According to the UK Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA), over 62% of UK households are home to at least one pet with feathers, fur, or scales, to some degree. This means that roughly six in ten households own a dog, cat, or other domestic animal. Based on this report, it’s estimated that 12 million pets in UK households are cats.
This is significant because despite the UK being a nation full of pet lovers, pet theft – and specifically cat theft – is an unfortunate reality that many pet owners have to face.
Nobody likes to think of what would happen if their beloved pet were stolen from them. It’s fair to say that this type of incident would constitute most pet owners’ worst nightmares, especially as pets are regularly seen as part of the family. Cat theft, more specifically, has occurred approximately 1,300 times over the last five years, and is, regrettably, becoming more common.
However, by understanding some basic and straightforward safety tips to protect your feline friend, you can make a huge positive difference in preventing them from falling into unsavoury hands.
Why Are Cats Stolen?
Most cat thieves are financially motivated, with them looking to make money off your stolen cat in a few notable ways.
- For breeding purposes: Many thieves attempt to target unneutered cats to breed them, with the aim of selling the litter of kittens. Rare breeds are usually targeted as young kittens can usually be sold for a high price, which is why it’s imperative that neutering and spaying cats be done as soon as possible.
- To be sold: If a cat cannot be bred, some thieves will try to make money by selling the cat itself. Some buyers are quite desperate to buy a new pet as soon as possible, without much concern as to what conditions the cat was bred in, whether it has been vaccinated and whether it has a microchip. Even though adoption is always more ethical than buying, it doesn’t stop new pet owners from potentially taking a stolen cat away from its home, if a thief has masked where the cat came from.
- To claim a reward: Another way to make money from stealing a cat is to secure one and wait for the distressed owner to publicly offer a reward for their pet’s safe return. The thief would hypothetically approach the pet owner disguised as a genuinely concerned citizen, claiming to have ‘found’ the lost pet, returning it and receiving the financial reward in return. Alternatively, a more sinister approach is to blackmail the owner and demand a ransom payment for the pet’s return.
Despite the reprehensible and abhorrent actions of pet thieves, it can be comforting to know that pets are rarely – if ever – targeted strategically. If an opportunity to steal a cat presents itself, it’s likely that a thief will just take their chances. However, that does not justify their actions whatsoever.
How to Stop Your Cat From Being Stolen
The best way to prevent your cat from ever being stolen – while giving them the ability to roam around outside freely – is to follow the below advice.
Keep Your Cat Indoors [Overnight]
Nighttime presents a better opportunity for a criminal to steal a cat. Cats are naturally more nocturnal, and do a great deal of wandering at night, usually to find potential gifts to bring their owners.
Unfortunately, the lack of sunlight or street lighting makes it easier for criminals to lurk and lure the cat into a false sense of security. Therefore, a good workaround is to prohibit your cat’s outside access when it gets to a certain time at night and tempt them to come inside by shaking a tin of treats or calling their name.
Some cats are not interested in going outdoors much at all, which in turn, makes them inherently more secure. However, if you let your cat roam outside, it might be worth setting a loose ‘curfew’, or, a ‘purrfew’, if you will.
Neuter, Spay, Microchip and Insure Your Cat
It’s always recommended to get your cat neutered or spayed to prevent any risk of accidental litters and stop male cats from roaming too far. Many thieves are tempted to steal cats for breeding purposes as they know they can make money from doing so, especially if your cat is a rare breed. By neutering and spaying your cat, it’ll dissuade any motivated thieves looking to use your cat for this purpose.
Microchipping your cats makes it even harder for cat thieves to get away with using your pet as collateral, but equally, difficult for shelters or authorities to return a cat that’s been found. Recently, the UK government made microchipping for cats compulsory, with all owners responsible for getting their cats microchipped by 10th June 2024. Owners that do not do so potentially face fines of up to £500. Read more about what this means for pet owners here.
Also, take out pet insurance. This doesn’t just cover vet bills, contrary to popular belief. Some insurers provide loss or theft cover, which can help you recover your cat more quickly.
Contain Your Cat
An innovative way to enable your cat to exhibit their natural wild behaviours while ensuring they don’t roam further than necessary is to create a safe outdoor environment for them.
You can use bespoke cat enclosures, fences, catios and cat runs, which can convert your garden or outside space into an enclosed and safe territory for your feline friend. This means that you can let your cat roam freely outside with full peace of mind knowing that they won’t be approached by a pet thief.
Consider ProtectaPet’s innovative products and solutions if you need a place to start.
Use Digital Technology
Cat GPS trackers allow you to keep tabs on your cat’s current location via your mobile phone. You can get trackers built into cat collars, and while some pet owners do not agree with collars, if your cat wears one, it can work wonders at improving their safety. If you get a quick-release collar that fits well and has an ID tag, this can be a good solution. Even if it’s removed, you can still see the latest logged time and location which can help you retrace your cat’s last known steps.
Another solution is to invest in professional HD security cameras to monitor your home’s outside areas. While this may not be on your agenda when you first move house (more on this later), it can work wonders at spotting nefarious activity on your property, with push notifications or alerts sent to your mobile phone.
Collectively, this technology can form part of a smart home renovation and upgrade. Provided that you take recommended steps to ensure the overall security of your home – including your networks and connected appliances – you’ll be able to conveniently monitor what goes on when you’re not present, and prevent unauthorised access to your systems.
Be Mindful of When You Move Home
When you move home with your cats in tow, there will understandably be an adjustment period for them. It’s recommended to keep your cat indoors for a few weeks before letting them roam outside your new property, to allow them enough time to familiarise themselves with their new home. If you let them out too early, they could become confused and end up lost.
Sometimes, if your cat is lost, it could become easier prey for cat thieves in the area. To minimise disorientation and stress, keep them indoors until they are familiar with their surroundings, and ensure they can find their way back confidently.