A world of difference - How cat ownership in America differs to the UK

A world of difference - How cat ownership in America differs to the UK


Britain of course proudly calls itself “a nation of animal lovers” and the cat is over all the most popular and commonly kept pet within the UK. In America as well, the cat is incredibly popular as a pet, with cats finding homes with caring owners with as great a degree of regularity as cats in the UK.

It may come as a surprise then when you consider the close ties between the UK and America and how our cultures cross over in so many different ways, that cat ownership in America is approached very differently to how we do things in the UK. How people care for their cats in America and what is considered to be appropriate cat care and best for both owners and cats has some very significant differences across the pond!

In this article, we will look at some of the main differences between cat care in the UK versus cat care in America.


In the UK, the vast majority of pet cats have free access to the outside world, or are at least allowed to go outside unsupervised for large parts of the day. In America this is extremely uncommon, and over 90% of American cats lead an indoor-only life, spending all of their time within the home and never being permitted to venture outside, other than perhaps onto a balcony or restricted enclosure, or even for a supervised walk on a lead. In rural areas of America, outdoor cats are slightly more common, but still not the norm. In America, seeing a cat loose and unsupervised outside of the home will usually be assumed to be lost or a stray or feral cat!

While many of us in the UK would find it inappropriate or unnatural to restrict our cat’s access to the outdoors without a good reason, in America, it is often considered that the way we allow our cats outside on their own is neglectful or risky!


De-clawing cats is virtually unheard of within the UK, and never performed without a valid medical reason. However, in America de-clawing cats is considered to be completely normal, with up to 50% of domestic cats de-clawed as standard. This is something that is extremely hard for us in the UK to come to terms with, as the de-clawing process is not only incredibly painful, but completely unnecessary and performed for the convenience of the owner, not the best interests of the cat.

Cats are de-clawed in America to keep them from scratching the furniture or their people. De-clawed cats are not able to go outside, as de-clawing removes the cat’s ability to defend themselves, and makes it more difficult for them to grip and climb.

Shelters and rehoming

All of the rehoming organisations and shelters in the UK keep their charges indefinitely until they find a home (even if this takes months or years) and do not put healthy cats to sleep. In America, however, there are two types of rehoming shelters: No-kills, which follow the same pattern as the UK model, and “kill” shelters, where if the cat is not claimed or homed within a set period of time, they are put to sleep. This is of course alarming to cat owners on both sides of the Atlantic, however there are a great many more stray and homeless cats in America than there are in the UK, and only finite resources to care for them all.

Grooming and clothing!

In the UK, it is highly unusual to bathe cats, and generally only done if they have got something toxic or very sticky on their coats or need to be bathed for medical reasons. Some American cat owners, but by no means all of them, bathe their cats regularly every couple of months as standard, and feel that this is an important part of cat ownership!

In some of the hotter US states where the summer temperatures are extremely high, longhaired cats are sometimes shaved during the summer, to help them to stay cool, something that is a common sight in America but very unusual here!

In the UK, most of us would not consider dressing up our cats and living to tell the tale! However, in America, there is a huge market for clothing and dress-up outfits for cats, and many cat owners enjoy dressing up their favourite felines! Cats dressed up for Halloween is a particular favourite, and there are literally hundreds of feline Halloween outfits available to buy online!

Pet Insurance

The uptake rate for pet insurance is much higher within the UK than it is in America, and the American system is generally more complex and convoluted with a much wider range of options than the UK. Veterinary treatment like for like is a degree less costly in America than it is in the UK, while the policy cost for insurance coverage on a like for like basis is rather higher.

What we call the insurance excess here is referred to as the co-pay in America, and as well as having a set fee per claim that must be paid for by the pet owner, pet insurance payouts in America normally only cover a percentage of the actual full treatment cost, something that is very uncommon here in the UK. Generally, pet insurance policies in America cover between 50% and 80% of the total cost of treatment as standard (up to the policy limit), which can of course leave the cat owner with a significant chunk of money still to pay.

This in turn leads many cat owners to hedge their bets and self-insure by putting money by for veterinary treatments, or paying into a savings scheme with their own vet to build up a fund to cover any necessary treatments.

Pedigree vs. Moggy and ownership statistics

In the UK, around 10% of our cats are pedigree, with the remaining 90% being mixed breeds and moggies. Pedigree cats in America, however, add up to around 40% of all of the cats owned domestically, and the market for pedigree cats and people selectively choosing by breed is much higher.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the two most popular pedigree cat breeds are the Siamese and the Persian, but the third most popular cats are more region specific, being the British Shorthair in the UK and the Maine Coon in America.

Rough survey figures indicate that around a quarter of British households own a cat or cats, with around seven million domestic cats being kept in the UK in total. In America, the total figure by household is nearer a third, with around sixty five million domestic felines and a much higher number of wild and feral cats living without homes.

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