Decline of traditional UK family will harm domestic cat caregiving

Lone-parent families are more likely to experience financial difficulties particularly now during the cost-of-living crisis in the UK. But they will be less robust than the traditional family unit at any time in terms of coping with life’s vicissitudes. And it is now reported in The Times that nearly 50% of British children grow up outside the traditional two-parent home. I argue that this will affect cat caregiving standards.

Happy family with dog and cat

Harmony in the family. Photo by Julie Bayer-Vile

“Family structure has gradually changed over the last 20 years. There are fewer married couples. There are more couples cohabiting. There are fewer traditional nuclear family units”. This fragmentation of the family unit, I think, also creates more fluidity in the relationship between people which I would also argue harms domestic cat welfare because the best life for a cat is in a stable family home. A home that the cat knows well and is very familiar with. If people have to move around a lot, for example, this is not as good.

A review has been published today by Dame Rachel De Souza. She is the Children’s Commissioner for England. Her survey found that almost 25% of families are headed by a lone parent which is considerably higher than the EU average of 13%.

And 44% of children born in 2000 will spend some of their childhood up to the age of 17 outside of a traditional family home. This compares badly with 21% of people born in 1970.

She also concluded that loan-parent families are going to experience more financial difficulties than the typical family unit as mentioned. The traditional family unit has a protective effect against hardship and poverty.

Family unit is better for cat caregiving

Family unit is better for cat caregiving. Image: MikeB based on Pixabay image.

Everybody will agree with that and although she doesn’t address the issue of family pets I’m going to. Normally, a married couple are more likely to raise their children to a higher standard than single-parent. The same argument applies to cat caregiving. And I will argue that it is more likely that a loan-parent family will surrender their cat compared to a traditional family because of this lack of robustness in their finances. When push comes to shove, and finances become tight, certain things have to go and one of those things might be the family cat. This is happening already in the UK.

The cost-of-living crisis is exposing a less than robust attitude towards cat ownership. When people are trying to save money one of those expenses is going to be the cost of keeping a cat. That’s why the RSPCA and Cats Protection are stating clearly and loudly that their services are becoming saturated with surrendered cats and dogs at present.

There are many reasons for that but one of them, I would argue, is the breakdown in the family in the UK. What is the reason for this? Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation said: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as marriage rates have fallen, the make-up of families has started to change. Hostile policymakers have tried to pretend that marriage doesn’t matter, while current social policy massively penalises low-income couples who marry or even live together through the ‘couple penalty’ in the benefits system.”

Their research indicates that most young adults want to marry. De Souza says that the family has core protective elements: love and strong and enduring relationships and the ability depend upon each other for emotional and practical support.

There also needs to be consideration of the family cat in this discussion and I have said that the welfare of domestic cats will be negatively impacted by this trend. The mutual support aspect of traditional family life also applies to cats and dogs. When there are two adults in the home, they are better placed to figure out cat behavior issues and it there is a better chance that the cat’s owner will be more respectful of cats and more knowledgeable about cat behavior and health.

P.S. I am, of course, generalising because sometimes a single person unit such as a retired person will be able to provide a better home than perhaps a noisy family but in general a solid loving family unit must be the best arrangement for mutual support.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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