The number of cats stolen in the UK jumped by 40% in two years, a new study has revealed.
Direct Line Pet Insurance conducted research that showed 261 cats were reported stolen in 2016, up from 181 in 2014.
The highest number of thefts took place in Greater London where 48 were recorded, followed by Kent and West Yorkshire, which had 26 and 24 thefts respectively.
The data, which Direct Line collected from UK police forces, showed that less than a fifth (18%) of stolen cats were recovered by officers.
However, additional research demonstrated the true number of cat thefts could be much higher, with as many as 360,000 adults believing that a cat was stolen from their care in the past 12 months.
Of these, over half (55%) said the animal was ultimately returned to them, either due to being found by another person (12%), or through microchip identification (10%).
In contrast to other recorded animal thefts, only around a quarter of police forces recorded the breed of cats stolen, compared with 68% of forces which noted the breed of stolen dogs.
Of the breeds recorded, the Bengal (nine) and Domestic shorthair (nine) were taken most frequently, followed by the Russian Blue (five) and Siamese (five).
The distinctive characteristics of Bengals, Russian Blues and Siamese pedigrees means kittens can fetch more than £350, making them prime targets for potential thieves.
Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, Prit Powar, said: “If an owner believes their cat is missing, they should first check the immediate vicinity such as in neighbouring gardens or garages as well as asking local people if they have seen it.
“If their cat is still missing, owners should contact their local animal warden.”
Mr Powar also urged cat owners to “make it as difficult for would-be thieves as possible” by keeping their details on a microchip database, advertising when the animal is neutered, and quickly spreading the news of a suspected theft.