DEFRA Code of practice for the welfare of cats in the UK
Presented to Parliament pursuant to section 15 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
One of MyPetYourPet responsibilities is to let every cat owner joining our community know about the health and safety standards for cats in the UK. This Code of Practice applies to all cats. It does not tell you precisely how to care for your cat but it does summarise important things you should know and what to do when making decisions about how best to care for your cat. If you are unsure about anything to do with the care and welfare of your cat, you should always seek advice from an expert such as a veterinary surgeon. You will also find reference within this Code to “other suitably qualified cat behaviourists or trainers”. A list of suitable organisations and places to find help are provided in paragraph 6 of this Code. You can find out more about the legislation relating to cats at www.defra.gov.uk
How to provide a suitable environment for your cat to live in.
What you should do:
- Provide your cat with a safe, comfortable, dry, draught-free, clean and quiet place where it can rest undisturbed. Ideally, there should be a range of such places available – the cat will choose where it is most comfortable.
- Take all reasonable steps to protect your cat from hazards indoors and outdoors.
- Make sure your cat has constant access to a variety of safe hiding places including elevated resting places, where it can feel safe.
- If your cat does not go outside, make sure it has plenty of activities to do and enough space to exercise, climb and play indoors.
- Your cat should be provided with a suitable toilet area, that is quiet, easily accessible and kept clean.
- Before you move your cat, you should gradually get it used to a secure cat carrier. Putting items which smell like the cat, for instance its blanket, in the carrier and any place you move your cat to can help it feel at ease.
- Any place where your cat is left must be large enough and comfortable with effective ventilation and temperature control so that your cat is able to move around to ensure its comfort, avoiding becoming too hot or too cold. Never leave your cat in an area where this is not possible such as a car on a warm day.
- Your cat should not be routinely kept in a cage.
- If you have any concerns about moving to a new home, or transporting your cat, you should consult a vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
How to provide suitable diet for your cat.
What you should do:
- Provide your cat with fresh clean drinking water at all times, preferably located away from their food source.
- Make sure your cat eats a balanced diet suitable for their individual needs.
- If you are uncertain of the diet your cat needs, take advice from your vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
- Read, and be guided by, the feeding instructions relating to any cat foods you buy. Adjust how much you feed your cat to make sure they do not become underweight or overweight.
- Feed your cat every day, and allow access to food several times a day, preferably splitting the daily ration into several small meals throughout the day, unless advised otherwise by your vet.
- Position your cat’s food and water well away from the litter tray, or things that they find frightening.
- Any changes to your cat’s diet should be made gradually.
- Be aware that any change in the amount your cat eats or drinks may be a sign of physical health or stress. If your cat’s eating or drinking habits changes consult your vet.
How to provide for your cat's natural behavioural needs.
What you should do:
- You should ensure your cat receives enough mental, social and physical stimulation to satisfy its individual behavioural needs.
- Provide your cat with safe toys and regular opportunities to play with friendly people and by itself.
- Ensure that your cat is able to rest undisturbed and has somewhere to hide when it wants to.
- Make sure your cat has opportunities to exercise each day to stay fit, happy and healthy. If your cat does not go outside, provide suitable indoor activities to keep it active such as high places to rest and toys.
- If you are unsure how much activity is right for your cat, take advice from your vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
- Provide your cat with somewhere to scratch, such as a sturdy scratching post.
- Make sure that your cat can reach all the things that it needs (e.g. bed, food, water, litter or outdoors) without having to get too close to things, people or other animals that may scare it. You should know how your cat behaves when fit, healthy and happy and be able to recognise and interpret your cat’s body language.
- Never shout at or punish your cat. It will not understand and will just become more nervous or scared. You should only use positive reward-based training, such as food, toys and praise and avoid harsh, potentially painful, training methods.
How to provide the right companionship for your cat.
What you should do:
- If your cat likes people, provide regular contact with them even when you are away.
- Before getting more cats, think carefully how your existing cats will respond to company. Check that you will be able to look after each animal properly and seek advice on the best way to introduce the new cat into the home.
- If you have cats that are not friends, make sure they have the opportunity to avoid each other and that they can access everything they need (e.g. food, water, outside space, litter tray, rest area) without having to pass one another too closely.
- Do not force your cat to interact with people or animals that they do not like, and make sure they can avoid them.
- If more than one cat shares a living space, provide sufficient extra resources (e.g. toys, beds, litter trays and hiding places) and give them enough space so that they can get away from one another if they want to.
- When you are away, make sure your cat is properly cared for by a responsible person. When someone else is looking after your cat he or she also has a legal responsibility to ensure their welfare and you should ensure that the person understands their needs and any special requirements that they may have.
- Never leave your cat unsupervised with another animal or person who may harm or frighten them.
- Ensure that cats in your care are handled properly and are not stressed or endangered by other adults, children or animals.
- Be consistent, kind and gentle in the way you, your family and friends, react to your cat.
- If you are concerned about your cat’s behaviour seek advice from your vet or suitably qualified cat behaviour expert.
How to keep your cat healthy and protect them from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
What you should do:
- Check your cat for signs of injury or illness regularly and make sure that someone else does this if you are away. You should examine your cat closely, including their coat, which should also be checked for parasites such as fleas.
- If you notice changes in your cat’s behaviour, you should contact your vet and follow the advice you are given.
- If you suspect that your cat is in pain, ill or injured contact a vet promptly and follow veterinary advice regarding their treatment.
- Try to minimise fear and stress in your cat’s daily life. By doing so you will decrease its risk of certain illnesses.
- You should take the advice of your vet on how often your cat needs a health check and about the things that you can do to protect your cat’s health including routine preventive health care, such as vaccination, neutering and treatments to control parasites (e.g. fleas and worms), as well as how to deal with any current health problems your cat may have. You should follow the advice you are given.
- Make sure that you groom your cat without causing distress if they need help with the care of their coat. If you are uncertain, ask your vet about grooming your cat and how often you should do this.
- Only use medicines and drugs that have been prescribed for your individual cat.
- Human products and medicines intended for other animals can be dangerous to cats and sometimes fatal. If you are unsure seek veterinary advice.
- Make sure your cat can be identified such as by microchipping and ensure any microchip details kept up to date. This will ensure that it can be treated quickly if injured when away from home, or returned to you if lost. Make sure any collars fit properly with a quick release mechanism and are not harmful. If using a microchip as a form of identification.
. Sources of further information.
- Your vet. You can contact the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to find details of vets in your area. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 2AF: www.rcvs.org.uk – the website has a “find a vet” facility. https://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/find-a-vet/
Websites such as: