Q & A: New animal welfare laws and feline flea treatment

Please remember that the advice given here is of a general nature, and if you have any concerns about your pet’s health you should contact your vet immediately.

Q: I have heard that there are new laws affecting pet owners in the UK? What are these and would they affect me?

A: Last year animal welfare law was improved. Not only is it against the law to be cruel to an animal, you must now also ensure that all the welfare needs of your animals are met. The new act makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met.

These include the need:

  1. For a suitable environment (place to live)
  2. For a suitable diet
  3. To exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  4. To be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
  5. To be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

Anyone who is cruel to an animal, or does not provide for its welfare needs, may be banned from owning animals, fined up to £20,000 and/or sent to prison. As a concerned and responsible pet owner you are obviously unlikely to fall foul of any of these issues. The main impact is targeting people who do not house and care for animals appropriately, and those who do not seek veterinary care for ill or injured animals. Particularly keepers of exotics species must ensure that they are meeting the welfare needs of their pets. For further information visit www.defra.gov.uk or contact your vet for advice.

Q: Do I need to continue to treat my cats against fleas during the winter?

A: The problem with fleas is that the eggs and pupae can continue to hatch during the winter because of the indoor warmth with central heating. I would recommend continuing to use a reliable product for treating your cats as one female flea can lay several hundred eggs during her lifetime. (Prevention is always better than cure!) There are also some very good indoor sprays (Insect Growth Regulators) that prevent the eggs or pupae developing to the next stage and I would recommend treating your house once a year with one of these products.

A final warning: Please be extremely careful when purchasing products to treat your cat – some of the products readily available for dogs are extremely toxic for cats (there have been cases of cats dying after accidental administration of these products). I would strongly recommend that you seek veterinary advice on the range of safe and reliable products available for cats.