Keeping your cat happy and healthy
The five key welfare needs are:
- Environment — the need for a suitable environment and place to live
- Diet — the need for a suitable diet
- Behaviour — the need to express normal behaviour
- Companionship — the need to consider your pet’s social needs
- The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Welfare issues for cats
- Being forced to share — In multiple cat households, up to 58% of cats are stressed and aggressive because they don’t have their own litter trays, beds or food bowls.
- Wandering at large — 49% of cats are allowed to roam free when outdoors, risking shortened lifespans due to being hit by cars, injured in fights and contracting diseases such as feline AIDS.
- Obesity — Up to 40% of cats are overweight. Obesity can cause major health problems such as diabetes and can reduce quality of life and shorten lifespan.
- Inability to express natural behaviours — 50% of cats don’t have a scratching post and 11% don’t have toys or other objects to play with.
- Lack of preventative vet care — 29% of cats are not vaccinated against common diseases, 13% aren’t treated for fleas and 16% aren’t wormed.
- Lack of identification — 10% of owners have been unable to find their lost cats.
Top tips for cat owners
- Do you own more than one cat? Make sure each cat has its own food and water bowl, litter tray and cat bed (plus a spare set for the household). Space these out around the house to avoid competition between cats.
- Cats that are confined to your property live three times longer than those that are allowed to roam. Keeping your cat at home is easier than you think — you can buy or build cat enclosures or cat- proof fencing.
- With a few simple steps you can ensure your cat is just as happy when confined to your property
- Cats must have meat in their diet. Talk to your vet to ensure your cat is on the right diet for its age and lifestyle. Follow the feeding instructions on food packets.
- Learn about your cat’s ideal body shape — view the cat body condition score chart. If your cat is overweight, talk to your vet about weight loss options.
- Give your cat more opportunities for play and to express natural behaviours. Simple and cheap toys can be made from household items, including cardboard boxes and ping pong balls.
- Buy or make your cat a scratching post from sisal (a coarse natural fibre), carpet, cardboard or wood and encourage use by placing catnip on it.
- Check when you last treated your cat for fleas and worms. Get advice from your vet regarding suitable and safe treatments. Make sure your cat’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Register your cat with your local council. Find details of your local council. Identifying your cat through registration and microchipping greatly increases the odds of it being returned to you if it is lost.
- If you move to a new house, make sure you update your details with your local council and also with the microchip registry. You might also be surprised to learn about the wide range of activities that your cat registration fee funds.
Doing just one of these things today could make a big difference to your cat's life.
For further information into the welfare needs of cats, visit the caring for cats page.
Bennett, P.C., Mornement, K., & Howell, T. (2013). Pet-care practices in Victoria, 2013: a survey of bird, cat, dog and rabbit owners. Unpublished report, La Trobe University, Australia.