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Read the Cats and Their Stats (CATS) UK annual report 2021

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.

Read the full report

Read the summary

Read the reports from the devolved nations

Deborah Meaden, Entrepreneur, TV personality and animal welfare campaigner

Stamp out the mis-selling of pets

"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.”

What to look out for when buying a kitten

Cat population

  • There are around 10.8 million owned cats in the UK in 2021 – an increase of 600,000 from 2020
  • Just over one in four UK households (26%) own a cat
  • Each cat-owning household has an average of 1.5 cats
  • COVID-19 had an impact. 7% of owners got a cat for a reason related to the pandemic, such as being furloughed or spending more time at home

The cat market

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.


What types of cats do people have?

Moggy vs pedigree

  • 65% of owners in the UK identify their cats as moggies, 23% as pedigrees and 5% as cross-breeds
  • There appears to be an increasing trend towards pedigree cats – of the cats obtained more than five years ago, 74% were moggies compared to just 51% in the last year

Veterinary care – how well are we caring for our cats?

      • There is no change this year on the number of cats registered with a vet, remaining at 89%. This means approximately 1.2 million cats are not registered with a vet
      • 27% of people cited cost as the reason they wouldn’t regularly visit the vet

Find out more about finding a vet

Vaccinations, neutering and microchipping

    • 69% of owners say their cat is up to date with routine vaccinations. However, over a third of cats are not regularly treated for fleas and worms
    • Limited access to vets during COVID-19 may also account for the small reduction in cats being neutered – 86% down from 88% last year. While 9.3 million cats are neutered, 1.3 million remain unneutered
    • 6 million (70%) cats are microchipped. However, 2.8 million (26%) are not microchipped

Find out more about key cat care

Health

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%.

Find out more about how to look after your cat’s teeth

Diet

    • Owners are no more likely to think their cat is overweight than last year – 31% say they think their cat is overweight, with 29% saying they are an ideal weight and 35% saying they are underweight.
    • However, vets think that 44% of cats are overweight or obese, so there appears to be some disparity between owners perceptions and data collected by vets.
    • It seems spending more time at home with their cats has not only seen owners playing with their cats more but also spoiling them more. 67% of owners say they spoilt their cat, which is up from 64% last year
    • 17% of owners said they gave more treats due to the COVID-19 situation, particularly younger owners

Find out more about your cat's diet

A cat’s environment

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.

The impact of COVID-19

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.

Cats at night

  • Of those cats that are given outside access, 46% are able to come and go freely during the night
  • Cats Protection always recommends keeping cats in at night. Cats are at an increased risk from road traffic injuries and fatalities at night
  • Road traffic accidents were stated as a cause of injury for 4% of cats

Find out more about keeping your cat safe at night

Behaviour and stress

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.

Find out more about cats and stress

Preventing cats from harm

  • Thankfully, the majority of cats (73%) have never been injured
  • We found that over one in four cats (27%) have sustained significant injuries or accidents
  • 11% of these were fights with other cats and 7% from other animals

Flowers poisonous to cats

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.

Find out more about plants and flowers that are safe for cats

Cats and their experience of fireworks

  • Of those that have seen their cats experience fireworks, nearly two thirds (63%) state that their cat was affected by them
  • Owners most commonly said their cat hides or becomes withdrawn when they hear fireworks (27%)

Find out more about cats and fireworks

Cat companionship

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.

Cats really did come to our aid during the pandemic

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.

  • 92% say cats are part of the family
  • 88% say cats bring joy
  • 87% talk regularly with their cat

Barriers to cat ownership

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.

Find out more about Cat Guardians

Renting – pets not allowed

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.

Find out more about our Purrfect Landlords campaign

Where do we go from here?

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

Previous reports


CATS report 2020

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