The number of cats stolen is on the rise with a 40% increase in reported cat thefts in the UK from 186 in 2014 to 261 in 2016, according to new analysis by Direct Line Pet Insurance.
Cat recovery rates
Less than a fifth of cats reported stolen were recovered by police forces in 2016, representing a lower recovery rate than dogs. Cats by their nature are free roaming creatures - so many owners may regard their pet as lost or missing when it could have been stolen. People may not realise they can report suspected stolen cats to the police and ask for a Crime Reference Number.
The police forces which recorded the highest number of cat thefts last year were the Metropolitan Police (48), Kent Police (26) and West Yorkshire Police (24). Leicestershire Constabulary, Lincolnshire Police and Gwent Police had no incidences of cat thefts reported to them in 2016.
Most at risk
While the majority of police forces (68 per cent) recorded the breed of dog stolen when taking a report of dog theft in 2016, just a quarter of forces recorded the breed of cat. Of the breeds recorded, the Bengal (nine) and Domestic Shorthair (nine) were stolen most frequently, followed by the Russian Blue (five) and Siamese (five).
Some pedigree cat breeds can cost significant amounts of money. Bengal, Russian Blues and Siamese kittens are sold for upwards of £350, making them an attractive target for potential thieves. These pedigrees are distinctive in appearance and so are easily identifiable to a would-be cat thief.
Additional research by the insurer found the number of cats stolen may actually be much greater than the number reported to police forces. The study found that 360,000 adults believe a cat was stolen from their care in the last 12 months. Half (55 per cent) of these had their cat returned to them after it was taken, either as a result of it being found by someone else (12 per cent) or because of its microchip (10 per cent).
Pet theft a popular crime
Prit Powar, head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said: “Cats are a big part of the family and it can be extremely distressing if they go missing or are stolen. Unfortunately stealing dogs and cats is becoming an increasingly popular crime as it is difficult to track the animals down and they can be sold on or bred from for significant amounts of money.
“We urge cat owners to make it as difficult for would-be thieves as possible. Keep your details up to date on the microchip database and let thieves know that the cat is neutered. By putting this extra information on the tag connected to their collar, and spreading the word of your cats disappearance as quickly as possible, helps the pet become ‘too hot to handle’.”
Top tips for retrieving a lost or stolen cat
- Check your local area thoroughly as cats can get stuck up trees, locked in sheds and garages.
- Report the loss to your local authority animal warden.
- Make your cat ‘too hot to handle’ by spreading the word on social media and putting posters up as quickly as possible. You should take regular photos of your cat so the posters will be as current as possible.
- Make sure your cat has a tag with your phone number on and any other important information, for example if it has an illness or has been neutered as these are things which will deter thieves.
- Keep your details up to date on the microchip database so if your cat is stolen and later found, a vet or animal warden can get in touch with you.
- Hand out your contact details and photos of your cat to those in the local area, postmen, local dog walkers, neighbours and any other groups likely to be out and about locally on a regular basis.