How serious are health-related welfare problems in unowned unsocialised domestic cats? A study from Denmark based on 598 necropsies

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Free ranging unsocialised domestic cats are widely believed to suffer from a high load of welfare problems. We assessed the validity of this belief by performing necropsies on the corpses of 598 unsocialised cats, originating from all parts of Denmark, that had been euthanised by two Danish cat welfare organisations. We selected a number of variables for health-related cat welfare that could be assessed through necropsy (e.g., gross lesions, ectoparasites and body condition) or by laboratory analysis (e.g., infection with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and by feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)). Each finding was classified as having either a major or minor welfare impact on the cat. More than 83% of the cats had no major finding, and 54% had no finding indicating a welfare issue at all. More than 83% of the cats had a body condition within normal range. Only 0.3% were emaciated. The most common finding was infestation with ectoparasites, with 15.9% infected with lice, 12.3% with fleas, 4.7% with ticks, and 6.7% with ear mites. FIV and FeLV were detected in 9.2% and 1.2% of the cases, respectively. The most common lesion related to the cats’ teeth. Overall, unsocialised cats in Denmark have a moderate level of health-related welfare problems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number662
JournalAnimals
Volume12
Number of pages15
ISSN2076-2615
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

ID: 300019185