Determining priority welfare issues for cats in the United Kingdom using expert consensus

02 Nov 2019

Rioja-Lang, F., Bacon, H., Connor, M., Dwyer, C. M.

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Background

Cats are the most popular pets in the UK, yet relatively little research has been conducted into the welfare of cats living in a home environment. The purpose of this study was to determine and prioritise welfare issues for cats using a Delphi method.

Methods

Cat welfare experts (n=14) were asked to identify and rank welfare issues for cats in the UK. An initial list of 118 welfare issues was generated by an anonymous online discussion board of experts and thematic analysis using NVivo. Subsequently experts ranked the list of welfare issues according to severity, duration and prevalence using a 6-point Likert scale. All issues with a median score of 3 or above (n=43) were included in the second survey to determine agreement on the rankings of issues. Finally, a subsection of experts attended a two-day workshop to discuss the welfare rankings and determine the final prioritised list of welfare issues.

Results

The issues considered to be the most severe and/or likely to cause prolonged cat suffering included social behaviour issues, diseases of old age, obesity, owners not seeking veterinary care and poor pain management. The welfare issues perceived to be most prevalent included neglect/hoarding, delayed euthanasia, inherited conformational defects/diseases, social or environmental restriction, and poor pain management.

Conclusions

The outcomes suggested that, although issues such as cat behaviour required further research, owner education was an important factor in improving cat welfare.