York Cat Trail: Why There Are Cats in York and How You Can See Them

Last Updated on 21/07/2022

If you are looking for fun and different things to do in York, you should try the York Cat Trail on your next visit. This self-guided tour takes you through the streets of the city to locate 22 historic feline friends. This guide covers everything you need to know about the York Cat Trail before you go.

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What is the York cat trail?

York has become closely associated with this furry friend. Many of the buildings and rooftops in York are adorned with cat statues. The York Cat Trail is a self-guided walk that you can follow to spot all of York’s feline residents.

You can pick up a flyer in many local York stores or download one online. Then get ready to visit York and walk some of the most famous streets in the city to try and spot the cats of York.

York Cat Trail

Why are there cat statues in York?

It is believed that statues of cats have been placed on buildings in York for around two centuries. The oldest ones are thought to date from the earliest 19th century. The two cats in Low Ousegate were added to the building by owner Sir Stephen Aitcheson around 1820.

The origin of the cats is not known, although some people claim that the cats were added to buildings to scare away rats who carry plague and other illnesses. Other, more mundane options have also been proposed, such as attracting visitors into stores or simply to entertain children.

Whatever their origin, the cats in York are certainly entertaining visitors today!

York Cat Trail

How many cat statues are there in york?

The full trail has 22 cat statues for you to find throughout the city. Most of them are positioned high up on buildings or rooftops, so make sure you look up! Some cats are easier to spot than others so you will have to keep your eyes open and hunt around for some cleverly disguised ones.

How long does the York cat trail take?

If you pick up the flyer from York Glass, you have two options when it comes to the York cat trail. The first eight cats make up what is known as the ‘pedestrian friendly cat trail’. This route is a short, leisurely stroll that will take you approximately 30 minutes – more if you want to browse shops along the way!

The full route has 22 cats to find, and is still pedestrian friendly, it will just take you longer to complete. At a gentle pace, it will take you about two hours to find all 22 cats on the York cat trail.

How long is the York cat trail?

The shorter route to see the first eight cats is about half a mile (0.8k). If you want to see all 22 cats, the route is around 2.5 miles (4km).

Both routes follow pavements so are easy to negotiate. There are some steps on the route to the Low Ousegate bridge over the river but if you wanted to avoid the steps, you could follow the footpath on King Street and rejoin further up Low Ousegate without missing any of the cat statues.

Where can I get a York cat trail guide?

Many of the local stores stock copies of the York Cat Trail map. It is possible to download versions of the map online, however, I strongly recommend you pick one up in person to make sure you have the most up to date version.

York Cat Trail is predominently promoted by two stores, York Glass (34 Shambles, York, YO1 7LX) and The Cat Gallery ( 45 Low Petergate, York,YO1 7HT).

Both stores are home to cats on the trail, and each has their own version of the Cat Trail map. If you pick it up from one of these stores, the map they provide will use that store as your starting point.

We used the York Glass version of the map and started our trail in the Shambles. Due to the location of The Cat Gallery, I don’t believe their version of the map includes the optional shorter pedestrian route.

York Glass cats

Wherever you start the route, you should definitely pop in to York Glass in the Shambles when you pass by. York Glass has become closely associated with cats due to their production of York Glass cats. These cats are hand crafted in the 12 birthstone colours and are said to bring good luck.

If you can’t visit York in person right now, you can still buy your own lucky cat online.

York Cat Trail - York Glass Cats

York cat shop – The Cat Gallery

If you are a cat lover or have a cat lover in your life, you need to stop by The Cat Gallery, the famous York cat shop. In this shop you will find an expansive collection of quirky gifts, homewares, games and more that are all cat themed. You can obviously pick up a treat for your own feline friend too!

York Cat Trail - The Cat Gallery

Why I love York Cat Trail

I think York Cat Trail is a great way to explore the city. As a cat lover, I’m biased, but whether you’re a fan of cats or not, everyone can have fun searching for the cats on this unique treasure hunt.

No matter how many times you have visited the city, you won’t have spotted all of these cats. In fact, you’ll be surprised you haven’t seen them before! I used a photo of The Golden Fleece pub in my York Bucket List post and never even spotted the cat who lives there! Go check the photo if you don’t believe me!

Also, the York Cat Trail is completely free! What’s not to love?

So, if you’re looking for a unique tour of York or a fun family activity in the city, I would strongly recommend you try out the York Cat Trail.

Other York walking trails

There are a number of York walking tours around the city. Depending on what you are looking for, there are several themed walks to choose from. You also have guided and non-guided options.

Here are some of my favourite York walking tours:

Ghost Walk

York claims to be the most haunted city in the UK. And with such a long and turbulent history, it is unsurprising. If you want to learn more about York’s resident ghosts, you can join an evening ghost walk and visit some of York’s most haunted locations.

Treasure Hunt York

This is a city tour with a difference. Rather than simply following a guide or reading an information leaflet, Treasure Hunt York is an interactive adventure that takes you to some of York’s top sights to seek answers to clues. Check out my review here to get an exclusive discount code.

Snickelways of York

Snickelways is a term synonymous with York. The term was coined as a combination of a ‘snicket,’ ‘ginnel,’ and ‘alleyway’, which are all popular terms for a narrow footpath between buildings.

You can experience the hidden world of York’s Snickelways through the book A Walk around the Snickelways of York. This beautiful guide is hand illustrated with 85 maps and sketches so that you can discover the history of these hidden passageways.

Snickelways of York

Other York Tours

Other things to do when visiting York

If you love to unearth the hidden side of the city and you want to explore more trails in York, why not try one of these other options on your visit:

  • If you loved cryptic puzzles, you’ll enjoy Treasure Hunt York. This is an interactive hunt where you search for clues and test your wits to see if you can join the pirate crew.
  • The Secret City York is another great interactive trail. Solve the clues and watch a real-life historic event unfold before your eyes!
  • Explore the magical side of York on this Harry Potter themed tour.
  • If you are travelling with young kids, Wizard Walk of York is a fun trail full of magic and games. No spooky stories on this one! Ideal for children between the ages of 5-10.
  • Have you strolled down York’s secret streets? Discover the Snickelways of York and see what you’ve been missing!
  • If you’re planning a winter visit, make sure you don’t miss York Ice Trail, a magical two-day ice trail through the city.
  • See the sights with the convenience of a hop on hop off bus tour.
  • Discover the creepy side of York on this Witches and History Old Town walking tour.

Planning your trip to York

If you are planning a visit and are looking for things to do in York, here are some resources to help you out.

You can discover my 13 favourite things to do in York in my York bucket list. This guide includes a whole range of activities including museums, historic sites and more. You can read it now to discover enough activities to fill at least three days in York!

And, if you are planning a romantic weekend getaway to York, check out these romantic things to do in York for couples here.

Where to stay in York

Find a great deal on your accommodation on booking.com. I have stayed in and personally recommend Middletons Hotel. However, York is full of incredible accommodation options, so you’re sure to find the perfect place for your stay.


Before you go

So, if you’re ready to track down York’s feline friends on the York Cat Trail, be sure to bookmark this page or pin it using the pin below so you can revisit this guide!

Until our next adventure,

You might also like…

P.S. Love it? Pin it!

If you like this guide to the York Cat Trail, be sure to follow Get Lost on Pinterest. That’s where I’ll be sharing all of my great North Yorkshire travel guides.

64 thoughts on “York Cat Trail: Why There Are Cats in York and How You Can See Them”

  1. Hi Hannah,
    I totally loved this very interesting blog on York cat trails. Was fascinated by the entire trail is dotted with cat statues and the historical significance to it!
    Look forward to visiting it!

    • York Cat Trail is such a fascinating route and a great way to see more of the city! I definitely recommend it when you’re in the area. I hope you get an opportunity to track down the cats of York soon!

    • The York Cat Trail is such a hidden gem in the city! I only discovered it just before lockdown! I hope you get an opportunity to visit soon to track down the cats!

    • As a fellow cat lover, I completely agree that it is a wonderful way to explore York! We had so much fun seeking out all of the cats on the York Cat Trail!

  2. Oh wow, I’ve been to York before but I’ve never heard of this Cat Trail before. I’m planning on returning because I want to do the treasure hunt trail, but now I have to do this one too. Thanks for sharing these trails, they definitely make exploring a new place more fun.

    • Both the York Cat Trail and the Treasure Hunt York trail are really fun! We actually did both of them on the same day and it’s such a fun way to see the city! I hope you get to visit soon to try them both out! Thanks for reading!

    • The cats are so cute, aren’t they? It is fun walking around the city and spotting them! I hope you get an opportunity to visit and track down the cats soon!

    • Tracking down the cats on the York Cat Trail was fun! I’m surprised I’ve never noticed them before when I’ve been walking around the city! Thanks for reading!

  3. This sounds like such a lovely way to get to know the city! The cat statues on the buildings would be my favorites, it would be so much fun looking for them while exploring York. 🙂

    • It was fund tracking down all of the cat statues on the York Cat Trail. Some of them were pretty sneaky and were difficult to spot without some serious hunting around! It’s a great day out and well worth doing when you are next in York!

    • The York Cat Trail is such a fun and unique way to explore the city! I definitely recommend it when you next find yourself there!

  4. Oh my goodness! I LOVE cats and I LOVE York. Two of my favourite things. Oh and I love walking so all in all bascially how have I not done this when I have been to York?! Saving this for my next visit!

    • Ah it’s such a great combination, isn’t it? I don’t know how I’d always missed it when we visited York either! It’s well worth doing when you next find yourself in York!

    • I agree! It’s one of those little things that you wouldn’t really notice if you just walked by, but the cats on the York Cat Trail are so much fun to discover when you know about them!

    • It’s great that it has evolved over the years, isn’t it? It’s one of those little details that is really special to the city. I’m so glad that visitors can celebrate the cats of York and track them all down on the York Cat Trail!

  5. I love York, and it’s unique things like this that just make it even more of a fun place to visit. Great guide, and such a fun activity for a trip. I love the not so obvious ones, like if you really weren’t looking up you might not see them

    • York has so many wonderful, unique things to do, doesn’t it? It is such an interesting city! There are definitely a lot of cats on the trail that I would never have spotted if we hadn’t been looking for them. We got some interesting looks from people passing by while we were busy scouring the tops of the buildings! Everyone who walked past us started looking up! Some of them were trickier to spot than we thought!

  6. This is such a unique trail – looking for cat statues! I would love to look up that gallery and buy a glass cat or other cat themed novelty. The snickelways trail is also interesting. Bookmarking your blog for future reference.:-)

    • The cat souvenirs are such a great way to commemorate a trip to York! I actually just ordered myself a lucky cat as I regretted not buying one when we were there! I’m keen to go back to York to do the Snickelways trail as unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do that one when we were last there.

  7. What a fantastic activity… the fun of a treasure hunt, and the advantage of exercising on a short, enjoyable walk. Imagine, a practice that’s survived two centuries!

    • It is a great idea, isn’t it? I love walking tours to discover more about the cities that I visit, especially self-guided ones. You always see so much more when you explore on foot and, like you said, you get the added bonus of a little workout too!

  8. I’ve been to York so many times and I had no idea that there were cat statues lurking around! I’ll be on the look out for them next time though!

    • I know what you mean! I must have walked by them hundreds of times without even noticing! Following the trail and tracking them all down is so much fun! I hope you get a chance to find them all!

  9. I’ve just booked a trip to York for the summer so this is the perfect time to see this post. I love quirky things like this so I may have to chase down these cats. Thanks for sharing, I had no idea they existed! 🙂

    • Ah what great timing! I hope you have a wonderful time in York and get an opportunity to track down the cats!

  10. This is so cool! I’ve never heard of the York Cat Trail. What a unique experience. My kids would love walking and trying to find all the cats!

    • We had so much fun tracking down the cats on the York cat trail! Some of them were surprisingly tricky to find! Kids would definitely love it!

    • It’s crazy, isn’t it? I must have walked by the cats hundreds of times and never even noticed! It’s such a fun way to discover York. Thanks for reading!

  11. I love this! Quirky and charming at the same time. What a great way to walk around York and see the streets and people. Thank you for sharing. I will have to remember to put this on my list for when I can get back to Europe.

    • The York Cat Trail is a great way to explore York! Especially if you’re looking for something a bit different. You still get to see the sights on route, but have the added fun of tracking down the cats! I hope you’re able to visit soon to try it out!

  12. This is so cool! I love doing tours like this where I have things to find to keep me walking around to all sorts of streets I might have missed otherwise 🙂

    • The York Cat Trail is such a fun tour! And we saw lots of popular sights along the way too! I definitely recommend giving it a go when you’re next in York!

  13. Big fan of our feline friends here. Can someone tell me – I feel like the Brits have a special connection to cats. Am I imagining that or is there a history there?

    • Ah, yes! Hello fellow cat lover! I’ve never thought about the Brits connection to cats but maybe you are onto something, they’re very popular here! I bet there is an interesting history here! I wonder if it is because we’re such a small, seafaring island? I know they were often kept on ships to get rid of rats. I imagine almost everyone in the UK has some sailors in their family tree (I know I do!) Maybe we grew attached to them? It would be so interesting to find out!

    • The cat trail is such a fun tour! What a shame you’re allergic to cats! At least you’ll be safe with these ones!

    • Haha! No wonder York is such a spooky city – black cats and ghosts! I hadn’t even made the connection! I love all things spooky though, that’s probably why I love York so much!

    • It is a lovely trail and a fun way to see York. Some of the cats were deceptively hard to spot! It makes for a great day out!

  14. Squeee Hannah you find the best trails! I LOVE this idea…it would make it even more fun to wander around this lovely city! I really like the kitties that look like they are climbing up the walls. I wonder if real cats get worried about them!?

    • The York Cat Trail is a good one, isn’t it? It’s ideal for me as a cat lover! It is a fun way to see York! We encountered some real cats on the trail, and they didn’t seem to be fussed about them. In fact, they were busy having a snooze! The poor residents would have had the shock of their lives if they had discovered us peering in through their window to admire their cats!

  15. How interesting! I had no idea that York was associated with cats. York is such a gorgeous city. I look forward to not only trying the cat trail, but the ghost tours and the brilliantly named snickelways on my next visit!

    • I had no idea either until the last few years! I must have walked by those cats hundreds of times and never even noticed! It’s such a unique way to see York! I love the York ghost tours but was gutted that we ran out of time to do the snickelways trail. I’m definitely doing that one on my next visit!

  16. I love this & didn’t know that York had such an association with cats! Next time I’m there I’ll definitely take this walk. Love the sound of the snickelways one too – great way to explore the city.

    • I know, right?? I must have visited the city hundreds of times in the past and never even noticed the cats before! It is a fun and unique way to explore York. I was gutted we ran out of time to do the snicklways trail, I’m definitely doing that one on my next visit!

    • It’s such a fun idea, isn’t it? We had loads of fun exploring York and tracking all of the cats down! It’s definitely a unique way to see York!

    • Thanks so much Diana! I love the York Cat Trail, it is such a fun activity to spot them all on a visit!

  17. There are also cats statues in Malmö, most near a staircase along the city canal. The tour guide mentioned they’ve been installed there as people take lunch breaks on the stairs and then they have a “companion” and won’t feel alone.

    Carolin | Solo Travel Story

    • This is such an adorable idea! Cats make the best companions! I’ll be sure to enjoy my lunch with them if I ever visit Malmö! Thanks for the tip!


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