Improving Domestic Cat Welfare
In most countries there is absolutely no system of any kind that encourages minimum standards of cat caretaking. It is all about, “do as you please”. A totally laissez-faire state of affairs. Even in the main domestic cat markets, the USA, Europe and the UK, there is very little in the way of systems that improve domestic cat welfare. All we have is the law to go to if something goes wrong.
For example, if someone abuses a cat they might get caught and punished. The likelihood is that they won’t get caught. In which case the law does not protect the cat. And in any event the law is reactive. It steps in after the event; after the cat has been hurt. The concept I suppose is that animal abuse laws protect cats because people will be frightened about being caught. But as I said, often people don’t get caught. And how many cases of at least mild cat abuse are taking place behind closed doors every day right now? Lots.
Accordingly most of the time in the West there is nothing in place that is designed to raise standards of domestic cat guardianship. Nothing.
People who are sensitive to animal welfare requirements understand that there is a need to improve domestic cat welfare across the board. Doesn’t it strike you as a strange state of affairs that nothing happens? Do we value the cat companion so little that we can’t be bothered to try and improve standards? What is the matter with us?
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I guess the reason why we can’t be bothered to put in place systems to improve cat welfare is because we are too busy trying to survive in a difficult world. We don’t have time for other creatures. Also we are somewhat egocentric and selfish aren’t we?
What Can We Do To Improve Domestic Cat Welfare?
Assuming that at some time in the future (I am dreaming) we decide to do something about cat welfare, I think there are some things we can do that would be acceptable to the majority of people.
Firstly we have to take into account the current state of affairs, which makes it almost impossible to make inroads into improving cat welfare.
We don’t know how many cats there are (we estimate) and a lot of people adopt cats from friends or find them on the street. It is a totally unregulated system.
And I know that most people don’t want or like regulation. Most people dislike the “nanny state” meaning government mothering citizens with all manner of laws. For a lot of people, there are too many laws already.
However, if cat welfare is to be improved there has to be a small amount of regulation imposed on cat owners. The whole process would have to be introduced very slowly to change the mindset of people. I am thinking about a 20 year program to begin to improve domestic cat welfare, to create a basis upon which improvements can be made.
Registration must be the starting point. Everything to do with improving cat welfare must start with building a database of ownership. A lot of people would not wish to register their cat but even if half did that would begin the process of improvement.
Veterinarians could be empowered under statute to ask cat owners to come in for obligatory microchipping or alternatively a ID tattoo in the ear.
At the time the cat owner comes in he or she is handed a pamphlet about basic cat caretaking. In addition the cat’s owner is automatically enrolled on a one day animal welfare/care course at the nearest college. Many colleges do animal care courses.
The courses would be funded by both the cat’s owner who’d pay a small fee, say £20 or $20 and the remainder of the funding would come from local government.
That is it. I’d give that 20 years to settle in. Then we could go to the next stage and perhaps widen the scope of animal welfare courses and even devise testing, while banning some people who demonstrated an inability to grasp the basic concepts of animal welfare.
The problem I pose on this page would be far more manageable with the above system in place.
I have two questions:
- Do you think that the standard of companion animal welfare should be improved? And if so…..
- What first steps would you put in place to make improvements?
The best answer gets a £25 Amazon gift voucher as a prize. The link (an example) points to UK Amazon but the offer applies to any country.
Rules: there needs to be at least 5 suggestions – sorry. Less than that and it is not a competition.
Well done Marc 🙂
Well, Marc has to win this prize. He has written a brilliant response. Really excellent that goes to the heart of what animal welfare is all about. I’ll be in touch with Marc and Happy New Year to everyone.
Just a quick note to say I will be working on deciding the person to get the voucher very soon. I’ll be in contact afterward. Thanks for the comments.
PS. Ruth – good point about “Animal Welfare Visitors”.
I’d rather not be a candidate for winning a prize. I’d rather see someone else win it.
What I really like most about your article is that you gave some specifics and are aiming for successful longevity by slowly introducing some aspects. You’re right – people need time to adjust to unfamiliar concepts. When things are rushed, they’re vulnerable to failure. Slow and steady wins the race.
College courses are a good idea for those who are already grown up. I think that charging for the course is a good idea because it would help weed out those who wouldn’t take being a pet parent seriously enough.
Perhaps passing the college course test might even be a prerequisite to pet ownership? That way at least they’d have to spend a little money (commitment), time (commitment) to learn a little about it, and show they know enough to provide proper cat or dog parenting (commitment in the form of effort).
Once they passed the test, they’d be issued a certificate, which they could bring to a shelter, rescue org, pet store, or breeder and have legal clearance to adopt a pet.
If we make them go through some trouble, they’ll be more educated on the matter and it will indicate a significant level of commitment on their part. Commitment requires sacrifice. Sacrifice indicates sincerity.
I think that learning respect for animals from an early age should also be part of the plan.
Marc – I’m with you – it needs to be properly introduced from day one – early school and throughout every school year thereafter.
Care taking and stewardship is where it’s at. Developing empathy and learning our proper role as stewards of the earth would go a very long way in creating reverence for all sentient life.
Reason is because that’s the root cause of the main stream’s attitude towards animals. Teaching true reverence for animals in school from day one would remedy the situation.
Ruth – Would part of the schooling have to be about vegetarianism? No worries about being alone in your answer. I would argue “yes”.
=^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=
Hi Hairless Cat Girl (BTW I love your unusual name) yes a good idea to include information about vegetarianism in children’s animal welfare lessons so they have the facts and can make their own choice and with a bit of luck might educate their parents too.
This actually happened with the declawing of cats. Athough I’m not so involved now that so many Americans and Canadians have taken up the cause for anti declawing themselves, when I was in the thick of answering questions about it, a lot of young people upon learning the truth, passed it on to their parents, to whom before that just accepted declawing as something you did to cats.
That actually inspired part of my ‘Sebastian’s Diary’ as the little girl in my series educated her mother after learning about the cruelty of declawing, at school.
Maybe one day in the distant future when everyone values animals as much as they should be, there will be animal welfare visitors….I do hope so.
I love her unusual name too. I though it was a reference to a human who loves cats (humans being hairless compared to a cat) but I think it relates to Liz’s (she is Liz!) Sphynx cats. Am I correct, Liz?
Hi Ruth and Michael,
Thanx Ruth, glad you like my commenting name.
Michael – Yes, I do have a couple of Sphynx. “Hairless Cat” is the text in the name field of the comments section that I use. You’re right – “Hairless Cat Girl” – my signature in the comments field – is in reference to the fact that I’m a woman who was adopted by two hairless cats. “Hairless Cat” is also the name of my cat website where I talk about both hairless cats and cats with hair.
=^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=
I’d love to visit your web site but can’t find it. Would you be able to post a link if Michael agrees?
Ruth, I think this is Liz’s site (=^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=)
Thanks Michael 🙂
I’m not entering for the prize, just to agree with Marc because he is right! Education about animal welfare needs to be started for all young school children. Any child growing up in a family with no pets will have no idea of the responsibility of caring for a pet, nor how to treat them. On the other hand the children of the homes with pets in them but with ignorant or cruel parents who treat pets badly, get the wrong idea and carry on the abuse they learn from their parents. So most children would benefit from classes in caring for pets and learning about the differences between caring for say for cats, to caring for dogs. We learn so much more easily when we are young and it sticks in our minds.
I’ve always said anyone wanting a pet of any kind should first have to pass a competence test, after all we don’t go out driving with a car in our power without learning and passing a test first, so why are we allowed to have real live animals in our power if we know nothing about caring for them! Maybe we should have animal welfare visitors for people getting a pet, like mothers of new babies have, to ensure the babies are being properly cared for?
Love the picture, again, BTW 🙂
Yes, obviously – I think the number one most important thing is to make people concious of the value of animals in our time. We are destroying our planet and yet nature and the ecosystem around us is giving us a message and telling us how to look after ourselves and the planet. Animals are a part of that. Therefore connecting with an animal is useful for human conciousness – even if you look at it objectively as an exercise.
Animals therefore logically give us the same message or they allow us to reflect upon ourselves. In that sense there is something sacred (I don’t like the contrived sense of that word but it will do) about them and they should be treated and given value as such.
The more of a disaster we create the more people will give in and turn around and try to do the right thing and we need our animals – they are so much better than us and we need them to stay in touch with our own true nature when we finally decide to. So, we need to filter this idea into the consciousness of people and children.
Kids should grow up respecting what a cat or dog IS and what it means in the grand scheme of things. When the world can give value to them, to cats, then we can start to implement structures and teach people about caretaking and stewardship.
At school I never saw the point of half what I was learning because nobody taught me what meaning it had in the real world for me. This kind of education sucks. You do chemistry tests and its about memorizing something totally abstract. So the first steps I would put in place are ones to do with education starting with kids at a young age. They should learn about animals and spend time with them and learn also not to be afraid of them.
I used to be afraid of dogs. And we should try to teach them how to look after them. When they are happy …when they are not well. Alot of people can’t tell when a cat is happy or smiling, they just see one expression because they never had to or thought it was important to look at or understand cats in the most basic ways. A basic sort of vet class even.
Start young. It should be as compulsory as mathematics. That would then symbolise a culture that is more balanced and moving forwrds with animal welfare: one that has compulsory animal workshop/classes from an early age along side all the other compulsory classes. Simple as that.
Animal welfare, care, knowledge and firsthand experience should be part of every school syllabus.
My first steps would amount to that result – with laws and licences and actions to follow the new and more enlightened relationship we have with them. To me this seems awfully obvious as the only real way to start something actually happening. It cant happen to our generation. Children are open and education from a young age is the only handle we have on the future of our culture and society. No other way. 🙂