 trillion. That would mean the U.S. produces far more cats than coal: If each cat weighed, on average, five pounds, this catastrophically huge feline colony would weigh 120 billion tons — or about 100 times the amount of coal produced in the U.S. last year.”

Seriously, MDAS? Give the public some credit, and instead of false numbers, offer real solutions.

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11 Responses to Damn, That’s a Lot of Cats …

  1. I am KlooƩ Kombucha and I approve this message.

  2. Wow, that’s the largest “guestimate” I’ve come across as well. Amazing that no one thoroughly researched this statistic before spending a lot of money to paint that van.

  3. BTW: A few years ago, I saw a video where the director of a high kill shelter said that there were something like 1,000 dogs and cats for every person. This, of course, was his excuse for killing 30,000 animals every year.

  4. I’ve worked in shelters for about a decade and the highest we got was a pair of cats and their offspring that were allowed to reproduce for three years starting with the original parents being about one year old. They ended up with 48 cats three years after the first mating. That is still a lot of cats but in four more years it probably wouldn’t have gotten to much over 200. That is a high enough number to be shocking if there weren’t absurdly high numbers like the ones in this article out there. It seems that some shelters don’t realize that this kind of thing only hurts the cause. It comes from an us and them mentality that only pushes people away,. The most successful shelters I have worked in or visited do not confront the public with statistics, they are open, accessible and have staff that are easy to talk to, nonjudgmental and knowledgeable.

  5. Cindy B. says:

    I agree with the 11 million quote – work in a kill shelter folks and then badger the high estimated #s… I drove 14 miles just this evening – on my way out I slowed as a black cat ran across the road, couple more miles out a dead one on the side of the road… then as I approached my first stop at a gas mart the usual colony of cats were at the edge of the bushes – 13 cats! Im not done yet – My return travel of 14 miles brought more saddness as I observed a dead cat in town- hit as it attempted to cross 4 lanes… then observed 2 more cats run across the country road the last 6 or so miles of my return journey home… Dont mean to bore you – but two weeks ago I trapped 21 cats and kittens all were taken to a county facility and all were euthanized. 1 week ago 2 precious little kittens were on the side of the road frozen in fear… I grabbed them up and they too were taken to a county facility where yes they were humanely euthanized. 11 million in 9 years- yeah I agree with that # and challenge anyone to be able to PROVE it to be different!!! As long as people do not spay and neuter and keep their animals safe and at home where they belong… these #s will rise folks and the county facilities that euthanize humanely (not all do) will be called heartless non caring people who like to kill animals when in fact these people love and respect them and these people are the animals LAST HOPE to not starve to death, be hit by cars, the list is long… and for many their hope is answered by euthanasia. SPAY AND NEUTER

    • Hi Cindy,
      I’m sorry, but I completely disagree. If the 11 million figure were true – cats would have taken over the world. Seeing about 16 cats in your journey of 14 miles is not exactly proof that 11 million cats can arise from ONE unspayed cat and her offspring. Common sense (as well as facts) dictates that these numbers are outrageous. Also, feral cats can live perfectly fine lives – and TNR is the only humane way to handle the issue. Apparently you believe that feral cats are better off dead, but I couldn’t disagree more. You said yourself that when you see feral cats – you take them in to be killed. Who are you to dictate that that’s better for them than to live in the outdoors? Why wouldn’t you have them neutered and released, after you’ve gone to the trouble of trapping them? Yes, they face threats in the wild – but so do all wild animals. Humans face threats too – that’s simply part of life, and certain death is not a better option.

    • Janipurr says:

      Cindy, please stop “helping”. I’m sure the cats would rather take their chances living feral than rounded up and slaughtered by someone who thought they knew better.

  6. mandy says:

    Have any of you people ever been inside a city pound?!!! (besides Cindy) give me a f’ing break, it’s DISGUSTING how our society just throws these animals away. Who cares if it’s 11 million , 1 million…it’s too many innocent cats and dogs dieing or living horrible lives due to selfish people not caring enough to spay them or adopt them. The point of that van’s 11 million message is to get you to THINK. and possibly have some compassion. Go visit any pound, especially in a big city, and dare to tell me the #s of animals in there aren’t shocking and heartbreaking. Why are you even arguing about it? It’s repulsive.

  7. Ginny says:

    Please spay and neuter your pet. How would you like to be born just to be killed for being born. It is truly disgusting. These precious little animals didnt do anything wrong. All they know is love. And then death. Please help all animals and give them a chance. Thank You.

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