Many terms are used to describe the types of cats creating the over-population crisis. For simplicity, we are using the term “unowned” to describe cats that may have been abandoned or strayed from their homes, cats cared for by community members and feral cats that may be several generations removed from human contact.
Unowned cats are not a new phenomenon. Outdoor cats are part of our rich history in this country and worldwide. Cats have been living among us here in the U.S. for hundreds of years. Unowned cats are domestic cats. These cats thrive in every type of environment, urban, suburban and rural. Some are offspring of house cats because until the last two decades there has been no accessible and affordable spay and neuter services for cats. And, until recent years, early-age (kitten) spay/neuter was not practiced (kittens go into heat between 4 and 6 months, but traditional practice was to spay a cat at 6 months of age.)
Domestic cats came into existence about 10,000 years ago, when humans began farming. According to scientists, cats are one of the only animals who domesticated themselves—choosing to live near humans to feed on the rodents attracted by stored grain. Evolutionary research shows that the natural habitat of cats is outdoors in close proximity to humans—and that is how they have lived ever since. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1940s—and the invention of cat litter—that “indoors only” for cats was even a concept.