Your cat's 5 welfare needs

Calling all cat owners!  Are you familiar with your cat’s 5 welfare needs? The 2006 Animal Welfare Act states that anyone responsible for a pet must pay attention to five important aspects of care: Environment, Health, Company, Behaviour and Diet.

When you adopt or buy a new kitten or adult cat, he or she is totally reliant on you to provide a safe environment, a healthy diet, daily and emergency health care, companionship, training and outlets for natural behaviours. Read on to find out what each of these means for you as a cat owner.

ENVIRONMENT

Cats are private animals and require a separate area of their own. Provide a soft bed or a cat den which can be placed on top of a cupboard or a high platform on a cat tree if your cat feels safer on higher ground. Nervous cats will become stressed if  they do not have a safe bolt-hole to retreat to when the house gets busy. If you live in an apartment or by a busy road ensure that windows and balconies are made safe by installing a cat safety net. Secure your cat for car journeys, either in a carrier or using a harness.

HEALTH

A new cat should be registered with a local vet as soon as possible. Keep their number in your phone contacts list or in your wallet at all times. Regular check-ups are advisable, and more so for older cats.  Cats and kittens need to be vaccinated for several common illnesses.  A primary course of vaccinations should be followed up afterwards by ‘booster’ jabs to help maintain your cat’s immunity.

You should seriously consider neutering your cat as soon as they are old enough (usually around 5 -6 months).  Neutering often makes a cat more manageable in terms of temperament and of course you will be ruling out the possibility of unwanted litters. Thousands of unwanted cats are put to sleep across the UK each year thanks to careless breeding.

Fleas and internal worms can cause your cat a lot of health problems if left unchecked. Regular treatments with good quality flea and worming products will help keep them in great health.

Daily health care for your cat should include a dental routine (brushing regularly or providing dental treats).  Grooming is also important, especially for long-haired cats, and this activity can help you spot other issues such as a skin irritation or lumps on your cat’s body.

DIET

Your cat relies on you to provide a healthy diet which meets all their nutritional needs. Cats are true carnivores so require a high meat content in their food. Look for the word ‘complete’ when choosing a food as this means it has been prepared with the right amount of vitamins and minerals for all round health.  Follow packet guidelines and weigh out your cat’s food carefully to avoid your pet gaining weight.

Trickle feeding dispenser toys for treats or kibble are a great way to slow down greedy pets and make them exercise.

Try to avoid giving treats to your cat but if you do feed treats make sure they are low fat and that the main meal is adjusted to account for the extra calories.

Constant access to fresh water is just as important as a healthy diet.  A water fountain can encourage your cat to drink more and will help prevent a number of health problems.

BEHAVIOUR

Kittens need early socialisation around humans and other animals from a young age to ensure they grow up to accept all aspects of being a family house pet.

Cats have a strong natural desire to scratch certain surfaces in order to trim down and sharpen their claws. Providing your cat with a special cat tree or scratch pad will hopefully save your furniture, carpets and soft furnishings from bearing the brunt of this natural behaviour.

Another behaviour still seen in domestic cats is for hunting. Playing with dangler or chase toys can help stimulate these natural behaviours, helping your cat stay happy and well exercised.

COMPANY

Unless they are kept with a litter mate or their mother, cats generally prefer to be the only feline in the home. To rule out the possibility of spats over resources in a multi-cat household, it’s important to provide each of your cats with at least one litter tray, food bowl, water bowl and bed, located in different areas of the house. Most cats enjoy human company so set aside some time each day to play, groom and bond with your cat.

If you are going on holiday make arrangements for a responsible friend or family member to feed and check on your cat every day.  If this is not possible you can take your cat to a cattery or organise a pet sitter from www.dogsit.com

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