Cats are the second most common pet in Australia with 29 per cent of households owning one. But with increasingly more cats living inside, it seems not all owners are providing their puss with an adequate toilet, much to the animal’s detriment.
Dr Andrea Harvey, from the University of Technology Sydney and International Society of Feline Medicine, spoke on this topic at the recent Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) Annual Conference in Brisbane.
According to Dr Harvey, legislation is leaning towards compulsory confinement of pet cats to reduce predation of wildlife and the nuisance behaviour of stray cats.
“There are also additional benefits in terms of the health and safety of pet cats such as reducing the risk of road accidents, snake bites, tick paralysis and transmission of infectious diseases. However, if the environmental, behavioural and nutritional needs of cats are not met within a contained environment, significant welfare compromises can occur,” she said.
Dr Harvey and Master’s student, Dr Gabrielle Lawson (University of Edinburgh and The Cat Clinic Hobart), conducted an online survey of 12,010 cat owners in Australia, questioning them on lifestyle factors including feeding, toileting and environmental enrichment.
“With close to half of the respondents being multi-cat households, the most significant deficiency we identified was inadequate provision of toileting facilities and insufficient cleaning of litter trays,” Dr Harvey said.
“On top of this, the incidence of urinary tract problems was found to be significantly higher in multi-cat households, those with low numbers of litter trays, less frequent cleaning of the trays of faeces and the use of crystal type litter.”
Dr Harvey said these findings are very significant given that urinary tract disorders are a common cause of illness and mortality in cats and that elimination outside the litter tray has been identified by the RSPCA as a reason for people to relinquish their cats.
“Improvement in the provision and management of toileting facilities has the potential to enormously improve the health and welfare of millions of Australian pet cats,” she said.
Based on a media release sourced from the AVA website.