You have to specify the date in order to accurately state the number of cats there are in the UK because the number is climbing. It is ever-changing. The number is climbing because the human population is climbing in the UK.
In my opinion, the best source of the information needed to answer the question comes from the PDSA report for 2020. It’s their tenth and it contains a nice section on their annual survey of pet owners from February 2020. The PDSA work in conjunction with YouGov, a global public opinion and data company. PDSA report on pets in the UK 2020
YouGov surveyed 4,767 pet owners, specifically cat, dog and rabbit owners over the age of 18 during the period 4 February to 4 March 2020. From the data acquired they extrapolated nationwide statistics including how many cats there are in the UK at present. Note: they also say they surveyed 10,000 adults to estimate the numbers.
Number of cats in the UK
They concluded that there are 10.9 million “owned cats” i.e. domesticated cats living in homes with their owner(s). This is a little more than the estimated 10.1 million owned dogs and a lot more than the 1 million owned rabbits. They estimated that 24% of UK adults own a cat and 26% own a dog while 2% own a rabbit.
Nation of animal lovers
The report also states that 92% of UK citizens agree that Britain is a nation of animal lovers which compares favourably with 86% in 2011. Presently, 36% of citizens would consider getting a pet from outside the UK compared to 28% in 2016. Note: there is still too much animal abuse and cruelty.
In line with general trends and what is going on in America, in 2020, 26% of cats are kept indoors while in 2011 the figure was 15%. Comment: this statistic is surprising to me. It is telling us that about a quarter of domestic cats in the UK are now full-time indoor cats. I had thought that around 90% of cats were indoor/outdoor cats. It appears that British citizens are now more open to the suggestion that they should keep their cats indoors in the interests of safety.
This is quite a change in attitude. It has probably been brought about by an increase in human population and therefore greater urbanisation and significantly an increase in the amount of traffic on the roads. In addition I suspect that people are more tuned in to animal welfare in general. All this is a good thing. Although there appears to be confusion because PDSA give the thumbs down to that statistic. They also state that the number of cats with access to both indoors and outdoors decreased from 86% in 2011 to 72% in 2020. These figures don’t quite fit 100% with the other figures. But they are in line with them.
- Are indoor cats as happy as outdoor cats?
- How do indoor cats get vitamin D?
- How can I make my indoor cat happy?
Another ‘thumbs down’ form of human behaviour according to the PDSA is that cats receiving primary vaccinations when young has decreased from 72% in 2011 to 69% in 2020. Comment: this appears to be a reflection of the anti-vaccine movement which is being very much discussed at the moment because of the coronavirus pandemic and the imminent release of vaccines to allow people to return to a normal life. A significant number of people will refuse to take the vaccine. I recall that in France only 40% of people support a vaccine against coronavirus. In the UK almost one third will refuse a coronavirus vaccine or are unsure about it.
In America, Republicans are against a coronavirus vaccine. The majority of Republicans say that they would ‘definitely or probably’ not take the vaccine and, in general, only 51% of American adults say they would definitely or probably accept being vaccinated while a staggering 49% said that they would not. The figures vary from different sources but we have to conclude that there is a pretty high level of scepticism about vaccinations which is in line with the UK’s decreasing cat vaccination figures stated above.
Another good thing is that micro-chipping has increased significantly since 2011 when 46% of cats were micro-chipped compared to 74% in 2020.