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Position Statement on Cat Welfare

Welfare of Cats

The BC SPCA is dedicated to promoting the health and welfare of cats, and celebrating the close bond and mutual relationship between people and their companion cats. Through education and advocacy, the BC SPCA works to raise the profile and intrinsic worth of cats to encourage society to take responsibility for cats in their communities.

Guardians are expected to provide their cats with a good quality of life based on the Five Freedoms. In addition, guardians are expected to contribute to the reduction of cat overpopulation through early spay/neuter, ensuring their pets are permanently identified should they become lost or stolen and preventing cats from predating on wildlife.

Companion Cat Housing

Provisions for good welfare vary from cat to cat depending on their unique personality, age and health requirements. The BC SPCA recommends housing that balances the welfare and safety needs of cats with protection of wildlife. Most cats can experience good welfare indoors with environmental and social enrichment. For cats with a strong drive for outdoor access, a secure enclosure and/or walks with a harness and leash can provide additional enrichment and protection from health and safety risks such as predation.

Homeless and Abandoned Cats

The abandonment of cats is a criminal offense under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act. The BC SPCA supports preventing abandonment through public education.

Cats left to fend for themselves suffer poor welfare and, if unneutered, contribute to pet overpopulation. When well-intentioned citizens intervene to provide some aspects of care to a homeless cat, the BC SPCA advises individuals take steps to determine ownership of the cat and return the cat to the guardian. If individuals choose to care for a truly abandoned cat, they should take steps to ensure the cat receives good welfare as per the Five Freedoms.

Cat Colonies

The BC SPCA recognizes that colonies of cats exist in many regions of B.C. Cats (particularly females) will live in groups (colonies) where resources are available and colonies may be comprised of both homeless abandoned and feral cats. The BC SPCA supports the concept of well managed colonies where the principle goal is ending homeless and feral cat populations.

Good management of a colony includes an effective trap, neuter, vaccinate, identification and release of adult ferals. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring good welfare for the adult feral cats, rehabilitating and rehoming abandoned cats, and the socialization and adoption of feral kittens. A wildlife mitigation strategy should be part of a well-managed cat colony protocol. Management of colonies should include daily monitoring and detailed record keeping.

Approved by the Board of Directors – December 2010

Background

Cats are the number one companion animal in Canada with over one quarter of all households having one or more cats. Despite this, the vast numbers of homeless, feral and unwanted cats represents one of the greatest animal welfare challenges facing communities and humane organizations.

While well intentioned, simply feeding a homeless cat population without ensuring 100 per cent spay/neuter provides the nutritional resources that result in increased reproduction and larger litters for the remaining intact animals. This subjects offspring to further suffering and continuance of the reproductive cycle.

Background updated – December 2010

Definitions

Homeless abandoned cat: A cat who was once in the care of guardian but is now living as an ownerless cat.

Feral cat: An ownerless cat born out of captivity, without human socialization.

Five Freedoms: A concept first developed by The Brambell Committee, formed by the UK government to examine the conditions on commercial farms. Now internationally recognized, the Five Freedoms are considered applicable to all animals.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms (adapted from the original list) are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst;
  2. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease;
  3. Freedom from distress;
  4. Freedom from discomfort;
  5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms form the basis of the Society’s Charter and describe conditions that must be fulfilled in order to prevent the suffering of all animals in human care. The Society acknowledges that these freedoms are not enforceable and that absolute provision of these freedoms may not be possible, but strongly encourages all animal guardians to strive to provide them.

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