A groundbreaking new report from the PDSA has been making waves in the pet world. The PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report (PAWS) is the first comprehensive measure of the happiness and wellbeing of companion animals in the UK.
The report focuses on dogs, cats and rabbits and uncovers some worrying misconceptions among UK pet owners about what is best for their pets.
The report focuses on the five key welfare requirements for all animals as laid out in the 2006 UK Animal Welfare Act:
- Environment – The need for a suitable environment (place to live)
- Diet – The need for a suitable diet
- Behaviour – The need to express normal behaviour
- Companionship – The need to live with, or apart, from other animals
- Health – The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Of all three pets looked at, rabbits had some of the lowest scores in terms of their welfare needs being met. Rabbits are highly social animals and thrive on the company of fellow rabbits yet 67% are kept in a hutch or cage on their own. Finding a suitable, neutered companion for your pet rabbit will greatly improve his or her quality of life.
Many UK rabbits are not given enough opportunities to exercise in a large run or play with toys for mental stimulation. Diet was also a concern as the report discovered that 42% of rabbits were not eating enough hay or grass, a vital part of a rabbit’s diet and important for good dental and digestive health.
The findings among cat owners revealed some equally worrying statistics. Being solitary creatures, cats often find it stressful when a strange cat is introduced into a household, particularly when there are not enough resources to go around. 34% of owners provided less litter trays than the number of cats in a household. The PDSA recommends that multi-cat households provide at least one litter tray, water bowl and food bowl for each cat so the individual cats can choose not to run into their feline housemates if they wish.
Large numbers of UK cat owners are also neglecting the health needs of their pets; 21% of cats have never been wormed and 28% have never been vaccinated against common feline diseases. 54% of cats are not microchipped, a simple and inexpensive procedure which greatly increases the chances of finding your cat should he or she ever stray too far from home.
UK dogs were found to be suffering from a lack of companionship, with 23% of owners believing it is acceptable to leave their dog home alone for 5 or more hours in a typical day. (PDSA recommends not leaving your dog for more than 4 hours a day on a regular basis).
Long hours alone can lead to stress and boredom and can result in separation anxiety and unwanted behaviours such as house soiling, barking and destructive chewing.
34% of dogs in the UK (2.8 million) are not neutered, a large and worrying percentage when you think of how many unwanted dogs and puppies end up in rescue centres each year.
Many owners decide on their pet’s ration using ‘common sense’ rather than calculating the exact amount according to their pet’s weight and build. Over 50% of cats were recorded as overweight or obese. PDSA stress the importance of playing with your pet and offering opportunities for exercise.
Animals can’t speak for themselves. They can’t tell us when something hurts or if they are feeling stressed out. It’s up to us to understand how our animals tick.
Knowing the key welfare needs of your pet and being pro-active in meeting them will help minimise the risks of developing health problems and negative behaviours. Happy, healthy, well balanced pets are a pleasure to live with and far less likely to end up in rescue shelters.
Read the report now and find out how you can improve your pet’s well-being today!