Can cat ownership be bad for the environment?


15 February 2021
We take a look at the impact our feline friends have on the planet, and how pet ownership is moving towards being more eco-friendly.

Increasing numbers of environmentally-conscious cat owners are beginning to worry about their pets’ ecological paw print (EPP) — and with good reason.

According to the PDSA’s annual Paw Report, 24 per cent of UK adults now own a cat, which means that we’re sharing our homes and gardens with an estimated 10.9 million felines. And that number looks set to rise, as new data from Bought by Many pet insurance indicates that thousands of homes welcomed a new cat during 2020, when insurance registrations increased by 205 per cent compared to the previous year.

At a time when so many of us are doing our best to reduce, reuse, and recycle, it makes sense to think more carefully about responsible cat ownership and consider the eco-credentials of the pet products we buy.

“Consumers have understandably become more environmentally aware in recent years and this extends to cat owners too,” says Alice Potter, the RSPCA’s cat welfare expert. “There are now lots of steps we can take to help reduce our cat’s carbon paw print.”


If you’re planning to welcome a new cat, or kitten, into your home, there are a couple of key ways to help minimize their ecological paw print.

According to the PDSA, almost a third of cat owners (32 per cent) get their pet from a UK rescue or rehoming centre. This is a great option as adopting helps to reduce the numbers of cats looking for a forever home.

Around 25 per cent of new cat owners get a kitten from friends or family, but many more are willing to travel far and wide to locate a specific breed.

“There is a desire to have specific breeds of cats and some people will travel the earth to get the cat that they want,” explains Dr Sarah Ellis, head of cat advocacy at International Cat Care. “It’s worth considering that most of us have the ability to find a cat in our local area, so it’s a good idea to keep mileage down if you can — and this is better for the cat, as most dislike car journeys.” Soon after you bring your cat home, experts also recommend neutering.

“Sadly, the UK is facing a cat overpopulation crisis, with so many cats being born and not enough homes for them,” says Alice Potter. “This is why the RSPCA, along with other cat charities, advise owners to get their cats neutered from four months old to avoid unplanned litters.”


Although the majority of the UK’s cats spend time both indoors and outdoors, the PDSA’s research suggests that the number of indoor cats has risen by 11 per cent in the last decade. In 2021, just over a quarter of cats (26 per cent) live indoors only, with most owners saying that they do this because they believe it’s safer for their pet, and gives them a better chance of living a long and healthy life.

Some cat owners choose to keep their cats indoors because they’re concerned about the impact that cats can have on wildlife. Past studies indicate that each cat kills up to 18 birds and 21 small mammals each year, and research from the PDSA reveals that 14 per cent of UK cat owners would like to find a way to stop their cat killing wildlife, and a further 14 per cent would like to stop their cat bringing wildlife into the house.

To read the full feature and the rest of the March 2021 issue of Your Cat, you can purchase a copy here: