Categories: stolen cat

360,000 cats are stolen annually in the UK?

Stolen cat? Collar found but no cat – indicates stolen?

We are told that the theft of domestic cats in the UK has risen by a staggering 40% in the past two years. The most stolen cat is the purebred Bengal. This is a very glamorous looking cat and therefore it is no surprise that it is popular with thieves. No doubt they get a very good price. Less than 20% of stolen cats are recovered by the police. By comparison, about 21% of stolen dogs are recovered.

The next most commonly stolen cat is the Russian Blue. The analysis was carried out by Direct Line Pet Insurance. The figure of 360,000 in the title has been arrived at in a rather peculiar way. I discuss this below.

Direct Line Pet Insurance tell us that 261 cats were reported missing to police in the UK in 2016. This is the 40% jump since 2014 when 186 cats were recorded as stolen.

However additional research by the insurer suggests that the number stolen is much higher than the number reported to the police. They estimate that 360,000 cats were stolen in the year. The disparity, which is massive, is because cat owners do not know what has happened to their cat. The owners are guessing that their cat has been stolen.

Cat owners report their cat as missing when he/she could well have been stolen. Therefore the very large figure is a guesstimate. It has to be said, by the way, that a good number of cat owners in Britain neither report their cat as stolen nor try and find their missing cat. This is due to a very laissez-faire attitude toward cat ownership.

The police force recording the highest number of thefts in 2016 was the Metropolitan Police (48), followed by Kent Police and West Yorkshire Police.

The actual recorded number of thefts of the Bengal cat is in fact nine while there were five thefts of the Russian Blue and five thefts of the Siamese cat. These are relatively low numbers and more what I’d expect.

Of the 360,000 cats supposedly stolen in the last 12 months, 55% were returned because they were either found by somebody else (12%) or because the cat was micro-chipped.

That information tells me that this very high figure of 360,000 is more a news media hyped up figure than genuine. There could be an interesting debate about what the word “stolen” means in this context. My guess is that quite a lot of cats leave their home and move to another home and the receiving person keeps the cat. That is a form of theft arguably. Often the reason why a well looked after cat disappears and moves to a new home is because he/she has territorial issues and seeks new territory which he can control.

Why do cats leave home?

The head of pet insurance at Direct Line recommends that the cat’s ID tag should include information that the cat has been neutered. This is intended presumably to tell any would-be thief that they cannot breed from the cat. This may deter the theft. However, I think this advice is rather tenuous because most cat thieves are stealing cats to sell them on to make some quick and easy money.

My conclusion is that we don’t know how many cats are stolen but we can say with some certainty that lots of cats go missing in the UK and the reason is quite clear: too many cats are allowed to wander outside freely in all kinds of areas, some of which are quite dangerous for a cat. It is about the cat owning culture in the UK. I would like to see more enclosures built such as the one that I have for my cat which covers the entire garden allowing for a nice compromise between experiencing the outside while remaining safe.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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