The environmental needs of many Australian pet cats are not being met

Gabrielle T. Lawson*, Fritha M. Langford, Andrea M. Harvey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate whether Australian cat owners are effectively meeting their cats’ environmental needs and to identify areas of deficiency that may have an impact on the cats’ health and welfare. Methods: An online survey investigating lifestyle factors and provision of environmental resources was distributed to Australian cat owners. Results: In total, 12,010 respondents, representing cat-owning households, completed the survey. Altogether, 45.5% were single-cat households and 54.5% were multi-cat households, with a mean number of two cats per household. In total, 46.3% of households contained indoor cats, 51.8% contained indoor–outdoor cats and 1.8% had mostly outdoor cats. Dry food was the predominant food type in 59% of households and few respondents fed their cats in a manner that stimulates natural predatory behaviours. Altogether, 17.1% of households reported cats with urinary problems such as haematuria or urethral obstruction, and 19.8% reported inappropriate urination outside of the litter tray. The incidence of urinary problems was found to be significantly increased in multi-cat households, those with a low number of litter trays, less frequent cleaning of the trays of faeces and the use of crystal type litter. The veterinary clinic was the most common place to obtain advice about feeding and toileting management. Conclusions and relevance: An increased number of Australian households now contain multiple cats that live restricted or indoor lifestyles. Despite the majority of respondents claiming to have a lot of knowledge about cats and obtaining veterinary advice, deficiencies were identified in toileting facilities and feeding practices, which raises significant welfare concerns. Urinary tract disorders are an important cause of morbidity, mortality and relinquishment and the presence was associated with inadequate toileting facilities. Ongoing education of cat owners and an increased effort by veterinarians to include basic husbandry in preventative care consultations is critical to improving the welfare of pet cats.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Early online date16 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 16 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Animal welfare
  • Australia
  • environmental enrichment
  • lifestyle
  • resources
  • survey
  • urinary problems

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