Welcome to CATS 2021 – the most comprehensive survey of cat owners in the UK. Packed with cat statistics, this year’s survey was approximately one year after the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown, providing vital insight into how cats and their owners have fared during this difficult period.
Here’s a summary of what we found. You can read a number of cat statistics in our full report here.
Deborah Meaden, Entrepreneur, TV personality and animal welfare campaigner
"CATS 2021 has found that 68% of cats and kittens purchased in the last year were found online. Online shopping has undoubtedly become a huge part of our lives – particularly during the pandemic.
“But when it comes to cats and kittens, buying online isn’t without its risks. It is shocking to see how easy it is for unscrupulous sellers to operate online and put profit before kitten welfare.
Consumers may sadly find themselves duped into purchasing kittens which are too young or sick, leaving them with high vet bills, or in some cases, a kitten which tragically dies.
Cats Protection’s work with government and extensive advice to consumers is vital to ensure potential cat owners get a healthy and happy pet and stamp out the mis-selling of pets.”
Where are people getting cats from?
Overall, the majority of cats are either adopted from a rescue/rehoming centre or animal shelter in the UK (25%), taken on from a neighbour, friend or family member or bought.
COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns had a significant impact on pet ownership, with increased demand and high prices widely reported in the media.
Moggy vs pedigree
The nation’s cats remain healthy, with the number of undiagnosed health conditions the same as last year. The majority of owners (79%) say their cat has no health conditions. Of those that did say their cat has a health condition, dental disease ranks the highest at 3%.
Indoor vs outdoor
The majority of cats enjoy both indoor and outdoor life (66%) but 31% live exclusively indoors. This is more common in densely populated urban environments.
Of the owners surveyed, 68% of those working from home let their cat outdoors, compared to 63% of those that were working in the office/actual work place. This may be due to owner confidence being at home and knowing more about their cat’s whereabouts, being able to help them if needed and the owner being at home to let them out.
The element of play is important to both cats and owners.
More owners are spending time playing with their cats at least twice a day (64% compared with 61% last year).
The increased time owners have spent with their cats over the last 12 months appears to have had a positive effect on cat behaviour, with slightly fewer cats demonstrating the types of unwanted behaviour which are seen due to stress, eg urinating outside of the litter tray or hiding in the house for long periods of time.
Despite this, cats are still showing signs of stress.
Just 47% of cat owners are aware that lilies are toxic to cats. All parts of the lily plant are toxic to cats if ingested, and consuming small amounts can result in severe poisoning.
What are the reasons people have cats?
The top reason given for owning a cat remains: for companionship and to reduce stress and feelings of loneliness (51%). This is higher among younger cat owners aged 18-34 years.
20% of cat owners say that the main reason for having a cat in their life is to help them feel less stressed or anxious.
During the pandemic, finding ways to alleviate stress has been vital for wellbeing.
Cats are the perfect antidote to stress. 90% of cat owners say they spend time stroking their cat or sitting together every day and evidence shows that human-animal interactions provide mental and physical benefits.
With many positive benefits, it is disappointing that a significant number of people feel unable or are prevented from having a cat in their lives.
Age as a barrier
12% of all non-owners used to have a cat but now don’t, and cite age as a reason. For those aged 75+, that rises to 31%. Our Cat Guardians service provides reassurance to prospective owners that their cats will be looked after when they pass away, making cat ownership possible for those late in life.
It is estimated that 1 million households who would like to own a cat cannot because they live in rented accommodation that doesn’t allow pets (5.2% of non-owners).
Cats Protection is campaigning to change this, so everyone can enjoy the companionship of a cat.
It’s clear from our report that our national passion for cats remains as strong as ever – with many of us becoming even more reliant on our pets for emotional support. We have seen lots of people obtain a cat for the first time through the pandemic.
As we enter the new normal, we must recognise the impact major societal shifts have not just on people, but also cats. While some of the findings of CATS 2021 may be COVID-19 linked aberrations, others may be the continuation or start of a trend.Read the full report