Cats are sentient beings. This means they are capable of feeling pain, fear, and other negative emotions, as well as positive emotions, such as pleasure. As such, they deserve to be protected from suffering, and to have the opportunity to enjoy a good life.
But the sad fact is that for many cats, life is not good. All over the world, cats are suffering. Those that are unowned can struggle to survive on the streets because of poor nutrition, disease, injury, cruelty and persecution. Considered as vermin in some places, these cats may face inhumane methods of population control.
Even those who share our homes with us as our pets are not exempt from welfare issues: when owners do not understand or fulfil their needs, cats can suffer both physically and emotionally. Although it has come a long way, veterinary care for cats is not always as good as it could be, especially in some countries where adequate training, facilities and resources are lacking or where resources have been concentrated on food or working animals.
A human desire to create certain looks through breeding has also resulted in cats suffering with serious health problems. In many countries, cats lack even basic legislation to protect them. These are just some examples of the ways in which cat welfare needs to be improved.
A coordinated, best-practice approach
So how do we go about improving feline welfare? There are many dedicated individuals and organisations working tirelessly trying to do just that. However, working in isolation is not enough to address the bigger picture, and runs the risk of only addressing the ‘symptoms’ of a problem, not the root cause.
The problems outlined above are complex; there is no easy fix. To achieve the best results for cats, a number of different entities, each responsible for cat welfare in different ways, must come together to collaborate and form sustainable solutions to the problems, and this includes cat owners.
A further issue is that work may be carried out with the very best of intentions to help cats, but is not actually in the best interest of the cats themselves. As an example, it is natural for cat lovers to see cats suffering on the streets and want to bring them into their homes to give them food, safety and lots of love.
However, not all cats want to be pets: for some, living alongside humans in a home environment or even a homing centre would be highly stressful. Therefore, best practices for cat welfare according to the needs of individual cats need to be understood.
International Declaration of Responsibilities
This is why International Cat Care decided that something needed to be done, and set about drawing up a document that outlined best practice for all those responsible for cat welfare, and to facilitate a collaborative approach between them.
The Declaration identifies those responsible for feline welfare as:
- Central governments setting welfare law and tone
- Local governments implementing law and population management
- Non-governmental organisations and individuals undertaking cat welfare work including population management
- Individuals owning cats
- Those living alongside street and community cats
- Individuals breeding and selling cats
- Veterinary professionals treating cats
The Declaration provides a clear framework to help these different entities understand their responsibilities, and work together to improve the lives of all cats, owned and unowned.
You can read the Declaration in full, sign it, and download the signs by visiting www.icatcare.org/declaration. If you believe that the quality of life of every single cat matters, whether it lives in our home or on the streets, please sign the Declaration.
Together, we can make the world a better place for cats. You can further declare your support for improving feline welfare by posing for a photo holding one of our Declaration signs, and sharing this photo on social media, using the hashtag #catdeclaration.
Claire Bessant, International Cat Care Chief executive