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The PDSA Paw Report 2023 Summary

The PDSA Paw Report 2023 Summary

Who are PDSA?

PDSA is a charity. They have been taking care of pets in need for over 105 years. In 2022, vets and vet nurses in their 48 Pet Hospitals cared for over 4,600 sick and injured pets every day. Caring for pets whose owners can’t afford the full cost of their veterinary treatment is their reason for being and they are also a leading authority on pet health.

What is the PDSA Paw Report

Since 2011, PDSA has worked with one of the UK’s leading research companies, YouGov, to produce the annual PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report. In that time, it has become a highly respected source of statistics in the animal welfare sector, used to stimulate collaborative working, inform government research, policy and legislation and inspire innovative approaches in veterinary clinical practice.

We have summarised the key points from the Paw Report 2023 which has recently been released in May 2023. We’ll focus on topics relating to cats including the biggest challenges cat owners and vets are facing in 2023.

Key statistics from the Paw Report 2023
  • There are 11 million cats in the UK
  • 24% of adults own a cat
  • 6% of cats were found through social media (we’ll touch on the danger involved in this later on in this article)
  • 11% of cats are pedigree
  • 64% of owners don’t know their cat’s ideal weight
  • 1.49 litter trays are used per cat in households of 1 cat or more (check out our urinary health article to understand why this is an issue)
  • 63% of cats have received their booster vaccinations
  • 87% of cats are neutered 
  • 25% of cats are not microchipped
Why do people get cats as pets?

As might be expected from a nation of animal lovers, many people told PDSA they chose to get a pet for an emotional connection and bond. The most common reason owners gave for deciding to get their pet was that they make them happy – 51% of dog, 45% of cat, and 35% of rabbit owners. 45% of dog, 36% of cat, and 30% of rabbit owners told us they got their pet for love and affection, and 37% of dog, 30% of cat, and 20% of rabbit owners got their pet for companionship.

Where do people get their cats from?
  • 31% of cat owners got their cat from a rescue or rehoming centre (UK or abroad)
  • 25% of cat owners got their cat from a friend, family member or neighbour
  • 16% of cat owners got their cat from a private seller such as a breeder

65% of owners told PDSA they found their pet online, equating to 15 million pets, a significantly higher proportion than in 2022 when it was 53%. This proportion has increased for all species and is higher for dog owners (72%, 63% in 2022) than for cat (57%, 43% in 2022) and rabbit (55%, 45% in 2022) owners. 

The most common online sources for pets were dedicated websites, including online advertising sites (17% of all pet owners – 22% of dog, 13% of cat, and 14% of rabbit owners), rescue centres’ websites (16% of all pet owners, 14% of dog, 20% of cat, and 10% of rabbit owners) or individual breeders’ websites (10% of all pet owners – 14% of dog, 5% of cat and 7% of rabbit owners).  This highlights the importance of the work that bodies like the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) are doing to ensure that advertising of pets for sale online is done legally and ethically. 

8% of pet owners said that they had found their pet on social media – 8% of dog, 6% of cat and 12% of rabbit owners. The lack of any formal regulation and oversight of these channels means that this is a concerning finding. It is important that owners continue to be supported to help them understand safe and ethical means of acquiring pets.  

78% of veterinary professionals agree that there should be further improvements to the regulations for online sales of all pets.

Top welfare issues that need to be addressed for cats in 2023
  1. Multi-cat households
  2. Not seeking veterinary care when required / delayed euthanasia
  3. Inadequate resources 
  4. Chronic stress
  5. Lack of neutering
  6. Obesity
Deep dive into cat diet and cat obesity 

Obesity in cats remains a concern for veterinary professionals, with 26% identifying it as one of the top welfare issues affecting cats in the UK today. Obesity is a risk factor for many serious conditions in cats, including diabetes and urinary tract disease, so it is vital that owners understand how to keep their pet at a healthy weight. 53% of cat owners don’t know their pet’s current weight, 64% don’t know their cat’s ideal weight and 84% don’t know their cats’ current body condition score (BCS).

75% of cat owners have weighed their pet within the last 12 months. Regular monitoring of a pet’s weight is important to allow early recognition of any changes, both to detect illness and to allow dietary manipulation to avoid obesity. Of those owners who had not weighed their cat in the last year, 60% said it was because they didn’t feel it was necessary, 21% said it was difficult to weigh their pet at home, 20% said they didn’t want to pay their vet to get their cat weighed, and 15% said it was difficult to get their pet to the vets to be weighed.  

Deep dive into multi-cat households

From previous PAW Report data, we know that two in five of the UK’s pet cats live with one or more other cats (42% in 2022). In multi-cat households, it is important that every cat has access to sufficient resources to minimise stress. Inadequate provision of resources runs the risk of creating tensions amongst cats within a home, increasing their likelihood of developing an undesirable behaviour, negatively impacting their welfare and potentially their relationship with their owner.

It is recommended practice to provide one of each resource per cat plus one extra29, spread out around the house to allow cats to avoid each other if they wish to. This year, we found that many cats are still having to share their resources with other cats in their household. In particular, we found that the average number of litter trays in households with two or more cats is 1.49, which could cause stress and increase the risk of cats developing inappropriate toileting behaviours. Veterinary professionals selected multi-cat households (38%) and inadequate resources (35%) as two of the top welfare issues that need addressing for cats, along with chronic stress (35%). 66% of veterinary professionals recommend environmental modification for reducing stress in cats, 64% recommend multiple resources in multi-cat households, and 64% recommend additional litter trays.

Note: all data and insights have been taken directly from the PDSA Paw Report and all credit is attributed to PDSA. 

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