The UK has a quarter of a million stray cats, new study says

·2-min read
A stray cat sits on the pavement (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A stray cat sits on the pavement (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Almost 250,000 stray cats are thought to be living in urban areas of the UK, a new study has found.

A team of researchers who carried out surveys across five towns in England discovered that there are, on average, 9.3 unowned cats per square kilometre.

The findings, published in the Scientific Reports journal, estimated that of the 247,429 cats currently without owners in the UK, most are in more densely populated and socioeconomically deprived areas.

The number of stray cats varies between 1.9 and 57 per square kilometre depending on the location.

Researchers analysed data from 3,101 surveys of residents in five towns and cities between 2016 and 2018: Beeston, Bradford, Bulwell, Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Everton.

This was collated with findings of 877 resident reports and 601 expert reports.

They found that the number of stray cats is higher in densely populated areas because where there are more people, there are more pets.

Researchers proposed that these pets may produce accidental litters, which are then either abandoned or stray from home.

They believe there may be more stray cats in socioeconomically deprived areas as pet owners may face barriers to neutering their cats, which increases the probability of driving up the stray cat population.

These unowned cat populations support themselves by scavenging on human food waste, the study’s authors said.

According to Cats Protection, a charity dedicated to rescuing and rehoming strays, an additional 600,000 people became cat owners during the pandemic.

Its latest “Cats and Their Stats” report found that more than one in four UK households (26 per cent) now own a cat.

The charity said the pandemic had led to an increase in cat ownership, with 7 per cent of owners saying they bought a cat because they were spending more time at home.

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