PDSA Wellbeing of Cats survey report 2019 raises important concerns about responsible cat ownership

PDSA Wellbeing of Cats survey report 2019 raises important concerns about responsible cat ownership


The PDSA is one of the longest established and best-known animal charities in the UK, whose main role is to provide veterinary care for pets in need. The charity also works to educate the public about pet health, the importance of preventative healthcare and of course, responsible pet ownership.

Every year, the PDSA undertakes a large-scale survey of owners of companion animals like cats, dogs and rabbits, asking questions to identify potential gaps in knowledge, trends in pet ownership, how responsible and well informed the average pet owner is, and much more.

In this year’s report, the PAW PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report of 2019, the Wellbeing of Cats section of the survey raised some important concerns about the percentage of UK cat owners who are poorly informed about adequately providing for all of their cat’s needs.

This is what we will examine within this article, in a basic summary of the PDSA’s findings on the wellbeing of cats in the UK as of 2019, and the knowledge displayed about cats by the average cat owner. Read on to learn more.

How the report was complied

During January and February 2019, the PDSA surveyed 10,000 random members of the UK adult population in total, both those with pets and those without; this enabled them to calculate broadly what proportion of people in the UK own a pet, and the result was around 50%.

The 5,036 pet owners, keepers of cats, dogs and rabbits respectively, were then asked a number of additional questions specific to the care, welfare, management, legal implications, and general knowledge surrounding the species of pet they owned.

Several key areas of concern about the knowledge displayed by cat owners in the UK were identified as part of the Wellbeing of Cats part of the survey, which we’ll examine in more detail below.

Vaccinations and veterinary care

The Wellbeing of Cats report identified some concerning statistics about how many cats in the UK are vaccinated and up to date with their boosters, and how many are provided with preventative veterinary care.

Vaccinations should be administered to kittens as soon as they are old enough to receive them, and kept up to date with regular booster shots as needed throughout the cat’s life.

  • Only 61% of cats are given their appropriate vaccinations as a kitten. This means that two out of five cats in the UK are not given their essential first course of vaccinations when they should be.
  • After the initial vaccination course is given, just 59% of cats then receive their annual boosters reliably when they should.
  • 16% of cats in the UK, or 1.7 million of them, are not registered with a vet at all.

Feeding, weight and fitness

Feeding an appropriate diet and keeping your cat at a healthy weight can help to ensure that they live to old age and avoid a wide range of preventable health problems. However, not all cat owners in the UK are as conscientious about this as they should be.

56% of UK cat owners don’t know their cat’s current weight, nor the correct way to tell if their cat’s weight and build are healthy. A healthy build for a cat isn’t about numbers on the scale, as cats can be many different weights and sizes and still be within healthy norms, but about the cat’s body condition score.

32% of cat owners feed their cats either fish (like tuna and prawns) cooked meat, or leftover human food as the main part of the cat’s diet. None of these feeding styles provide the appropriate nutrition a cat needs, and can contribute to or even cause health problems, and shorten your cat’s life.

Multi-cat households and stress

Cats do not naturally seek out the company of their own kind like dogs do; they are, by nature, solitary animals that in the wild tend to only tolerate immediate family, other than when coming together to mate.

Living with another non-related cat can be stressful for cats, but the effect of this can be greatly lessened or even negated if the home is large enough, and sufficient resources are provided for all of the cats present.

  • 43% of the UK’s cats live with at least one other feline housemate.
  • Most multi-cat householders don’t provide sufficient resources for all of the cats present. In a multi-cat household, each cat should have its own bed, litter try, and food and water bowl, and other resources like toys and scratching posts too.
  • 67% of multi-cat homes have only one litter tray.
  • 86% of multi-cat homes don’t have enough food bowls.
  • 50% of multi-cat homes don’t have enough water bowls.
  • 47% of multi-cat homes don’t have enough beds.

Many cat owners would ideally like to change or curb some of their cat’s natural behaviours

The natural behaviours of cats aren’t always complementary to living with people; but when you choose to own an animal, you have to accept the need to respect their right to display their natural behaviours and not try to curb them, even if they inconvenience or displease you!

However, based on the survey’s findings, many cat owners would like to curb some of their cat’s natural behaviours nonetheless.

  • 26% of owners wanted to be able to stop their cats from scratching the furniture, and 23% from scratching the carpets. Cats need to scratch, and this is reflexive; by providing an appropriate range of scratching posts and toys for your cat, you might be able to allow them to exhibit such behaviour without sacrificing your things!
  • 14% of cat owners wished they were able to stop their cats from bringing in prey.
  • 17% of cat owners disliked their cats begging for food.
  • 17% of cat owners wished their cats kept different hours, and didn’t wake them up in the night!

If you want to find out more about how the average cat in the UK lives, identify potential gaps in your own knowledge, and get some pointers on how to make your cat’s life less stressful and more rewarding, check out the full Wellbeing of Cats section of the PDSA 2019 survey.

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