Heat maps show what missing cats get up to in UK (2023)

Cat owners have been warned to keep a close eye on their pets this autumn as new research reveals that 184 cats go missing every minute - that's one every three seconds. In August, 264,933 missing cats were listed across five of the most popular missing pet websites, with 55% of cat owners saying their cat has gone missing at least once with 22% saying their cat has left home more than five times.

Survey data from cat owners across the country revealed the top circumstances where cats go missing. These include when owners move to a new house (11%), go away on holiday (10%), have builders in the home to renovate (9%) or get another pet (9%).

With more than half (53%) of Brits confessing they’d feed a cat who appeared in their garden, it’s no surprise many cats explore their surroundings for food, attention and adventures. The good news is, 41% of people who reported a cat missing had them turn up again of their own accord.

Meanwhile, 18% of owners found their missing cat near their home, 16% received a call from someone local who found their cat, another 16% reported their cat had been found trapped in a shed or outbuilding, and 13% said they found their cat at an old home.

To explore what cats get up to when they are away from home, Admiral Pet Insurance partnered with Tractive GPS pet tracker. The data from the Tractive GPS collars reveals that the male cats Admiral tracked were 60% more active on average than their female counterparts, which is probably a factor in their making up 61% of the missing cats in the UK.

Research conducted by Admiral Pet Insurance reveals that over a quarter of a million cats are currently missing in the UK. The data gathered by the insurer originates from the National Pet Register, Pets Located, Pets Reunited, Animal Search and the Blue Cross, where collectively there are 264,933 cats listed as missing. Over 60% of the cats listed as missing were male, with an additional 27,000 more male cats listed as missing than females.

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Of the 11,000 missing cats listed on the National Pet Register, over 7,000 were microchipped, however the remaining 4,628 were not. In December 2021, the British government announced a new law that will require cat owners to get their cat microchipped to help reunite missing cats with their owners.

Pritpal Powar, head of pet at Admiral Insurance comments: “It’s important to ensure your cat is microchipped as it’s a great way to help missing cats be reunited with their owners. Microchipping is a safe, simple procedure for animals and the microchip lasts a lifetime, but remember to update the information if you change address.”

Black cats are most commonly reported missing, with over 85,000 black cats currently at large, making up 33% of the total missing cat population. A quarter (25%) of all missing cats are white and 13% are brown.

In addition, 72% of the cats reported missing had monotone coats, for instance a fully black, white or brown cat, which could suggest cats with easily identifiable coat markers are reunited with their owners sooner, resulting in fewer listings for cats with mixed colour coats.

The National Pet Register have recorded over 11,000 cats as missing, with the vast majority (42%) being Domestic Short Haired. Missing cats of this breed were 240% more common than the next most common breed of cat reported missing, Tabby cats.

Regionally, the majority of missing cats were reported in Greater London, with just under a quarter (24%) of the nation’s missing cats originating from the area. Over 1,500 cats were reported missing in Greater London, over double the number of any other region in the UK.

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Male vs female cats heat map activity

Heat maps show what missing cats get up to in UK (1)

During the cat tracking experiment, it was observed that male cats spend 60% more time being active per day, than their female counterparts. On average, male cats spend 5 hours active per day, while female cats were only active for an average of 3 hours per day. In this time, they also travel further than the female cats in the experiment, who tended to explore the same areas but spend more time there.

Cat expert, Lucy Hoile comments: “Male cats are naturally more active and maintain a wider territory than females due to their innate drive to find mating opportunities. The more ground they cover, the more females they are likely to encounter. This is less of a concern for females as they are not always in season. Neutering removes much of the motivation to mate, however some differences in activity and territory size between males and females remain.”

This trend was observed across the male cats, with the youngest male cat logging the highest average minutes per day out of the 12 cats who took part in the experiment. Both sexes were seen to slow down with age, as is to be expected.

Rural vs urban cats heat map activity:

Heat maps show what missing cats get up to in UK (2)

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When comparing rural cats with urban cats, the time they spent active per day was the same on average, which suggests they travel similar distances. However, there are additional dangers for cats living in urban areas to rural areas. While all cats risk going missing as a result of being trapped in sheds or garages, or getting their collar stuck on a fence or tree on their travels, the risks posed by roads is obviously far greater for cats in urban areas.

Cat expert, Lucy Hoile comments: “All residents in an urban area should be mindful of the cats living in the area, even if they don’t have cats themselves. Checking for cats before closing sheds or garages, securing water butts and ensuring fences are in good repair will all help keep cats safe. Rural areas are generally safe but consideration should be given to potential predators and environmental hazards in the local area. In both areas, keeping cats inside at night and ensuring collars are quick release can help protect them from harm.”

Cats in both areas were also found to sleep an average of 12 hours and 57 minutes per day. Urban cats spent 14% more time, around 20 minutes, in a calm but awake state, than the rural cats who took part in this experiment. Interestingly, the research revealed that urban cats burn on average 14% more calories than their rural counterparts, despite not going any further or sleeping any less than rural cats.

Lucy Hoile added: “This may be due to the type of activity rural cats engage in compared to urban cats. The cat population in urban areas is usually significantly higher than in rural areas, leading to tension and potentially conflict between cats with overlapping territories. This addition of territorial behaviour, such as patrolling and fighting, may burn through more calories than those rural individuals encountering considerably fewer cats.”

Senior cats (aged 10 years and above) vs younger cats (aged under 10 years) heat map activity…

The experiment revealed that older cats (aged 10 years or above) spent 10% less time being active than younger counterparts. Cats over 10 years old also burned 4% fewer calories than younger cats in the experiment, which is to be expected. Furthermore, the senior cats in the experiment slept for 8% more time on average than younger cats.

As cats age, they spend more time in a calm state, not sleeping but not active either, with an average of 214 minutes per day for cats over 10 years old, which jumped dramatically from just 157 minutes spent in this state for the younger cats in the experiment.

Cat expert, Lucy Hoile comments: “As the cat is a prey species as well as a predator, to openly display signs of pain or discomfort makes them vulnerable. As such, any aches and pains they may be experiencing as they age are hidden and often go unnoticed by owners. Most cats over 10 will be experiencing some degree of osteoarthritis and will prefer to spend more time sleeping and less time exploring their territory. Older cats should have regular veterinary checkups to ensure they are in good health and warm, comfortable beds can help them rest happily.”

Missing cats by breed


Number of cats missing

Domestic Short Hair




British Short Hair


Semi Long Hair




Mixed Breed




Maine Coone








Leopard skin




Missing cats by colour

Colour of cat

Number of cats missing













Black and white


Grey and white


Ginger and white






Leopard skin




Missing cats by county


Number of cats missing

Greater London


West Midlands








Greater Manchester






West Yorkshire




Due to their increased activity levels, male cats were also found to burn on average 19% more calories than female cats. One of the cats in this experiment is known as a local celebrity in his neighbourhood, due to his busy social calendar visiting nearby residents. This was confirmed in his data, which tracked him burning exactly 315 - 330 calories per day as he went about his daily routine visiting his regular spots.

If you’re looking for a cat that will spend most the day snuggled up on the sofa with you, then a female cat might be the better choice, as they were found to sleep on average 28% more time than male cats. The female cats also spent 10% more time awake but calm, than the male cats did in this experiment.

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How many cats go missing each year UK? ›

It can be incredibly distressing when your beloved cat goes astray. It's estimated that 100,000 cats go missing in the UK every year, which is why we've put together everything you need to know to help you bring your cat home safe and sound.

What happens to most missing cats? ›

If not found, the cat will likely end up in your shelter in a few months. Cats who are afraid or injured will seek areas of concealment such as under a deck, under a house, under a porch, or in heavy brush. Most critically, these cats will not meow. Meowing would give up their location to a predator.

What are the chances of finding a lost cat? ›

According to the study: 61% of lost cats were found within one year. 34% of lost cats were found (alive, thank goodness) within 7 days. after 90 days, lost cats were less likely to be found alive 😿

Where do missing cats go? ›

Indoor or outdoor cats can be found outside under decks, on rooves, under parked cars, in tall trees, dense bushes or in drains. Most cats, when feeling overwhelmed or lost, will hide instead of run. They can spend long periods of time in one area moving from hiding spot to hiding spot.

What is the average time a cat goes missing? ›

It isn't uncommon for cats to go missing for 24 hours, especially if they like spending a lot of time outdoors. In some cases, cats can even stay away from home for up to 10 days at a time. We also know of cats that leave home while their humans are away on holiday, returning soon after the family arrives back.

When should you stop looking for a lost cat? ›

You must continue to search in all ways possible and you must not give up too soon. While most pets are recovered within thirty days, cats may not "surface" for many weeks or even months. It is not unusual for for Pet FBI users to report happy reunions long after their cat went missing.

How far can my cat hear me calling? ›

Cats can hear between 720m – 900m away. That's roughly four to five times farther than humans can, but some healthy cats with optimal hearing can hear from an even greater distance. Cats have great hearing and can pinpoint a location from a few feet away.

How far do lost cats go home? ›

Yes, cats can return home many days, weeks, months, and even years after they wandered off or were lost. According to the Lost Pet Research project, there were reports of cats traveling 50-80 miles in 2.5 years, 38 miles in 6 months, 30 miles in 10 days, and 20 miles in 21 days. So if your cat is lost, keep up hope.

Do missing cats usually come back? ›

It is true that cats do come home on their own after an unexplained absence. Looking through years of case records of hundreds of missing cats, the number one way cats are found is that they simply come home in about twenty percent of missing cat cases.

Will a lost cat recognize me? ›

A cat at the age of two years+ will remember you, the owner, if the cat has bonded to you. Tests on the long term memory of cats show cats to have a long term memory span of 16 hours, but as a cat owner, I can definitely say cats remember for way longer than this.

Do lost cats recognize their owners? ›

Do Cats Miss A Person When They Are Gone? While it's true that cats can remember their owners and other care providers for years, there's still no scientific proof that they'll miss you while you're away at work or on vacation.

Why has my cat not come home UK? ›

If your cat has been missing overnight and is not home the following morning, check the house from top to bottom. They may have come in when you were not looking, or they might have found a new secret place to hide. It's possible that they aren't feeling well or may have been hurt.

Do cats remember where they live? ›

Outside cats mark their territory with urine and rub up against objects to leave behind specific scent markers. It's likely that they use these scent markers to know where they are and where they're going. It's theorized that they can follow their own scent trails all the way back home.

Do cats run away if they are unhappy? ›

You may be worried that your cat has something wrong with them or that they are unhappy with you, however, this is not usually true. Cats, unlike dogs, actually run away due to some factors that are in their genetics.

Do lost cats want to come home? ›

Many of these cats, once their adrenaline levels have subsided, will work their way back home, often showing up the next day or a few days later. But many of these cats, especially those with skittish temperaments, will be so panicked by the experience that they will hide in fear and will be too afraid to return home.

What percentage of lost cats are returned home safely? ›

Findings of First National Lost Pet Survey

Percentages of lost dogs versus lost cats were nearly identical: 14 percent for dogs and 15 percent for cats. 93 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats reported lost were returned safely to their homes.

How long will a lost cat hide if scared? ›

Well, when they're lost from their territory – your home – fear is likely to be their greatest feeling, rather than hunger. In fact, the Missing Animal Response Network has found that cats will often hide for one or two weeks after becoming displaced from their territory.

How far do cats roam UK? ›

Some cats may never leave their own garden, while others travel far and wide. But the average roaming distance is actually pretty small — at just 40 to 200 metres from home. Unsurprisingly, farm cats tend to roam the most, and can sometimes roam almost two miles away from their home.

Will a cat come if you call it? ›

Cats know their name, but don't expect them to always come when you call. Science may account for this unresponsive behavior. Evolutionary records prove that dogs have been domesticated for roughly 30,000 years. Our ancestors domesticated dogs, bred, and raised them to obey commands.

Why do cats go missing for days? ›

According to studies, cats usually don't travel further than a one mile radius of their home. When cats are missing for 2-3 days or less, they were probably just exploring their territory, seeking a mate, or hunting a prey. However, sometimes, a cat goes missing and doesn't return – they run away and disappear forever.

How far can a lost cat travel in a day? ›

If a cat feels a need to move away from its territory, it can walk around 5-10 miles each day. This would account for how cats have been found long distances from their home.

Can cats smell their way home? ›

Cats have an exceptional sense of direction thanks to their powerful sense of smell. They can find their way back home because they leave olfactory traces along the way. All cats have scent glands on many parts of their body such as their paws pads, cheeks, lips, forehead, flanks and tail.

How long is a cats memory? ›

Your cat's memory is likely to last about 16 hours. However, it is important to keep in mind that your cat will have longer term memories that stick, as well. For instance, if they experienced something traumatic, this is likely to stick with them for their entire life.

Will my cat remember me after 1 year? ›

Yes. Cats have good memories. Even if he doesn't remember you at first by sight, he'll remember you from smell. On that note, leave something for him that smells like you, and if you can, have the new caretaker do a video chat so you can talk to you're cat or send videos of you he can watch.

Do cats forget their owners after 3 days? ›

“This will depend on your cat's personality and friendliness, but it is thought that most cats do miss their owners when they leave, and we do know that they will remember their owners because of how strong their memory is.”

Do cats have memories? ›

Like Humans, Dogs and Cats Can Store an Array of Memories

“Dogs and cats have different types of memories, just like we do. They have spatial memory, remembering where things are located, short-term memories, and long-term memories,” says Dr.

Do cats forget their owners after 2 weeks? ›

No, your cat won't forget you after 2 weeks. Whether it's 2 weeks, 3 weeks or even more, your cat will not forget you. Especially if they depend on you for their daily routine of eating and social activity, they'll actually be looking forward to those interactions.

How long does it take for a cat to forget another cat? ›

It can take anywhere from days to months for a cat to go through these three stages. The ASPCA study had similar findings, stating that all cats who had lost a companion returned to normal within six months.

How do you attract a cat back to your house? ›

Use strong smelling canned cat food that your cat can smell from a distance so your cat knows where to go for food. Also, put your cat's litter box and any bedding that has your cat's scent on it outside to attract your cat back to your home. Cat's have an amazing sense of smell!

Why do female cats run away from home? ›

Why do cats run away from home? Cats usually run away during the reproductive period, or to hunt in a new location. A stressful environment, their territorial instincts, or the attention from another human could also lead them to run away for a couple of days or go missing entirely.

What do you do if your cat hasn't come home in 2 days? ›

Keep looking for your cat. Call the shelters. Put him on their lost list. Put up signs.

How many cats get stolen UK? ›

Figures from 36 police forces in the UK show there were 560 reports of cat thefts in 2021, up 40pc from 401 in 2020. Desirable breeds, particularly Bengals, remain the most targeted by cat thieves for breeding or resale. Pedigree kittens can sell for upwards of £500.

How common is cat theft UK? ›

Almost 40,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the UK in 2021, according to research by insurer Direct Line, with London the worst-hit region.

How many cats go missing each year? ›

The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. One in three pets will become lost at some point during their life. Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).

How many pets go missing in the UK each year? ›

Every year over 500,000 dogs and cats go missing in the UK. Today is a very important day for dog owners as, in less than 24 hours, it becomes compulsory for all dogs in England to be microchipped.

Do cats understand theft? ›

They know "take" and "have" but they don't comprehend what it is to steal. Nor do raccoons or coyotes or any species of rodent. They may participate in theft but they are ignorant of the weight of what they do, the full meaning of it. Cats know what crime is and they do it on purpose.

Which cats get stolen most? ›

The Bengal was the name most noted by experts when asked which breeds are most likely to be stolen. The Bengal's popularity and unique fur are the main reasons for this pedigreed felony.

Which cars are most likely to have catalytic converter stolen UK? ›

It means UK owners of cars like the Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris and Honda Jazz have been especially hard hit by the catalytic converter theft phenomenon. Certain Lexus models have also been common targets.

Which cars are least likely to have catalytic converters stolen? ›

Cars least likely to have their catalytic converters stolen
  • Cars manufactured before 1974 since they do not contain catalytic converters.
  • Diesel catalytic converters.
  • Electric cars (impossible since they don't have catalytic converters)
  • Ford, Subaru, Hyundai, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Dodge, Mazda, Nissan sedans (non-hybrids)

Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft UK? ›

He says: 'If your car insurance policy covers third party fire and theft, you will be covered for catalytic converter theft. But making a claim will impact on your no claims bonus.

Do missing cats usually come back? ›

It is true that cats do come home on their own after an unexplained absence. Looking through years of case records of hundreds of missing cats, the number one way cats are found is that they simply come home in about twenty percent of missing cat cases.

Do cats come back after missing? ›

Cats can disappear for days at a time and return with no trouble, looking perfectly healthy. While you might be worried, they're likely to stroll in and wonder what all the fuss is about. If they haven't yet returned, give them a few hours before you make a plan of action.

How far can a cat hear from? ›

Cats can hear between 720m – 900m away. That's roughly four to five times farther than humans can, but some healthy cats with optimal hearing can hear from an even greater distance. Cats have great hearing and can pinpoint a location from a few feet away.

Can dog find my lost cat? ›

A tracking or trailing dog might be able to locate a missing cat within their home range (or just outside of it) if the cat is trapped somewhere outside, hiding and injured (such as from a severe cat fight or hit by a car) or deceased (such as hit by a car or killed by a predator).

Why do cats go missing in summer? ›

You may notice your cat “disappearing,” taking longer naps or being less active during really hot weather. That's because cats (unlike their canine counterparts) know that conserving, rather than exerting, energy during hot weather helps keep their core temperature down so they don't overheat.

How many cats are in the UK? ›

Here is more information on the regional cat population. Figures are based on average results from the last 3 years of surveys, in order to provide a reliable result.
Cat Population 2019.
% Population with cats17
Households with cats (000s)4862
Cats per household1.6
Cats per region (000s)7300
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