SECTION 1: THE NEED FOR A SUITABLE ENVIRONMENT
1.1. This section offers guidance on providing your cat with a suitable place to live.
Sleeping and resting areas
You should make sure that your cat has the opportunity to sleep in a comfortable, dry place
1.2. Different cats will have different needs. Cats that are not very tame, such as some farm cats, may prefer to live outdoors in more basic shelter. Cats that are used to being inside are more likely to prefer the warmth and comfort of indoors.
1.3 Cats need:
- a sleeping/resting area that is comfortable, dry and draught free. In households where there are two or more cats there should be sufficient separate places for each cat to rest;
- areas to hide, such as an enclosed bed or a box, although some cats will prefer to hide under a chair or under a bed;
- opportunities to climb and jump, such as a simple 'platform' type bed or safe access to shelves and the tops of cupboards.
1.4. Part of providing a suitable environment is making sure that it is safe, clean and hygienic (see section 3 for more details).
Numbers of animals
1.5. If a lot of animals are kept together, this can contribute to a stressful and unhealthy environment. Large numbers of animals need a great deal of care and you should not keep a large number of cats if you cannot meet their welfare needs. If they are not kept in hygienic conditions the environment can become contaminated with infectious agents that can cause disease and may spread between animals (see sections 4 and 5 for more details).
Boredom and frustration
Your cat should have plenty of things to stimulate it mentally
1.6. Cats that are kept indoors or prefer this lifestyle rely on you to provide everything for them, including entertainment. You should ensure that your cat has enough mental stimulation from you and from its environment to avoid boredom and frustration. It is your responsibility to provide opportunities for your cat to satisfy all of its behavioural needs, such as play (hunting behaviours - see section 3) and companionship.
1.7. Some cats that are frustrated may begin to exhibit behavioural changes such as withdrawal, overeating, sleeping more and possibly aggression or over-grooming (see section 3 for more detail).
1.8. Cats usually avoid eating things that are harmful. There are some circumstances, however, where their natural behaviour or curiosity will lead them to eat things which may be poisonous to them. Some examples are when:
- indoor cats that do not have much to do, or inquisitive kittens, investigate potentially poisonous plants that they would normally ignore. Such plants should be avoided or placed where your cat cannot reach them. Make sure that any large plants are in a stable container that cannot be knocked over;
- your cat cleans poisonous substances from its fur. Because cats are meticulously clean animals that regularly groom, they will try to remove any substances that soil their coat. Therefore they are in danger of eating poisons such as paints, weedkillers, lily pollen etc. You should ensure that any potentially poisonous substances are stored safely and any spills mopped up carefully. You should clean any unknown or potentially dangerous substances off your cat's coat or feet using a mild liquid detergent, such as washing up liquid. The detergent should be well rinsed off, and the coat or feet dried thoroughly;
- eating medicines intended for people or other animals. It is important only to give cats medicine or veterinary treatment that has been specifically prescribed or advised by your vet.
You should always contact your vet if you are concerned that your cat has come into contact with anything that could be harmful.
1.9. Other possible hazards include:
- your cat exploring appliances that arouse its curiosity such as tumble driers;
- falling from heights. If you live in a tall building you should ensure that windows and balconies are cat-proofed to prevent your cat from falling. A cat can climb to quite a high level and can squeeze through a very small space, so you should check these barriers regularly.
Safety at night
1.10. You may wish to consider whether it would be safer to keep cats indoors at night, when outdoor risks to their health and welfare could be greater. However, cats can be active at night and restricting them in this way may cause them stress.
1.11. You may need to transport your cat by car or other vehicle. In this situation, your cat has no control over its environmental temperature, its food and where it sleeps so, when travelling:
- you should make sure that your cat is not able to move freely about by putting it in a secure cat carrier of adequate size and with good ventilation. Ideally hold the carrier firmly in place with a seat belt. If it is wedged between the seats or in the foot well of your car, it is important to ensure that there is adequate ventilation. You should also ensure that the carrier is not placed where your cat will become too hot, such as in direct sunlight or next to one of the car's heating vents. Do not put the carrier in the boot of a saloon car;
- on long journeys you should regularly offer food, water and the use of a litter tray, but only within the safe confines of the vehicle when it has stopped.
1.12. Cats should never be left unattended in a car or other vehicle in warm weather. This can be life threatening. The temperature in the vehicle can become very high extremely quickly and cause heat stroke or death.
When you are away from home
You must arrange for your cat to be cared for if you are away from home
1.13. You have a responsibility to make sure that your cat is cared for properly when you go away. Many cats prefer to stay in their familiar environment, but you should take into consideration how your cat will cope in your absence, how long you will be away and whether a neighbour or cat sitter will be able to meet your cat's needs. You must never leave your cat in circumstances which are likely to cause it unnecessary suffering.
1.14 When someone else is looking after your cat they are responsible for its welfare and you should ensure that they understand its needs and any special requirements that it may have.
1.15. You may wish to consider whether a good cattery would be better, where your cat can be monitored and cared for more closely by someone knowledgeable on how to look after it. All boarding catteries must be licensed by the local authority.