Is the Domestic Cat Becoming Less Popular in Australia and the UK?

I recently wrote a short article about a survey which concluded that the domestic cat population in Australia was declining except in Tasmania. Not soon after I read that article I bumped into another article written by the science correspondent for the Daily Mail. The article comes to a similar conclusion namely that the proportion of cat owning homes fell by more than by a full percentage point in the UK over the period 2006 to 2011. Of course the survey, which was conducted by the University of Bristol and Cats Protection, relates to cat owning homes rather than individual cat ownership but the trend is there nonetheless. In essence, the lead scientist, Dr Jane Murray, of the survey concluded that there had been no change over that five-year period in the proportion of homes owning dogs but, as mentioned, the portion of cat owning homes fell by 1%.

My first thought is that the amount of the drop in home owning cats is so slight that you wonder whether the surveys are accurate enough to accommodate this very small change and whether you could simply put the change down to the variations that you get from one survey to another because they are far from perfect. These surveys are based on extrapolating data from samples.

It is worth reminding ourselves that between 2001 and 2011 there was an 8% increase in the number of households in the UK. Although there are more households in the UK there are less households in which a cat is owned.

The most recent study estimated (and we must remind ourselves that these are estimates) that there are 10,114,764 cats in the United Kingdom in 2011 which is a similar number to 2006. The population of cats appears to be more or less static despite an increase in the population size of people.

The Daily Mail article does not make any suggestions as to why there appears to be a decline in domestic cat population size. It may be the case that the demographics in UK have changed substantially over the period of the survey. Although the population in the UK has increased many of these people are immigrants and they live somewhat transient lives and therefore keeping a domestic cat is unsuitable and in any case I’ll make a guess and state that many are almost certainly less enthusiastic about keeping a domestic cat for obvious reasons (yes, I know some asylum seekers have brought there cats and dogs with them these are rare instances in my opinion).

Percentage increase
over previous decade
Percentage of
total population


In my opinion a full percentage point variation is not sufficiently large to say conclusively that there has been a decline in population size of domestic cats because the surveys are built on estimates based upon extrapolating figures from a sample and the sample will be relatively small. In this case the researchers studied more than 10,000 homes which seems a lot but it isn’t when compared to the whole.

However, it is rather interesting that both Australia and the UK report either a static population size of the domestic cat or a decline. And I wonder therefore whether something is going on because for decades the domestic cat population in both the UK and Australia has been increasing. Perhaps these figures are simply a blip in which case we should you wait another few years to see whether this is the beginning of a downward trend.

The table comes from Wikipedia.

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