The majority of cat owners see their pets as “great companions”, according to survey of over 10,000 households by Cats Protection charity.
The first annual Cats And Their Stats (CATS) report, described by the charity as “the first comprehensive picture of owned cats in the UK”, delves into a range of aspects of cat ownership, from the benefits to owners, to the health of cats, to popular names.
And the research showed 59% of cat owners believe their pets “are great companions and can relieve stress or loneliness”.
“Cats are fabulous company and when you are feeling sad they just know how to cheer you up,” one respondent said.
According to the study, 86% of owners talk to their cats, 91% see them as part of the family and more than half (53%) said they prioritise their cat’s needs over their own.
Nine in 10 owners said they stroke their cats every day and 61% said they play with their pet every day.
But cats can also be a source of concern, with 55% saying they worry about whether their pet is happy, 71% saying they hate to leave their cats when they go away and as many as 42% saying their pet had impacted their holiday plans.
There are an estimated 10.2 million domestic cats in the UK, around one for every six people.
Each cat-owning household owns on average 1.6 cats, with 37% of owners having more than one.
In total, 23% of households – nearly one in four – has at least one cat.
Also revealed in the study were the most popular names for cats in the UK, with Bella or Belle topping the list for female cats and Bobby or Bob leading the way for males.
Other popular names were Poppy, Molly, Lily or Lilly and Luna for female cats, and Charlie, Alfie, Oscar and Jack for males.
Of the 10.2 million cats in the UK, 5.3 million are female and 4.9 million male.
Some 70% of respondents said their cats were moggies with only 24% saying they had pedigree breeds – but that number rose to 38% in Greater London.
While the majority are leading happy, healthy lives, around one in four cats (26%) has sustained some sort of significant injury.
Eighteen per cent of those were caused by other cats or animals, but some are being targeted by humans – 3.3% of owners said their pet had been either poisoned or shot by an air gun.
Among those who do not own cats but would like to, 11% cited their age – being too old and worrying what would happen to their pet after they died – as a reason.
Nineteen per cent said they could not afford to keep a cat, while 18% said they were not allowed one in their rented accommodation.
According to Cats Protection, that means an estimated 1.6 million more cats could be rehomed if all landlords allowed pets in their properties.
The most common barrier to ownership was other pets – 21% said the animals they owned made getting a cat unsuitable.
This year’s Cats report is the first year of what the charity hopes will be an annual study which will help to drive its policy.
Cats Protection chief executive James Yeates said: “It gives us a new, robust and unique insight into the world of cats as well as their owners, across the nation.
“It provides compelling evidence that cats are complex, with varied needs that we must meet, and it resoundingly shows just how much we love our cats.
“Cats Protection will use these statistics to inform everything we do.”