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LONDON, ENGLAND, November 10, 2008 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) this week issued a controversial Consultation Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats that has been criticised as patronising pet owners and introducing a nanny state. However London's only cat vet based in Kew, Richmond has welcomed the Code saying the guidelines could even have been stronger.
Obligations on cat owners under the new Code include
- providing identification such as a micro-chip or a particular type of collar
- having at least one litter tray per cat in different parts of the house
- ensuring your cat has places to climb
- controlling their diet so they are neither too fat nor too thin
- supplying a suitable scratching post
- supplying suitable toys and playing with them
The Code does not technically have force of law but can influence a court considering prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Offences under the Act carry penalties of fines up to 20,000 and/or six (6) months imprisonment.
Zeta Frasca of Richmond, owner of Kitten to Cat - London's only cat only veterinary clinic welcomes the Code and says it is an invaluable resource for cat owners. "Best practice for cat welfare, such as the number and location of litter trays and plenty of play time is not intuitive. The Code does a good job of educating us on the effect of such things on cats' stress levels as well as the problems you can expect if you get it wrong."
Critics have branded the Code a weapon for animal rights extremists to force people to buy expensive cat toys in the face of a recession, another matter Ms Frasca disputes.
"The Code provides a blueprint for reducing - not increasing - the cost of pet ownership. People are always taking their cats to vets for spraying, over eating, malnutrition, excessive grooming etc. As vets we have a duty of care to rule out clinical causes and this can involve blood tests, taking the cat in for observation and other things which might have been avoidable if the root cause - ie stresses in the cat's environment - were dealt with properly. Ensuring your cat has things to do that align with its natural instincts and feeding the right food might cost a bit more in the short term but it pays off in the end, in the form of reduced vets fees."
Ms Frasca criticised the Code for not being strong enough on the subject of neutering. She said "apart from the inconvenience of unwanted pregnancies, un-neutered males are more likely to roam at night putting themselves at risk of road traffic accidents, cat fights and infections among other things". The new Code details many benefits of neutering but does not unequivocally state that owners should have their cats neutered if they are not intending to breed from them.
The code is very detailed and will probably be very difficult to enforce in practice. However, it does help animal health professionals communicate the importance of responsible pet ownership. "The scientific research is there to support that pet owners need to do all these things, but an official Code of Practice helps us to reinforce the message," said Ms Frasca.
About Kitten to Cat
Kitten to Cat is London's only cat only veterinary clinic. In addition to a cat friendly veterinary surgery, Kitten to Cat, has boarding facilities equipped with web cams so owners can make a Skype video call anytime to check up on their loved ones. www.kittentocat.com
Find the Defra Code here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/welfare-cats-cop/consultation.pdf
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