Where we stand...
There are many different challenges facing cats today, and part of our work at Cats Protection is to identify ways of achieving the best future for cats in a changing and potentially threatening world.
We have set out below some of our key positions as a charity on issues that affect cats today:
Nowadays there is a large number of petitions circulating on the internet. The Advocacy team is increasingly being asked if Cats Protection can support various external petitions, for example by promoting them on Facebook or Twitter to our supporters.
Our position is that generally, Cats Protection does not support petitions unless we are the originator or involved in some way. This does not preclude supporters or branch members supporting external petitions, ideally as individuals rather than as Cats Protection.
The reasons Cats Protection generally only promotes its own petitions, or petitions we are involved in as part of a collaborative campaign, are:
to ensure maximum and targeted campaigning impact for the charity
to avoid public confusion about Cats Protection’s campaign priorities
to ensure that as an organisation we only support and promote campaigns that support our strategic objectives
to retain control and avoid risks to reputation (often we do not know anything about the originator of external campaigns and this exposes us to reputational risk)
Cats Protection is keen to put forward its opposition to cat cafes on the grounds of feline welfare.
As the UK’s largest cat charity, we are concerned about the welfare implications of having a number of cats in a limited space with groups of people unknown to them coming and going throughout the day. We believe this kind of environment is not suitable for domestic cats because they have evolved as solitary animals and generally do not choose to live in social groups - unlike dogs which are a social species.
It is very likely that some or all of the cats involved will become stressed as a result of being in a confined space with a continually changing group of people. This is because domestic cats have shared ancestry with the Africa wildcat so we still see a lot of these behaviours in our pet cats today. This is not an ‘outdated’ view – in fact, recent research* into cat behaviour counters the opinion that cats living in groups do not suffer social stress.
Furthermore, if the intention is to home cats from the café, this would create a 'rolling' population of rescue cats – in a café, this would create even more stress and further compromise feline welfare because rescue cats need as stable an environment as possible to reduce the possibility of stress-related and infectious diseases such as over-grooming, urine spraying and cat ’flu.
Although Cats Protection does not have powers to prevent cafés like this from being set up, we believe that people who care about the wellbeing of cats would not want them to be exploited as a gimmick to sell coffee and would therefore not wish to encourage the launch of these establishments. Given our views, we are unable to accept proceeds or donations from cat cafes in any way.
*Research looking at the prevalence of behaviour problems in the general cat population showed that aggressive behaviour between cats and fear of other cats, accounted for high percentage of cats surveyed. (Bradshaw et. al., 2000)
Cats Protection’s Advocacy Manager Jacqui Cuff said:
“Cats Protection is always shocked to hear of cats being shot which is why we’re calling for much stricter regulation on the ownership of air guns. We know from our own monitoring of the press in 2015 that nearly four cats a week were reported to have been killed or injured by an air gun in the UK – and this is likely to be an underestimate. We also held a three-month consultation in 2014 to determine what members of the public felt were the most important issues for cat welfare and 98 per cent of those surveyed agreed this is one of them - which is why we’re including this important topic in our Cat Manifesto.”
Cats Protection’s Advocacy Manager, Jacqui Cuff, said:
“Tackling antifreeze poisoning is not easy as most antifreeze products on the market in the UK contain the fatal ingredient ethanol glycol. However, we are keen that antifreeze and other products containing ethanol glycol are labelled warning consumers of the dangers to pets such as cats (and dogs). Many labels already warn about the danger of antifreeze to children if the product is consumed.
We’d like companies to add a warning regarding danger to animals too. Cats Protection is not aware of any tests having been carried out on cats to determine the effectiveness of bittering agents or the sweet palatability of antifreeze. We would not support testing on cats. We are therefore of the view that bittering agents are not the answer, or at least not the whole answer. We are concerned that seeing the addition of a bittering agent featured on an antifreeze label may give pet owning purchasers the false impression that the product is safe.
In the longer term we’d like to see antifreeze manufacturers developing alternative non-toxic antifreeze products.”
Jacqui Cuff, Cats Protection’s Advocacy Manager, said:
“Cats Protection and its supporters are extremely concerned at the regular reports of dogs attacking, injuring and killing cats. Attacks can be of all types, for example on elderly cats, often when cats are sitting in their own front gardens or strolling around near where they live.
In 2014 on average around 10 cats a month were reported in the press as having been the victim of a dog attack which equates to over two attacks a week. Sadly 80 per cent of dog attacks on cats are reported as fatal.
The vast majority of dog owners are responsible owners and keep their dog(s) under control. However, where an owner does fail to control their dog and the dog injures or kills a cat the law needs strengthening because an attack on a cat can denote a dangerous dog.
Advertising cats on the internet
We always encourage anyone who advertises a cat or kitten on a website or in a newspaper to do so responsibly and ensure the cat or kitten went to a suitable home.
We don’t have any legal powers to compel websites or newspapers not to advertise cats or kittens, but we are part of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), a group made up of animal welfare organisations, media publishing companies and the Metropolitan Police, which promotes responsible pet advertising. PAAG is aware that pet advertising is an issue for many publications and websites and they assist them to promote best practice, provide uniformity and transparency and ultimately, improve the welfare of the animals being bred, bought and sold via newspapers and websites. PAAG requests that publishers carry some advice alongside any advertisements for sales of animals. The advice on buying cats and kittens is viewable at http://paag.org.uk This advice is availableto Cats Protection’s network of branches and centres so that they can use it to encourage their local websites to advertise responsibly.
Regarding Cats Protection’s use of the Internet, we know it is a useful tool to highlight the cats in care which need new homes although we would never use the Internet alone to rehome a cat. We carry out certain procedures, including a home visit if necessary, to ensure that each cat goes to a suitable home. We also have an ‘adopt with confidence’ pledge, which means prospective owners can be confident that any cat adopted from us has benefited from the very highest standards of care and attention. Each Cats Protection cat will have been examined by a veterinary surgeon, microchipped, vaccinated, neutered if old enough and will also come with four weeks’ free insurance. We provide these benefits so people don’t have to worry about them following adoption, which is a big plus for money-conscious owners.
As well as home visits we are now also using a mixture of questionnaires, discussions with potential adopters and also technology such as Google maps to check for busy roads near potential adopters’ homes.
Jacqui Cuff, Cats Protection’s Advocacy manager, said:
“Snares are inherently cruel and indiscriminate and cats are often the unintended victims. Animals may be left to suffer for hours or longer and over half of all animals trapped in this way will die. Others will suffer long term injury with many needing leg amputations.
In our Manifesto for Cats we called for an outright ban on the use of snares on the basis they are inhumane and inflict injury or death on animals caught in them. This item received the most support, with 99% of those surveyed agreeing that snares should be banned and many people shocked that snares were still legal. By monitoring press reports of cats being caught in snares we saw 21 cases during 2015 in the UK which is a 40% increase on 2014. These figures are likely to be an underestimate as these are just the incidents that are reported in the media.
We believe that it is time to put an end to this cruel practice.”
Cats and Road Traffic accidents (RTAs)
Cats Protection knows from its supporters how heartbreaking it is for an owner not to know the plight of their missing cat.
We have always called for microchipping of cats as it is a safe and permanent way to identify a missing cat and inform the owner. Where a cat is a victim of an RTA then, if it is chipped, scanning can enable an owner to be informed.
Ideally we’d like those within Councils responsible for cleansing and refuse to scan cats they collect and to inform the owners. However, we appreciate councils have many demands on their resources and budgets. We have volunteer branches around the UK, some of which have worked successfully with their local councils to ensure cats that are accident victims get scanned. Ideally we’d like all Councils across the UK to scan cat RTA victims.
Our advocacy team has been raising this issue with Government. The Transport Minister for England has written requiring the Highways Agency to collect, scan and notify owners about dog and cat road victims. He has also written to Local Authorities to ensure that wherever possible they adopt a similar approach.
Cats Protection will be pressing for the Ministers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to write similarly to Transport Authorities and Councils about scanning.