Pilkington was born in Manchester, England. She attended the Art Foundation course at the North Chester College of Art in Northwich, then went on to study sculpture at the Edinburgh College of Art from 1986. She graduated in 1991, with first-class honours, and in the same year was awarded the first John Watson Prize for Art. She also taught in America and India in 1989–1990. She exhibited with the Bruton Gallery in Bath from 1992, and was part of the first Royal West of England Academy Open Sculpture Exhibition in 1993.
In 1999, the sculpture Bill and Bob, depicting two Jack Russell terriers swimming in a pool, was installed in Millennium Square in Bristol. This was Pilkington's first commission for a public space, and it is executed with the dogs rendered in painted bronze in a pool of vivid blue rubber flush with the square's paving.
Pilkington's "amusing and ambiguously sentimental sculptures" were included in the three-man show, 'Off the Leash', at the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield in 2003; the same year that her Homonculus, a miniature sculpture of a boy was displayed outside the then headquarters of The Economist. At the time she was based in London as a lecturer at Camberwell College of Arts. In 2012, she had an exhibition entitled The Value of the Paw at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London.
- 2019 Working From Home, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
- 2017 Life Room: Anatomy of a Doll, Royal Academy Schools, London
- 2017 The Life Rooms, Brighton University Gallery, lead visual artist at Brighton Festival
- 2017 Doll for Petra, Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft, Ditchling
- 2014 Thing-Soul, Marlborough Fine Art, London
- 2012 The Value of the Paw, V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London
- 2010 Peaceable Kingdom, Marlborough Fine Art, London
- 2009 Toby Jugs and other works, Space Station 65, London
- 2007 White Elephant, Marlborough Fine Art, London
- 2005 Garden, Program, London
- 2004 I’m a Winner! The Apartment, Athens
- 2004 Curio, Space Station 65, London
- 2003 Homunculus, The Economist Plaza, London
- 2000 Short Stories, Galway Arts Centre, Ireland
- 1998 Viva Chihuahua! Prema, Uley, Gloucestershire
- 1991 John Watson Prize, Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
- 2015 Thirteen Blackbirds Looked at a Man, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
- 2012 Never Promised Pound Land, No Format Gallery, Woolwich, London
- 2010 Bedizzened, APT London
- 2008 That’s Entertainment, Whitstable Biennale, Kent
- 2008 Arque Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal
- 2007 The Craft, Transition Gallery, London
- 2006 The Craft, The Metropole Gallery, Folkstone
- 2005 Engerland! OneOtwo, The Tea Buildings, London
- 2003 Emporium, Domo Baal, London
- 2003 Off the Leash, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield
- 2001 For the Love of Dog, Battersea Pumphouse Gallery
- 2001 Auras and Avatars, The First Public School, Hydra, Greece
- 1999 Rover, Manchester City Art Gallery
- 1999 Medway Open, Rochester Art Gallery
- 1998 False Economy, Gasworks. London
- 1998 Viva Chihuahua! The Tannery, London
- 2014 Elected Royal Academician, Royal Academy of Arts, London
- 2016 Appointed Professor of Sculpture, Royal Academy Schools, London
- 2014 Sunny Dupree Award, Royal Academy of Art, London
- 1997 Fine Art Fellowship, Cheltenham
- "Cathie Pilkington RA". Royal Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on 8 November 2018. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
- Buckman, D. (2006). Artists in Britain since 1945, Volume 2: M–Z. Art Dictionaries Ltd. ISBN 095326095-X.
- "Bill and Bob". Art and the Public Realm Bristol. Archived from the original on 8 November 2018. Retrieved 8 November 2018.