Cats are the most popular pets in Europe. According to data from the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF), about 26% of EU households own at least one cat, while only 18% of the households own at least one dog. In total, there are approximately 74.4 million cats in the EU compared to just 66.4 million dogs. Germany and France have by far the highest number of cats in the EU, with 14.5 million and 13.5 million cats, respectively. Other countries with a huge cat population include the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria.
Pets play a significant role in German society. They are seen to provide balance in the lives of people with hectic and career-focused lives. In some instances, they are viewed as taking the place of a partner or a child. They also help enhance their owner’s wellbeing and quality of life. At least 23% of all German households own a cat. The cat population on record, however, does not include strays whose population could be as high as two million. The stray cat population has become a matter of public concern, and experts have begun advocating the neutering of all stray cats as a means of controlling the population. Appeals have also been made to the federal ministry of agriculture to initiate a debate on the situation. Several small towns have begun adopting the idea of compulsory neutering of stray cats. Some campaigners, including birdwatchers, have suggested that stringent measures should be taken on cat owners for harming biodiversity since cats are responsible for killing about 100 million birds annually.
There are 13.5 million cats in French homes. The number of cats in the country has been increasing since 2006 when the cat population was just 10 million. All types of pets, including cats, are protected under French law. There are also rules on the maintenance of pets, including regular vaccination and microchipping. Cat owners are, however, less likely to follow the rules on microchipping compared to dog owners. As a result, a lot of cats end up lost. As a foreigner, it is recommended that one follows all the rules and regulations on keeping a pet.
About 22% of all households in the UK own at least one cat. Currently, there are about 7.5 million cats in the UK. Some of the common breeds in the UK include the Bengal cat, British shorthair, Persian cats, Siamese cat, Ragdoll, Maine Coon, Oriental Cat, and the Burmese cat. The most popular type of cat, however, is the non-pedigree. According to a recent survey conducted by IAMS UK, a pet food company found that at least 55% of cat owners in the UK keep a non-pedigree cat as a pet. The study also found that 46% of British cat owners buy gifts for their cats, while 20% treat their cats with a present every month.
Italy is home to 7.5 million cats. In Rome, lovable cats can be found living in ancient monuments around the city. It is estimated that there are about 2,000 colonies in the city that have up to 300,000 cats. The cats have lived in the region for ages and have become an essential part of the town. Rome’s city council recently classified them as the Bio-Heritage of Rome and are now actively protected. The city is also home to Torre Argentina, a large cat sanctuary that takes care of abandoned cats. Currently, the ancient square where Julius Caesar was murdered is not accessible to anyone except a colony of stray cats and volunteers who operate the sanctuary at the south-west corner.
Poland is considered a cat-friendly nation. The country is currently home to about 6.4 million cats. Cats are allowed into various places, including some cafes and bookstores. People who prefer having a hot beverage and some desserts in the company of cats have the option of visiting cat cafes. In one such café, the Miau café situated in Warsaw, guests enjoy lemonade and play with the cats that live there. Other cat cafes can be found in Lublin and Krakow. Anyone moving to Poland with their cat is expected to microchip and vaccinate their cats against diseases such as rabies. A health certificate is also required when one does not have an EU pet passport.
Romania has the second-highest per-capita cat ownership in the EU after Hungary. The country is currently home to about 4.3 million cats. Romanians like having companion animals in their homes. According to a recent online survey, nearly half of the people who live in urban areas have cats.
Spain has 3.15 million cats. Spaniards generally love the company of companion animals. In the Spanish town of Trigueros del Valle, pets or “non-human residents” are accorded equal rights to co-exist alongside their human counterparts. A growing number of people are, however, expressing concern over the large population of feral cats in the country. Residents in areas that have large cat colonies have complained that they are a health risk. The city of Madrid recently introduced the “zero-sacrifice” law, a humane legislative measure that banned the practice of putting down street cats that were deemed a nuisance. Today the stray cat population is controlled through trapping and neutering. Street cats are also dewormed to ensure they are healthy. Residents also do not get upset over disturbance caused by fights between males or females on heat.
There are cats in just about every street in the Netherlands. The cat population in the country is 2.6 million, which means that the ratio of cats to humans is one to six. Cats hold a special place in the hearts of the Dutch. Some places have a special focus on cats, including the De Kattenkabinet, a museum that is dedicated to cats and a canal boat that serves as a cat shelter. Almost all Dutch cities have cat cafes where one can enjoy coffee surrounded by cats rehomed from a shelter.
Cats have an interesting and unsettling history in Belgium. The town of Ypres was infamous for the cat throwing festival, a tradition that dates back to the 12th century. On every second day of lent, cats were rounded up and thrown off the city’s bell tower. “Cat Wednesday,” as it was popularly known, is probably the darkest page of the city’s feline history. In another part of the country, namely Liege, cats had a more pleasant and exciting history. In 1876, the Belgium Society for the Elevation of the Domestic Cat trained 37 cats to deliver mail in the city of Liege. Initial trials were successful, but the idea did not take off. Today, there are about 2.05 million cats in Belgium. They are treasured companions for a significant number of people in the country. The country recently passed laws requiring that cats should be sterilized to help control the stray cat population.
Austria is home to 2.03 million cats. Austrians love cats, and the country is generally considered cat-friendly.
Cat Welfare In The EU
Since 1974, the EU has progressively passed legislation on animal welfare. The welfare of pets, including cats, is covered under the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. Currently, there is little EU legislation that protects cats and dogs from commercial practices. Member states have varying levels of legislation on the matter, which leaves considerable room for those looking to violate animal rights. Some pet owners have been calling for more robust laws that better protect companion animals. Those championing the cause believe that there should be more comprehensive and harmonized laws across all EU member states.