I have heard of some large ‘flocks’ of freely roaming cats that were fed by old ladies, mostly widows. They set daily food and milk outside the house and cats learned to come daily to the house. Some cats spent much of their day inside the house, others around their houses. The freely roaming cats also reproduced, so the flocks kept growing until someone had to interfere. I guess the cats gave comfort to persons that felt otherwise lonely.
All of these persons were not ladies. My uncle had earlier a mink farm. There were plenty of cats around because of the mink food and the milk he gave to the cats daily. When the number of cats grew to impossible numbers, it became evident that something had to be done. My uncle asked a hunter to do the job and avoided the farm during those days. Although he had a mink farm and had to end and skin a large number of minks and fox yearly, he could not kill or watch the killing of the cats.