Why Americans Keep Their Cats Indoors and British Outdoors (And Other Differences)

american cat indoors

Cats are beloved pets in both the UK and the US, but there are some key differences in how they are cared for and treated in each country. For example, cats in the UK are more likely to be allowed to roam free outdoors, while cats in the US are more likely to be kept indoors.

In this blog post, we will explore 14 differences between owning a cat in the UK vs. the US.

1. Americans tend to keep their cats indoors

The contrasting approach to cat ownership between the UK and the US is evident in the freedom afforded to felines outdoors. In the UK, cats typically roam freely, while in the US, the common practice involves keeping them indoors due to a higher prevalence of predators, challenging neighbourhood designs, and more extreme weather conditions.

Additionally, the indoor preference in the US is reinforced by the presence of the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), affecting 2.5-5% of cats in North America. Similar to HIV, FIV compromises a cat’s immune system, heightening vulnerability and contributing to the divergence in cat care practices between the two countries.

uk cat outdoors

2. Declawing your cat is common in the US

Declawing, the surgical removal of a cat’s claws, is a contentious practice prohibited in the UK due to its perceived cruelty. In the US, however, it remains more prevalent, albeit frowned upon by numerous animal welfare groups.

The popularity of declawing in the US is partly driven by the belief that it is necessary to safeguard furniture and possessions. Despite this, there are humane alternatives, such as regular nail trimming and providing scratching posts, which can mitigate the need for declawing. 

Additionally, a lack of awareness regarding the risks and drawbacks of declawing in the US contributes to its continued practice, with potential consequences including pain, behavioural issues, and various health problems for cats.

3. Bathing your cat isn’t common in the UK

Cats are purr-fectly capable of cleaning themselves. They have in-built grooming tools, a rough tongue and saliva is all they need to clean their fur. Therefore it’s very uncommon for cat owners in the UK to take a helping hand.

In the US, it’s still not super common to wash your cat. But it’s more common than in the US, largely because owners want to ‘take care of their cat’ which includes making sure they’re clean and tidy.

4. The breeds are somewhat different

The popularity of cat breeds varies between the UK and the US. In the UK, the British Shorthair, Persian, and Maine Coon top the list, with the British Shorthair being a centuries-old native breed and the Persian renowned for its luxurious fur and gentle disposition.

In the US, the Maine Coon takes the lead as the most popular breed, recognized for its large size, gentle nature, and intelligence. The Ragdoll follows closely, known for its relaxed temperament and tendency to go limp when lifted.

maine coon

5. Some long-haired cats in the US are shaved in the summer

In America, a notable difference in cat care practices emerges as some long-haired cats are commonly shaved during the summer, a trend less apparent in the UK.

This grooming practice is often driven by the desire to help cats stay cool in the warmer months and reduce the risk of matting in their fur.

6. Pedigree cats are more popular in the US

When it comes to cat breeds, the US leans more towards pedigrees than the UK. There’s various reasons for this, such as cat shows and competitions, and cat owners caring more about the breed.

In fact, it is a well known fact that some cat owners in the UK don’t actually know the breed of their cat. Whether adopted from a shelter or chosen based on appearance, the breed often takes a back seat to the joy of having a beloved pet.

7. There are two types of shelters in the US

In the UK, there are rehoming organisations and local authority shelters, while in the US, there are open admission shelters and limited admission shelters. The main difference is that UK shelters are more likely to be no-kill shelters, while US shelters are more likely to be kill shelters.

A recent study found that on average, 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanised each year in the United States. 860,000 of which are cats, leading to 45% of all cats that enter shelters eventually being euthanised.

american cat in a shelter

8. Pet insurance is more costly in the states

Pet insurance is less common in the US than in the UK, and the US system is more complex. Veterinary treatment is less expensive in the US, but pet insurance payouts only cover a percentage of the cost, leaving pet owners with a significant chunk of money to pay. 

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

9. There are MANY more cats in the US

When it comes to the feline population, the United States has a purr-fectly larger number of cats compared to the UK. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the US boasts an estimated 58 million domestic cats, outnumbering the human population in many states. 

In contrast, the UK, while still a nation of cat lovers, has a more modest feline presence, with approximately 10.8 million pet cats. So, it’s safe to say that across the pond, they’ve got a few more whiskers and purrs per capita.

10. Americans like to dress up their cats

There is a noticeable trend among cat owners to dress up their feline companions in the states. In fact, 15% of cat owners in the US have dressed their cat at least once. Especially for special occasions such as Halloween.

This fad of playing dress up is down to a few reasons. There’s a growing interest in cat fashion shows and competitions, which are exactly what they sound like. Not to mention, celebrities love to put their pets in cute outfits for social media, which has no doubt helped to popularise the trend.

american cat in a costume

11. Emotional support cats are more of a thing in the US

In America, emotional support cats are a notable phenomenon, it’s not uncommon to see a documented cat for people with anxiety.

On the UK side, while Brits cherish their feline friends, the use of cats for formal emotional support appears less prevalent, with fewer documented instances compared to the US.

12. Microchipping is standard practice in the UK

When it comes to keeping tabs on our furry pals, microchipping is a bit of a different story when comparing the UK to the US. In the UK, it’s like a high-tech name tag for cats, with it being estimated that around 71% of all cats are microchipped. 

However, in the US, while microchipping is still a common practice, it’s not as popular. A study from Lost Pet Research and Recovery found only 15% of missing cats had been microchipped when located.

13. It’s more common to feed your cat wet food in the UK

A cat’s diet consists of high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and carbohydrates. Not to mention an assortment of vitamins and nutrients to remain in peak condition. This can be achieved through either wet or dry food, with both having benefits.

With that being said, it’s more common to see cat owners feeding wet food over dry food. And in America dry cat food is more frequently seen and sold.

american cat eating dry food

14. Spaying and neutering is more common in the UK

In the UK, spaying and neutering for cats is almost routine, with around 85% undergoing these procedures. Meanwhile in the US, the percentage of neutered cats is slightly lower at 80%.

The slightly lower rate of cat neutering in the US compared to the UK can be attributed to cultural differences, variations in access to veterinary services, the influence of animal welfare organisations, and divergent population control practices.

Final Thoughts from UK vs. USA

There are a fair few differences between owning a cat in the UK and US, like keeping them indoors, declawing and pet insurance. But one thing remains the same, the love we share for our furry friends.

If you require any more information about veterinary care, diet or adopting, it is best to consult with a licensed professional such as a vet.

Cat Ownership (UK vs. US) FAQ:

Can you take a cat from the UK to the USA?

Yes, you can take a cat from the UK to the USA. However, it requires compliance with specific regulations, including microchipping, rabies vaccination, and obtaining the necessary health certificate.

Why are cats so popular in the UK?

Cats are popular in the UK for various reasons, including their adaptability to indoor living, companionship, and their historical association with symbols like the “British Shorthair.”

Why are cats allowed to roam free in the UK?

Cats are often allowed to roam free in the UK due to cultural norms, the perception that cats are independent and can handle outdoor life, and the lower prevalence of natural predators compared to some other regions. 

Additionally, the layout of many UK neighbourhoods, with less traffic and more open spaces, contributes to a more relaxed attitude toward outdoor cat roaming.


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