A selection of this week's news stories by Nick Mays
OVER 20 MILLION DOGS AND CATS IN UK, SAYS REPORT
THE CANINE and feline population of the UK is far greater than estimated according to a new scientific report published this week.
The study shows that about 10.3m cats and 10.5m dogs live in UK, a total of 4 million more than pet food manufacturers had estimated.
Last year the Pet Food Manufacturers Association estimated the size of the UK domestic cat and dog population at about 8m each. The last peer-reviewed study, which dates back to 1989, suggested there were 6.2m cats and 6.4m dogs.
The paper, published in the Veterinary Record by Dr Jane Murray in the Department of Clinical Veterinary Science at Bristol University and colleagues, aimed to estimate the number of UK domestic cats and dogs and identify the characteristics of their owners. The figures are also useful to the animal health and welfare professions, including rescue charities, which can use these and future estimates to assess population changes.
In 2007, a telephone survey of households randomly selected from the electoral roll revealed that cats and dogs were owned by 26 per cent and 31 per cent of households, respectively. The number of owned cats and dogs were predicted by two variables: the number of people in the household and the geographical location (London/rest of UK) of the household. UK census information and mid-year population estimates of the number of households and the average household size in 2006 in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were used to estimate that UK households owned approximately 10.3 million cats and 10.5 million dogs in 2006.
Characteristics associated with cat and dog ownership were also identified. Cats were more likely to be owned by; households with gardens, semi-urban/rural households, respondents who were female and respondents who were aged less than 65 years. Cats were less likely to be owned by households with one or more dogs.
The likelihood of dog ownership increased as the household size increased. Dogs were more likely to be owned by households with gardens, rural households and less likely to be owned by households with cats or children aged less than 11 years.
Contoversially, the study also indicated that more cat owners than dog owners were qualified to degree level.
Female respondents and those aged less than 55 years were more likely to report dog ownership than other respondents. Dogs were less likely to be owned by households with one or more cats.
Dr Jane Murray, Lecturer in Feline Epidemiology for the feline charity Cats Protection, commented on the research, said: “The study has shown many common factors relating to cat and dog ownership, such as a garden and rural location, but it has also identified some notable differences.
“In particular, the difference in the level of education achieved by a household owning cats and dogs. The reason for this association is unclear. It is unlikely to be related to household income as this variable was not shown to be significant but it could be related to household members with longer working hours having less time available to care for a dog.
“Past reports have suggested that the number of pet cats exceeds the number of pet dogs in the UK. However, results from our study suggest that there are similar numbers of domestic cats and dogs.”
The researchers recommend the study is repeated in 2011, (the year of the next scheduled UK census), as any increase or decrease in population numbers will enable pet ownership trends to be monitored.
· Number and ownership profiles of cats and dogs in the UK, Jane K Murray, William J Browne, Margaret A Roberts, Amber Whitmarsh and Timothy J Gruffydd-Jones, Veterinary Record, 6 February 2010.
DUMBED-DOWN DOG OWNERS?
PEOPLE WHO own a cat are more likely to have a university degree than those with a pet dog, a study by Bristol University suggests.
A poll of 2,524 households found that 47.2% of those with a cat had at least one person educated to degree level, compared with 38.4% of homes with dogs.
The study said longer hours, possibly associated with better qualified jobs, may make owning a dog impractical. It also found that UK pet ownership was much higher than previously thought. (See accompanying news story).
The study suggested a number of other characteristics, aside from education level, were associated with either cat or dog ownership.
Dr Jane Murray, a lecturer in feline epidemiology at Bristol University, said the variation in education level between owners was the most striking difference.
"We don't know why there is this discrepancy," commented Dr Murray. "We did look at average household income but that wasn't significant.
"Our best guess is that it's to do with working hours and perhaps commuting to work, meaning people have a less suitable lifestyle for a dog. It's really just a hunch though."
· Nick says: Hmmm… Now, my partner Sheena and I have several cats and four dogs, so what does that say about us? Mind you, most of the cats are mine and I haven’t got a university degree, whereas Sheena has, so maybe there’s something in this research after all.
Mayor Pleads Guilty to Kitten Cruelty Charge
The Mayor of Margate has been handed a 12-month community order after admitting two charges of animal cruelty at Sittingbourne Magistrates Court. In a case brought by the RSPCA Edwin Watt-Ruffell admitted giving inadequate flea treatment and failing to provide adequate veterinary care to a five-week-old kitten, in breach of the Animal Welfare Act of 2006.
The court was told that the animal had been sucked dry of blood by the fleas.
Watt-Ruffell will have to carry out 80 hours of unpaid community work over the next 12 months and pay £2,000 prosecution costs.
The case against him was outlined by prosecutor Hywel Jenkins who told the court that on the morning of August 24 2009 two workmen entered the home of Watt-Ruffell and his wife, to lay a new kitchen floor. There they encountered a spread-eagled, crying, dull-eyed, sick kitten which obviously had a flea problem and matted white and tortoiseshell fur. When the men complained to Watt – Ruffell he shut the kitten away in the living room despite their protests. They were so concerned they then contacted the RSPCA but when officers called round that afternoon the kitten and Watt-Ruffell were nowhere to be seen.
Watt-Ruffell returned later with the animal, which was described as being in a “sorry state”, having been to the vets to seek treatment. However it was too little too late and by this time it was having difficulty breathing and subsequently died.
Later the kitten was found to have 150 fleas on its body and was “desperately anaemic”.
Mr Jenkins said Watt-Ruffell had “not noticed anything wrong with the cat”, which was four or five weeks old, but vets later decided its condition must have been deteriorating for about five days.
Paul Goldspring, defending, said his client had sought treatment for the animal, but the vets had been closed, although he accepted he could have sought emergency treatment for it.
The mayor, who broke down in tears as the cat’s condition was detailed, had been a long-time pet owner and taken in rescue cats in the past, the court was told.
Mr Goldspring said Watt-Ruffell had “acted ignorantly” but he also outlined his client’s previous good character and said his client, a security guard, had kept pets for a decade and previously provided them with good care.
After originally pleading Not Guilty to the charges Watt- Ruffell changed his plea to guilty after an hour’s recess.