Cats don’t like to be far from home

  • Innovative research tracked feline movements outside the home
  • Cats spend 99 per cent of the time within 100 metres of home
  • A third of cats have gone missing, with many likely trapped locally, in neighbours’ sheds or garages


Despite the freedom given to pet cats across the UK, they spend 99 per cent of the time within 100 metres of home reveals new research1 from Direct Line Pet Insurance.  The research, which tracked cats’ movements over the course of a week, using GPS technology, suggests these animals may not live as mysterious lives as owners might think. Nearly two fifths (37 per cent) of tracked cat movements over the course of the study were within a 20m radius of their home property, with 83 per cent being recorded within 50m and 99 per cent within 100m.  The average territory of a cat is only around 2,200m2.

This insight may prove invaluable for the 33 per cent2 of cat owners whose pet has gone missing one or more times. The pet maybe very close to home but trapped and unable to return, or it could be they are enjoying the hospitality of another household who have taken to feeding the animal.

The data suggests that cats are very much creatures of habit, and Direct Line is advising owners to be mindful of their cat’s movements as due to their common travel patterns any deviations from their normal routine may be an indication of something being wrong.

The main reasons owners suspected their cats missing are either due to going into someone else’s house (26 per cent), getting lost (25 per cent), getting trapped somewhere (18 per cent), being stolen (15 per cent) or unfortunately being killed (nine per cent). More than half (55 per cent) of the cats that have gone missing turned up within a week, with 28 per cent being found within a month.

With the disappearance of a cat causing understandable distress among owners, it’s unsurprising to see that people are often pulling out the stops to track down their pet. Half of owners (50 per cent) who lost their feline carried out a search of the places their cat often goes, while a third (33 per cent) were known to have knocked on neighbours’ doors and a fifth (21 per cent) put up posters containing images and details of the lost pet. Other popular methods of searching for a cat include reporting it to local veterinary practices, or to animal charities and shelters and posting on social media (all 17 per cent).

Fortunately, often the cat will return on its own, occurring in 40 per cent of cases, with 17 per cent of owners finding their feline friend themselves. In one in six cases (16 per cent) cats are found by others who return it to the owner, while five per cent were handed in to a vet or animal shelter. However, in six per cent of cases the cat was ultimately found to have unfortunately passed away, and four per cent of cases ended with the owner finding that someone else had taken ownership of the cat.

An estimated 27 per cent of households in Britain own a cat, making it the second most popular pet in the UK, behind dogs. There’s estimated to be more than 12 million felines based across the country3, which is due to a huge surge during the Covid-19 pandemic as people spending more time at home looked for companionship.

Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “Cats are among the best-loved pets in the UK with millions of households owning one or more. However, unlike dogs, many cats prefer to spend much of their time outdoors alone, getting valuable physical exercise and mental stimulation. This increased freedom can often lead to sleepless nights for owners, with a significant proportion of cats going missing during their lives.  Knowing that these animals like to remain close to home, it is worth reminding owners to ask neighbours to keep an eye out, as it’s likely they won’t be far.”

“At Direct Line we understand that nobody knows their cat better than their owners, so our advice would be for people to stay mindful of their cats’ habits and movements so that they’re able to act quickly and effectively should they notice any suspicious changes to maximise the chances of finding their pet quickly.”


Notes to Editors

1        Research carried out among a sample of ten cats based across the UK. All ten cats were fitted with GPS tracking collars for a week and their movements were recorded combined to give overall territory and movement data. Of the ten cats, seven yielded usable findings.

2        Consumer omnibus research conducted by Opinium in February 201 among a nationally representative sample of 2,003 UK adults, of whom 64 per cent currently or have in the past owned a cat

3        PFMA pet population data, 2021.

For further information please contact:

Chelsey Wheeler

PR manager – Direct Line  

Tel: 01651 832 095

Email: [email protected]

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting