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.
An online survey investigating lifestyle factors and provision of environmental resources was distributed to Australian cat owners.
In total, 12,010 respondents, representing cat-owning households, completed the survey. Altogether, 45.5 per cent were single-cat households and 54.5 per cent were multi-cat households, with a mean number of two cats per household. In total, 46.3 per cent of households contained indoor cats, 51.8 per cent contained indoor-outdoor cats and 1.8 per cent had mostly outdoor cats. Dry food was the predominant food type in 59 per cent of households and few respondents fed their cats in a manner that stimulates natural predatory behaviours. Altogether, 17.1 per cent of households reported cats with urinary problems such as haematuria or urethral obstruction, and 19.8 per cent 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. The study is from The Cat Clinic Hobart, Hobart, Australia; Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK; Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Scotland’s Rural College, Edinburgh, UK; and Independent Feline Specialist Consultant, New South Wales, Australia.