Welfare of cats: an introduction
This introduction to the welfare of cats gives advice on owning a cat. Find out about the five main well-being needs of cats as well as some things to consider if you are getting a cat or a kitten.
Needs of cats
Owning and caring for a cat can be a source of great enjoyment, but you should be aware that cat ownership is a major responsibility. Typically, cats live for about 14 years, but some live much longer. Therefore, you should think carefully about all factors that will affect your ability to care for a cat and whether owning a cat is suitable for you.
You will need to consider the size and location of your property and the financial and time implications of having a cat as a pet. Caring for a cat can be expensive and you should consider if you would be able to afford the cost of routine and unexpected veterinary treatment, or the cost of pet health insurance.
There isn't a single “perfect” way to care for all cats because every cat, and every situation, is different. It is up to you to find out what your cat’s exact needs are and how to meet them.
Five main well-being needs
You must take all reasonable steps to make sure that your cat:
- has a suitable environment
- has a suitable diet
- is able to show normal behaviour patterns
- is housed with, or apart from, other animals
- is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
You are always responsible for your cat’s needs. If you are a parent or guardian of a child under 16 years, you are responsible for any animal that child is in charge of or owns.
If you are unable to care for your cat at any time, you must make arrangements for another suitable person to look after it on your behalf. It is important to remember that you are responsible for making sure that your cat’s needs are met, even when you are away. The person with whom you leave your cat will also be legally responsible for your cat’s welfare in your absence.
If you own or are responsible for a cat, and fail to meet its welfare needs or cause it unnecessary suffering, you may be prosecuted.
Before getting a cat or kitten
There are some things you should consider if you are thinking of getting a cat or kitten.
Before getting a kitten or cat, speak to your local veterinary practice or rescue/ rehoming centre who will be able to advise you on whether getting a kitten or a cat is the right decision for your household.
Research before you buy or adopt. If you decide to adopt a kitten or cat, the adoption costs can include a full veterinary and behavioural assessment, microchipping, initial vaccinations, identification tag and a starter pack of food.
If possible, see a kitten with its mother and any litter and in the location it was born.
Never buy a kitten younger than eight weeks old. If it is over four months old, check if it has been neutered.
If you already have one or more cats think carefully before getting another.
Microchip your kitten or cat as this gives a safe and permanent method of identification.
A change of environment can leave a kitten or cat out of sorts so allow them some time to relax in their new environment.