The historic naval city of Plymouth has pipped the genteel south coast seaside town of Brighton by a whisker to claim the title of ‘cat capital’ of Britain, it has emerged.
Researchers who carried out a detailed study found two thirds (66.1%) of people who live in Plymouth are self-confessed cat lovers.
Legend has it Sir Francis Drake, who famously contemplated the threatened Spanish invasion while playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe in 1588, once rescued a cat from the sea and adopted it.
Plymouth just beat Brighton, which is well known for its vibrant LGBTQ community, to make top spot, with Nottingham third and Sheffield fourth.
Southampton, another southern coastal port, completed the top five, according to the study commissioned by natural sustainable cat litter firm, Natusan.
Overall the top ten was made up entirely of English cities, many, south of Birmingham, which shows cats may be shedding their title as ‘underdogs’ south of the border.
The trend emerged from a study of 2000 UK Britons, which also revealed cats have finally won the hearts of the male population, with many men following in the footsteps of celebrities such as Russell Brand and Ed Sheeran, by having a cat.
While that domain used to belong firmly to dogs, cats are clawing their way back with as many men (17 per cent) as women (17 per cent) now considering themselves ‘cat lovers’.
The research was released days after figures published by the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes revealed felines were twice as likely to have been abandoned by their owners during lockdown.
Rachel Andre, CEO for natural and sustainable cat litter firm, Natusan, said: “It’s sad to hear the nation’s cats have had a raw deal during lockdown, especially as we know there are a strong contingent of responsible cat lovers and pet parents around the country who go the extra mile in putting their felines first.”
Overall one in six (17 per cent) of those who took part said they were cat lovers, compared to one in three (33 per cent) who claimed to be dog lovers.
Another one in three (31 per cent) said they loved both cats and dogs equally, while 17 per cent said they loved neither cat nor canine.
But the increasing role cats are playing in our lives was laid bare in the Natusan research.
Around one in four cat-lovers went as far as to claim their pet is their best friend (24 per cent) and one in three admitted their cat helps them during tough times (35 per cent), such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
One in five revealed their feline companion is ‘more loyal’ to them than anyone they know (23 per cent) and a similar number said their cat ‘understands’ them (22 per cent).
It also emerged more than one in ten (12 per cent) think cats’ bad reputation is unjust and that they get a raw deal.
Leading British pet behaviourist, Professor Peter Neville added: “Our feline friends can often come up against a bit of stick for being aloof and free-spirited, so it’s important to shine a light on their compassionate nature.
“The number of cat pets has been growing faster than the rate of dogs over the last decade, proving cats may not be the ‘underdogs’ for much longer.
“The fact they can be left alone for longer periods of time than dogs and are happy to shower their owners with unconditional love earns them big brownie points.”
A blow for man’s best friend, cats even scored highly in Southampton and Birmingham, cities where dogs play key roles in the identities of the local football clubs, as both ‘Saints’ and Birmingham City have ‘dog’ mascots.
Professor Neville continued: “Cats have the perfect design. They are the Porsches of the animal world. Beautiful and fabulously efficient in design – they are capable of unleashing immense speed and power in an instant.
“Recent studies have shown that nowadays, men seem to be finding cats more appealing than in times past and are able to show a gentler and more empathetic side to themselves more comfortably.
“It has also become more acceptable for men to have cats for practical reasons, partly because they are better and easier to keep in the city but also because of the generally increasing acceptance of cross-gender traits, now allowing men to happily practice a closer, caring role with their pets, whilst also benefiting from the resulting intimacy.
“The physical contact we enjoy when stroking, cuddling and grooming our cats can also help reduce stress in both cat and pet-parent by prompting the release of oxytocin; a neuro-hormone closely associated with social bonding and the feeling of being in love.
“Other ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are also released when we relax or play with our cats, which can help to lower our blood pressure and reduce stress for us.
“One ten-year study even suggested that cat parents are less likely to die of heart attacks than those who don’t have cats, so the health and emotional benefits for us are very clear – cats are good for us!”
But despite the appeal of cats and their ever-increasing popularity, for now, Britain is still a nation of dog lovers.
Prof Neville added: “There are a couple of reasons why dogs might take the lead in winning over the nation’s affections; they’re not only great exercise companions, but a dog can also act as a social lubricant to help even the most introverted of us strike up a conversation with other pet parents.
“There are also so many different types of breed, shape and size of dog, and so perhaps there’s also more scope for us to team up with one that complements or mirrors our personality at home and outdoors.”
According to the study, reasons many people don’t like cats are because they come and go as they please (34 per cent) are deemed ‘disloyal’, (23 per cent) and around one in five (18 per cent) said they felt cats were ‘aloof’.
Another one in five said they were put off by feline toilet habits, as cats require a litter box in the home, which can often be unpleasant and smelly.
Natusan’s CEO, Rachel Andre continued: “Cats can be a real source of emotional support, so it’s only fair that we take care of them in return.”
“We understand that the whiff of a litter box can be a real turn off, which is why it’s super important to go for tight clumping litter, as it traps odour and eliminates moisture, meaning you can say goodbye to those unpleasant smells.
“As well as being good for the environment, Natusan’s tight clumping natural litter goes even further by performing effectively for longer periods, meaning you need up to 65 per cent less litter each month – saving an average of £130 a year.”*
To discover if you could be saving over £100 a year on cat litter, complete Natusan’s Waste Calculator here (https://natusan.co.uk/pages/waste-calculator) and receive a free 7L bag of litter at the same time.
TOP 15 CITIES WHERE THE MOST CAT-LOVERS LIVE
1. Plymouth – 66.1 per cent
2. Brighton – 66 per cent
3. Nottingham – 63 per cent
4. Sheffield – 61 per cent
5. Southampton – 59 per cent
6. London – 58 per cent
7. Norwich – 58 per cent
8. Manchester – 57 per cent
9. Bristol – 55 per cent
10. Birmingham – 55 per cent
11. Liverpool – 53 per cent
12. Edinburgh – 53 per cent
13. Glasgow – 51 per cent
14. Leeds – 49 per cent
15. Newcastle – 49 per cent