Bengal cat
Visitors pat Sultan, a Bengal cat, during the 8th International Cat Show organised by the World Cat Federation in BangaloreMANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images

A new study from pet insuarnce providers Direct Line has shown a marked rise in the number of cats being stolen around the UK - one figure suggesting the increase has been as high as 40% in the last three years.

The data also shows another shocking statistic for pet lovers around the country. According to data from UK police forces, only 18% of the stolen cats are ever recovered.

In 2016, the research said that 261 cats were stolen around the UK - an increase on 2014 when just 181 cats were thought stolen. Other research highlighted by the company said that the number of cat thefts could in fact be higher, with as many as 360,000 adults believing that a cat in their care was stolen during the past year.

As some pedigree kittens can fetch a large price, the breed of cat seems to matter when analysing cat theft data - though whether there's enough of it is another question. Many police forces do not record the breed of cat involved in thefts though many more do record dog breed.

From the data available, Bengal cats seem to be the most sought after. Bengals are larger than normal domestic cats and have leopard-like markings from being bred to resemble big cats in wild.

Where you live could matter too, with most of the recorded thefts occurring in London, followed by Kent.

Prit Powar, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, 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."

Failing that, owners should contact a local animal warden, Powar said, and make sure to keep animals microchipped with the information up to date.