The Cat Theft Report 2022

Cat Theft Report 2021 image

In a year in which the growing problem of pet theft is about to be recognised by a new Pet Abduction Offence, we pose the question: Why have our family cats been left out in the cold? Pet abduction has silently become dog abduction!

In 2021, the burgeoning rise in dog theft during the pandemic gripped the headlines with the public, media and police focusing their attention on the heinous theft of our canine friends. It left us wondering whether this had created the opportunity for cat theft to become an increasingly invisible crime. On receipt of last year's startling cat theft figures we now have our answer: Our cats were certainly a target too with cat theft soaring by an alarming 40%! 

This hugely concerning figure sits very uncomfortably alongside the government's decision to exclude cats from the Pet Abduction Offence in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, particularly as statistical data seems to have formed the basis of their reasoning for limiting this offence solely to dogs. In essence, this means our beloved family cats will still be dealt with as inanimate objects in court under Theft Act 1968 with their sentience not fully recognised. After years of campaigning for the theft of our pets to be a specific crime in its own right, it seems that the government have failed to grasp that ALL pets are family!

Our FOI 2021 data returns show that recorded cat theft crime is up by 40% on a like-for-like basis, with the annual total more than quadrupling between 2015 and 2021. 

Despite the concerning increase in recorded cat theft across the UK police forces, there were only two prosecutions in 2021 and four cautions. This means that barely 1% of recorded cat thefts resulted in some form of legal action. Following a shocking zero return in prosecutions across all forces in 2019, there was a welcome glimmer of hope in 2020 that cat thieves were at last being brought to justice with 13 cases reaching the courts. However, this was almost entirely attributable to one police force, the Metropolitan Police. Disappointingly, 2021 saw a reversal, with the Met declaring not a single prosecution, despite a massive 74% year-on-year increase in cat thefts in the London area! 

Desirable breeds, particularly Bengals, remain the most targeted by cat thieves.

The Insurance Emporium’s Chief Executive Officer, Francis Martin, said:
“The Insurance Emporium support the important work being done by Pet Theft Awareness, highlighting significant issues surrounding cat theft including the devastation caused by loss or theft of a beloved pet cat.  We wish Pet Theft Awareness the best of luck with their campaign to reform cat theft legislation and procedures, hopefully this will deter would-be cat thieves, which can only be good news.”

Please sign our important government petition: Extend the new dog abduction theft offence to cover cats and all kept animals.

Why the need for a Cat Theft Report?

Very little primary data has been gathered about the extent of the theft threat for cats and our feline companions were being left out of the debate as a result. It seemed to us that if we were ever going to be able to sharpen our claws when it comes to legislation this needed urgent addressing.

One of our aims was to establish whether our police forces were recording cases of cat theft and whether there appeared to be any consistency in process and policy. What the results have shown is that there certainly seems to be a wide and ever increasing divergence.

The Cat Theft Report 2022 is the result of data gathered year-on-year under a Freedom of Information request to all UK police forces, spanning the period 2015-2021 and aims to get the theft of cats under scrutiny alongside their canine friends. In a period dominated by the pandemic where we have appreciated the value of furry companionship more than any other and the demand for pets has escalated beyond supply forcing the price of puppies and kittens to record levels, the alarming rise in cat theft has amply demonstrated that thieves have responded to this new opportunity to capitalise. 

The Cat Theft Report also exposes the disparate nature of police attitudes and their recording mechanisms.

The Pet Abduction Offence: Why we believe the government is wrong to exclude our feline friends.

After fighting for pet theft reform for many years, how reassuring it was to see that the government had at last stuck its head out from the hallowed halls of parliament to notice what the public and media had picked up on - our family pets had become the new target of the unscrupulous and lawless. In response they commissioned a Pet Theft Taskforce to investigate and report on its findings. The Report was published in September 2021 with the narrative consistently in support of recognising all companion animals as being worthy of protection. Robert Buckland QC MP, then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice stated: "The creation of a new offence of pet abduction is absolutely the right approach because it recognises that pets are more than mere property which can often be replaced, but sentient beings. It acknowledges not only the owner's loss but also reflects the worry and anxiety that can be caused through the uncertainty of the safety and wellbeing of a loved friend and member of the family."

With all looking so positive and inclusive, how stunned and baffled we were to note that the Government had decided that this offence would be limited to dogs in the first instance with other species only being considered for inclusion at a future date when they had satisfied some nebulous qualification criteria. This was to be decided on a piecemeal basis under the costly and cumbersome 'enabling powers'. This exclusion leaves our stolen family cats trapped within the confines of the Theft Act 1968 which sees them still treated as 'property' in law and afforded no more intrinsic value than inanimate objects. Small wonder therefore that there are so few prosecutions for cat theft; the cost of legal action is hard to justify against the notional value of whatever the cat cost in the first place. We know that their true value cannot be measured in terms of money; our cats are family and family is priceless. To leave our cats out in the cold whilst dogs sit cosily round the glowing fires of yet more protective legislation is a direct contradiction to Robert Buckland's statement above - this hardly feels like justice for our cats to us!

Graph showing police dog and cat thefts in Metropolitan region UK
So what is the rationale for limiting the pet theft offence to dogs? It appears to be just a question of numbers; more specifically, the often cited statistic that seven out of 10 thefts are dogs. However, closer inspection reveals that this
 headline figure relates solely to the Metropolitan Police area and spans the entire 10-year period since the Met first established its Dashboard in 2012. Crucially it ignores the rapidly changing dynamic that has seen cats increasingly becoming the target of thieves over time. Indeed, the Metropolitan Police Dashboard reveals that recorded cat theft has risen from just 19 in 2012 to 234 in 2021 - a twelve-fold increase. In fact if we turn the spotlight on this year's figures, the Met reports a shocking increase of 74% in the London area over the last 12 months! On this basis, fewer than six in 10 recorded thefts were dogs (422), whilst more than three in 10 were cats (234). The composition of pet theft crime is therefore clearly changing. We are challenging the Taskforce on this one: Shouldn't any report worth its salt be looking at trends rather than rounded up aggregate figures? 

Whilst this data is extremely important in ensuring that the theft of our family cats can be thrown into the parliamentary spotlight alongside our canine companions, anyone who acknowledges the capacity of our family pets to feel traumatised when stolen surely should be focussing on sentience rather than statistics. Should it really matter whether six or seven out of 10 stolen pets are dogs, cats or horses; what matters is that 10 out of 10 suffer equally - as do their owners. The proposed Pet Abduction Offence should be there to protect dogs, cats and all kept animals by acting as a deterrent to the vile crime of pet theft that causes immeasurable misery and harm. 

We look at the evidence: Is cat theft is being afforded any greater priority by our police?

Cat Theft Report Graph Totals image
Given that as a nation we save a space on our sofas for an estimated 12 million cats, our suspicion remains that the aggregate figures continue to understate the extent of cat theft as recorded by the police, despite our figures for 2021 showing a startling annual increase of 40%. If we further consider that in the 12 months to end-September 2021 total theft and burglary actually declined by 18% and 21% respectively (Crime Survey for England & Wales), the surge in the number of cat thefts is even more concerning. The total for 2021 of 560 is more than four times higher than was recorded just seven years previously in 2015. 


Police forces providing data: Another one bites the dust

Somewhat perversely, given the massively increased interest amongst politicians and the general public in pet theft during the pandemic, this year yet another police force stated it was unable to answer our FOI request. West Midlands Police, who have provided precisely the same data in each of the previous six years, said it had 'recently updated its recording system', which meant that the requested information was 'not currently available'. This brings the list of police forces either unable to provide the requested information or declining to provide it on cost grounds to seven. The seven are: Hampshire Police, North Wales Police, Police Scotland, Staffordshire Police and Thames Valley Police (due to excessive costs) and Greater Manchester Police and West Midlands Police (due to a system update). At the time of writing, we were still awaiting data from Essex Police and West Mercia Police, so for the sake of consistency we have also excluded these two forces from the figures in all years. 

The attitude towards cat theft implicit in such an inability or unwillingness to provide this important information, sits in stark contrast to the best practice followed by other constabularies. The Metropolitan Police, for example, has established its own dedicated pet-theft data dashboard. Similarly, West Yorkshire, Devon & Cornwall, Northumbria and Kent Police, simply by virtue of numbers recorded, clearly take the issue of cat theft seriously. In common with the recommendations of the Pet Theft Taskforce Report, we believe that pressure should be brought to bear on ALL police forces in the UK to provide the requested information so that as clear a picture as possible can be formed about the true scale and nature of cat theft in this country.


What do we make of this?

Despite the number of cat thefts in the UK surging 40% in 2021 to a new record high, we remain convinced that the recording of cat theft crime by the police as a whole is still very much understated. However, last year's jump in thefts very much echoes what we have observed anecdotally throughout the pandemic across social media, with the various platforms awash with the misery of bereft owners posting up photos of their mysteriously disappearing felines. Given the appetite for fluffy lockdown friends having generated an alarming surge in dog thefts, it is now clear that we should also have been  hyper-vigilant to the possibility that our cats were also being taken in the shadows of the pandemic. 

Regional Data Recorded Cat Thefts 2015 to 2021

picture of graph showing 40% increase in cat from a freedom of information request showing pet theft crimes across all UK police constabularies

How well did your police force do in 2021: which forces are upping their game and which are we keeping under surveillance?

As far as we are concerned, the Metropolitan Police are the cats' whiskers when it comes to consistent performance. In 2021, they were responsible for more than four in 10 of the total number of cat thefts recorded across all the forces. Special mention must also be given to the Met for their dedicated interactive web-page on stolen pets: . What a reassuring sign that pet theft is very much on at least one police force's radar.

West Yorkshire accounted for 10% of those recorded and Kent almost 7%.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were several forces who recorded NO cases of cat theft at all in a whole year – and some for consecutive years. Derbyshire, South Wales, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire returned an incredulous zero for 2021  - can they really be cat crime-free zones? We are far from convinced. Infinitely more compelling is the conclusion that it's just not possible that these are perfectly law abiding areas of the UK when it comes to stealing cats, rather that they represent worrying regions of police indifference or disbelief!

A Closer Inspection: Standardising the data for population density reveals potential scale of cat theft under-recording

As part of the discussion surrounding the Pet Abduction Offence, pet theft data from the Metropolitan Police has received a lot of attention. Undoubtedly the quality and detail of the data collected and maintained by the Met is streets ahead of any other police force in the country. And this got us thinking; what if all police forces were as diligent about cat theft as the Met? One way of calculating this - and thereby getting a handle on the potential scale of police under-recording of cat theft - would be to assume that all police forces in the United Kingdom have the same number of cat thefts per million of population as the Metropolitan Police Service. With the Met covering an estimated population of 8.9 million, this works out at just over 26 cat thefts per million of population. Applying this rate per million to the populations in each individual police area means that instead of the 560 cat thefts revealed by our 2021 Freedom of Information requests, a figure of around 1,540 would be recorded! This isn't too far behind the figure of 2,000 dog thefts in 2020 also mentioned in the Pet Theft Taskforce Report. 

But is it reasonable to apply London's per million of population cat theft rate to the whole country or does London possess special characteristics that make it more prone to the cat abduction? Certainly, population density is much greater in London, but this by itself cannot explain the higher rate as the police in less densely populated regions such as Cumbria, Devon & Cornwall and West Yorkshire also reported comparatively high rates. Indeed, it could even be argued that high population densities ought to be associated with higher proportions of cats kept indoors, which, everything else being equal, might be expected to result in fewer cat theft crimes. An undeniable difference, however, is funding, with the Metropolitan Police Service having significantly more resources that it has been able to allocate towards establishing and maintaining a dedicated database on pet theft. The difference in reported cat theft rates across the country might simply be a resourcing issue, one which could be addressed by affording pet theft increased priority in police budgets. The recognition of pet abduction as a separate offence independent of the Theft Act 1968 can only help in this direction, which is why it is absolutely vital that cats are given the same protection as dogs under the proposed legislation. 

So who are the top performers in our population-adjusted table? West Yorkshire Police and Kent Police are worthy of special mention as each recorded more than 20 cat thefts per million of population, with Devon & Cornwall and Humberside not too far behind with scores just above 15. Lancashire, North Yorkshire and Dorset also found themselves in comparatively high positions, recording scores of 13.33, 12.20 and 12.09 respectively. Interestingly, Cumbria, which was placed second in 2020, slipped to ninth as it was one of only a few forces to record a decline in cat thefts during the course of 2021. 

Apart from the zero returners we have already mentioned, Avon & Somerset Constabulary once again  find themselves caught red-faced at the bottom of the table with just one cat theft in 2021, despite policing the 8th largest area by size of population in England. Since this covers both the cities of Bristol and Bath, is this a question of people not reporting their cats stolen or the police failing to listen? 

A cat may have nine lives, but are any of them valued as they should be?

In 2021 those failing to give us data were:

Hampshire Constabulary (Too costly)
Thames Valley Police (Too costly)
North Wales Police (Too costly)
Police Scotland (Too costly)
Staffordshire (Too costly/new data system)
Greater Manchester Police (New data system disabling data retrieval)
West Midlands Police (New data system disabling data retrieval)

There is increasing evidence that some police forces are actually de-prioritising cat theft. In 2021, West Midlands Police became the latest constabulary declining to provide us with information, joining Staffordshire Police, Greater Manchester Police, Police Scotland, North Wales, Hampshire and Thames Valley who have opted out in previous years. Take a look at the explanation below put forward by Staffordshire police for their inability to furnish us with cat theft figures:

"...Staffordshire Police are now using a new system to record crime. Data from the old recording system has been brought over to the new system and although the system has structured property fields only property with identifying marks i.e. serial numbers, registration plates etc., will be recorded under these fields." 

The extraction of data relating to stolen cats is therefore not possible, unless of course you have one of those rarer breeds who come with a serial number or a purr-sonalised registration plate! This strikes us as nothing short of absurd. Greater Manchester Police, historically one of the largest issuers of CRNs for stolen cats, have also subscribed to a similar system and in so doing, have disabled their cat theft data retrieval. What does this say about their prioritisation of pet theft if they - and we - are prevented from effectively analysing crime rate trends and outcomes?

This represents yet another reason why specific legislation relating to the theft of pets and companion animals is desperately needed. If our family felines were included alongside dogs in the proposed Pet Abduction Offence the police would be obliged to collect and store such data routinely.  

Why cat theft must be taken seriously.

“No one can truly understand the bond we form with the cats we love until they experience the loss of one” – Unknown  

Three years ago we reported on the impact of cat theft on Toni Clarke, when her Siamese cat, Clooney,  was taken during the summer of 2013. It detailed her struggle to convince the police to take her claim of theft seriously. The following is an update to her story and for completeness, the 2019 post follows immediately after. The full, catalogued story can be read here:

Toni Clarke with her stolen Siamese cat
Toni Clarke and stolen Clooney

Update: Clooney at last awarded a CRN! 
Following evidence Clooney had been scanned and details accessed by someone using the unique, confidential logins and PIN codes, traceable to two vet practices, unbelievably, Clooney is still not home. How can this be?

Cat theft is not, and with the law as it stands, cannot be, a budgetary priority to the police. However vital we consider our pets to be with regards to our well-being, their value is simply a cold, heartless calculation on the basis of a replacement; they are merely personal objects under the Theft Act 1968. From the outset of Clooney's case being opened I was brutally informed that the investigation budget would be equal to his perceived monetary value and towards the end of the initial interview, advised that the case would be immediately closed. I could see I had some serious work and persuasion ahead! Under pressure to investigate this promising lead, the vets were contacted but alas, it seems that denial of having any record of Clooney has proved protective: robust and meaningful investigation eats up funds. 

After several challenges to the process and changes to those in charge of his case, thank heavens we now have a sympathetic Inspector from Norfolk Constabulary willing to investigate lines of enquiry. Covid closures have seriously hampered replies and time is not on our side when it comes to a living, feeling, ageing being, but I refuse to take no for an answer! The law needs to recognise emotional distress - we would never search endlessly for a laptop or any other inanimate possession, nor would we have sleepless nights praying they aren't suffering. Pet theft carries endless torment and whilst there is evidence that Clooney was stolen and is waiting to be found, we can't give up. 
We just hope the police don't. 

Taken from Cat Theft Report 2019

Cat theft victim Toni Clarke was devastated when her pet mysteriously disappeared after a courier driver left at her property during the summer of 2013. As soon as she noticed her cat had gone, she immediately reported the theft of her Siamese cat 'Clooney', but how seriously did the Police take her plea to get her family member back?

"The reaction of the policeman answering my call could only be described as instant, disinterested dismissal, citing a cat’s 'right to roam' and that they were in a separate category due to this well-accepted, nomadic instinct.

I tried reporting Clooney's disappearance as a theft again a few weeks later when I was utterly convinced there was no other explanation. I had spent every hour for weeks searching, putting up posters, delivering fliers, door knocking, walking, calling, crying.... He had quite simply vanished. And despite having employed the services of a tracker dog on two separate occasions who had found no trace of my boy, the response from Norfolk Constabulary was still a heart-sinking and definitive, "No". Unless there was concrete proof, no Crime Reference Number would be issued.

Despite reporting Clooney as a potential victim of pet theft twice to Norfolk Police, he remains unrecorded on their statistics of theft. This is tough to accept. My experience throws a huge question mark over the integrity of police data and their consistency across Forces in recording what people are telling them. Owners' reporting of cat theft is distinct from, and shouldn't be confused with, police recording of pet theft crimes; the figures could paint an entirely different picture as my experience shows."

Does a cat's 'right to roam' give people a right to keep and the police a right to dismiss your claims of theft?

No! Keeping a displaced pet without making reasonable efforts to find the owner is 'Theft by Finding' and you can be charged. If you find yourself engaged in an ownership dispute or feel that you have rational cause to suspect that your cat has been stolen, don't be fobbed off by the police with this commonly-held view.

"As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat." Ellen Perry Berkeley

Except in law we do! Cats who wander are legally the property of the original owner.

Are valuable cat breeds being targeted?

Cat thefts by breed and type

Who steals cats and which breeds are most at risk?

Pedigree cats have been targeted by thieves for breeding or resale if found to be neutered, particularly the breeds that are distinctive and easily identifiable such as Bengal, Siamese and Persian. 2021 has seen a sharp rise in Bengal cats stolen, now 25% of all those recorded by breed/type. Interestingly, there was also a significant increase in tabbies stolen, the coat pattern of whom can often be mistaken for the highly valued Bengal. 

Given that pedigree kittens can sell for upwards of £500 and pet theft is still largely dealt with in the Magistrates Court with penalties often a small fine at best, it is a low risk, high reward crime. With prices rising, there is a serious need for changes to the law to protect our precious companions.

Theft by Finding - a very covert operation.

Cats are stolen for many reasons but in many cases it is 'Theft by Finding', a particularly insidious, invisible and yet often well-meaning criminal offence where someone assumes possession without taking reasonable measures to find the true owner. Whilst it is impossible to quantify the number of cats that are subsumed into local households, it is entirely feasible that our cats may well have increasingly fallen victim to this crime over the pandemic, with cats popping in to say hello or scrounge a little extra side-serving or two and finding the welcome of home workers hard to resist. How many might have been mistaken for strays and encouraged to slip their paws under the table, never to return to their waiting owners? Without compulsory scanning in vets sadly we will never know... 

If you have a cat who is taking up residence in your house and you are not the legitimate owner, please remember that you have a legal obligation to do your best to find their home, including scanning for a microchip as soon as is reasonably practical. Vets will do this for free or organisations may even come out to scan in situ. Consider placing a paper collar on your furry visitor as a first action, alongside door knocking and postering/ advertising on social media.

Ownership disputes can occur if you keep a cat without taking the above steps but beware - the law supports the original owner!

We advise neutering as one of the best ways to protect your pet.

Consider having their tag engraved with ‘neutered’ or ‘spayed’.

Who are the Forces to be reckoned with when it comes to prosecutions and cautions?

This data is especially important in highlighting which constabularies have taken this crime seriously.

Image or list of police cat theft prosecutions and cautions

When it comes to taking cat thieves to court in 2021, despite 560 crimes recorded, there were only TWO prosecutions across all of the forces and just four police cautions. Combined, this represents barely 1% of recorded thefts. 

Just 1.2% of all recorded cat thefts resulted in prosecutions (2015-2021). 
A further 1.5% of cases resulted in a police caution, community resolution or adult restorative intervention (2015-2021).
25 out of 39 forces have failed to prosecute a single case in the last seven years! 

This looks bleak enough as a deterrent to stealing a cat, but when the figures are analysed for trends it’s been very much a deteriorating picture. In 2015 when our data was first collected, 3.3% of cat thefts resulted in prosecutions, with the following four years seeing a steady decline to a staggering zero in 2019. Thanks to the Metropolitan Police there was a strong rebound in 2020 (11 out of 13 prosecutions), but this has slumped to just two prosecutions in 2021, equivalent to a minuscule 0.35% of cat thefts. 

"Well done to the constabularies who have brought prosecutions, although the figures show that just 0.35% of the total of cat thefts resulted in prosecutions. The cautions would suggest that the suffering of the owner is not being considered. The theft of a pet is life changing so a 'slap-on-the-wrist' caution is not the strong deterrent needed to cut this crime. Unfortunately, the value of the stolen 'object' is the deciding factor when it comes to punishments.".
Richard Jordan, Pet Theft Awareness.

Stolen or Missing: Police criteria for recording a crime - is there a uniformity across the forces?

In 2018, we invited all UK police forces to tell us the criteria they use for recording a cat stolen and issuing a CRN as opposed to dismissing it as simply missing. We were curious to discover whether our chances of having our concerns taken seriously were dependent on a police force’s formal policy or whether it could even come down to the personal attitude of the officer. What came back was extremely varied and somewhat perturbing.

Many of the constabularies cited the 'Home Office Counting Rules' on whether or when to record a crime. Essentially, this is determined on ‘balance of probability’ that a) the circumstances of the victim’s report amount to a crime as defined by law and b) there is no credible evidence to the contrary immediately available.

So far so good, but what does it mean when it comes to the typical ambiguity surrounding the disappearance of a cat? We can only conclude that it seems to us that this was up for individual interpretation:

"If an individual believed their cat to be missing it would be recorded as such. If, however, they believed that it had been stolen it would be recorded as stolen and the Local Neighbourhood Team informed." (Derbyshire)

"Missing is not a property status variable… therefore if a cat is reported as stolen it will always be recorded as such." (Devon and Cornwall)

"Cats being cats do go walkabout and unless there was anything to suggest that a crime has been committed then they would just assume to be missing." (West Midlands – might explain their zero return in 2020!)

 "We would never record a missing cat as theft. It would not be ‘crimed’ unless there was evidence to support the assumption it had been stolen." (Humberside)

This is a fascinating, yet confusing insight. On the surface, Derbyshire boasts perhaps the most liberal and accommodating policy of trust in the owner's beliefs that their cat has been a victim of theft across the forces. Has this been reflected in their recorded cat theft figures? Far from it! Just 5 cat thefts in a seven year period (including zero returns in both 2020 and 2021), placing them last in the league of cat theft recording figures. 
We can probably conclude that geographical location will influence whether your claim for being a victim of cat theft crime will be recorded and given that all-important Crime Reference Number.

Insist on a Crime Reference Number!

Jayne Hayes from
Jayne Hayes also reunites cats with owners. Their founder Jayne Hayes agrees that some police constabularies might be letting cat owners down by not recording cat theft.

 "We have over 3,000 cats registered with us and have only THREE cats have been issued with a CRN number as stolen!" (2019. Updated figures unavailable)

Pet Theft Awareness suggests that if at first you are refused a CRN. be persistent and insist on getting one. You can register a complaint if your claim is not taken seriously.

What Should Cat Owners Do?

  • Establish who legally owns each pet.
  • Have plenty of photographs, especially showing any distinguishing features.
  • Every time you visit your vet ensure the microchip is checked.
  • Theft by Finding is a crime. If you find a stray you must take reasonable action to find the owner.
  • Be aware of any local hot-spots of cats going missing. Share information.
  • If you are a cat theft victim insist that the police record it as a crime. As you can see from the results some forces are better at recording thefts than others. If at first you are denied a crime number please explain you require it and challenge the decision until you are issued one.

Cat Theft Prevention image

"More cats are reported missing or stolen year-on-year"

Cats are part of the #PetTheftReform campaign.Wayne May of DogLost explains, 

"We're getting an average of 90 cats each month registered as missing or stolen and this number has been increasing year on year. Due to the nature of cats, it's hard to ascertain actual thefts." (2019. Updated figures not available) is the UK's largest service for missing / stolen and found pets. Any animal can be registered and their service is free.

Campaigner and dog theft victim Debbie Matthews adds: "We are grateful to Pet Theft Awareness, our partners at Stolen And Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA), for working on Cat Theft figures. The way police categorise Pet Theft varies and the same issues arise for both dogs and cats, although we have the added problem with cats as they have the right to roam and they will often have several homes they like to visit!"

To members of the public we ask you to ‘think lost’ when you see a stray cat, they may be someone’s beloved pet.  Please report to the local animal warden, try to capture them and take to the vet to be scanned for a microchip.  

What is the purpose of this Cat Theft report? 

Our aim is to encourage all authorities to understand that cats can be, and are being, stolen. It is clear that the theft of dogs is a major concern, particularly targeting those breeds that are deemed 'fashionable', but thankfully the police and government are being forced to sit up and take notice. And so they should! Dog theft is frequently audacious, overt and more recently, accompanied by an alarming rise in violence. Our canine friends are not legally allowed to wander and therefore theft is largely unambiguous, making it far easier to convince police that a dog who has disappeared is a dog who has been purposefully stolen. Dog theft figures bear witness to this. Cats however, enjoy freedoms that put them at risk of vanishing and herein lies our reason for the suspiciously low cat theft figures. A right to roam is hardly licence for a right to dismiss! We'd like to see all police listening to our individual stories, recording our reports of theft with consistency and uniformity and also to refrain from hiding behind the ambiguity of a cat who fails to return home - we know our feline family members and their habits! Although cat theft as recorded by the police is small in relation to the estimated 12 million cats that share our sofas, it is clear, with the 2021 total more than 350% higher than in 2015, that the trend is rising sharply. What's more, for the reasons given above we believe this substantially understates the true picture. In truth, it is difficult to conclude much from the data: whether higher figures are indicating hot spots of cat crime or whether we are looking at police forces who genuinely take cat theft more seriously. Either way, our hope is that by requesting these figures it will prompt better future records and in time, raise the awareness of the theft of our valued feline friends. We believe it also justifies the inclusion of cats in the proposed Pet Abduction Offence.

Praise must be given to all the forces and police personnel who understand that cats are family.
We'd like more understanding and action for victims and through perseverance we hope this can be achieved.

"Home is where the cat is"   Anon.

Please mention Pet Theft Awareness or SAMPA if using any content.
Support #PetTheftReform
SAMPA: Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance

Compiled by Richard Jordan and Toni Clarke


  1. I have been a volunteer for many years with families whose cats have been lost, found, stolen and sadly deceased. In the last few years, it has become clear that there is an increasing number of police officers who are ignorant of the crime of cat theft under the Theft Act 1968.
    I've lost count of the number of people reporting to me and colleagues across the country that police have told them the theft of their cats is not a criminal matter but a civil one so no reports are taken and no CRNs issued. Even when I went to a local police station to support a cat's owner after another woman had phoned me to tell me she was moving and taking said cat with her as she believed it was neglected (the cat had a severe skin condition which was being treated by the family's vet). The very young WPC we each spoke to refused to see this was theft, spouted what seems to be the common response now - it's a civil matter, get a solicitor and did not take a report. I did manage to educate one of our area's PCSOs (a cat owner himself) a few years ago. Sadly, he's moved on and when I asked one of the current PCSOs, attending a village function recently, about cat theft, she was adamant that it was a civil matter and absolutely refused to be persuaded otherwise. Her colleague sat silent, looking bemused!
    My point, therefore, is that the very low number of cat thefts recorded by most police forces comes down to the standards of recruitment, training, and education of police officers. Why else do they consistently fail to understand and apply the Theft Act appropriately?


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