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The Five Freedoms

Jun 22, 2015

The Five Freedoms are a set of rights that the RSPCA believes all animal handlers should adhere to. This includes your own pets and any other animals under human control (such as farm animals, zoo animals etc), and is a compact and easy way to make sure you are providing animals with everything they need to stay happy and healthy by giving them the best possible welfare standards. But what are the Five Freedoms?

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst - animals should be kept free from hunger or thirst, by ensuring they always have a supply of fresh clean water to drink from, and giving them the nourishment they require. This will vary from animal to animal (for example, a rabbit will eat pellets throughout the day as they prefer to graze, whereas dogs will usually have 2 meals a day at set times). It is important to consider the type of food your pet needs, and how they need to be given it. This will prevent them from becoming malnourished and unhealthy. 
  2. Freedom from discomfort - all animals need to be housed in suitable accommodation - from rabbits to rats, it's important to consider the individual needs of each species as well as individual. You must provide them with shelter and somewhere comfortable to sit and sleep. This will prevent them from getting sores from lying on incorrect surfaces, and ensures they are able to get enough rest and relaxation.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease - you can keep your pets free from disease by ensuring they receive their first vaccination and yearly boosters (which applies to cats, dogs, ferrets and rabbits). This will keep them healthy and ensure they aren't affected by contagious diseases, which can cause a lot of distress. Keep a close eye on your pets and ensure they are given species-specific items, such as correct toys, to prevent them from injuring themselves. Always monitor your pet's behaviour to see if they could be in any pain, and take them for veterinary treatment whenever necessary.
  4. Freedom to behave normally - this varies from species to species (and also depends on the individual) but always ensure your pet has enough space to move about comfortably, with suitable enrichment and items to allow them to express normal behaviour. For example, degus need sand baths to allow them to groom their fur properly, whereas a cat needs a scratching post to keep their claws in check. This also includes providing company where necessary - many rabbits require a friend to stop them from becoming lonely and depressed as they are social animals.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress - it is important to treat your pet kindly and provide them with everything they need to prevent them from suffering physical and psychological issues related to fear and distress. Ensure their conditions and interactions are suitable and accommodate their needs.


We know our supporters are great at caring for their pets, and interested in hearing how we keep the animals at the centre happy and healthy. The Five Freedoms make a great checklist when considering taking on a new pet, and they are useful when looking into accommodation, diet and enrichment for animals. It's always best to look into species-specific guidelines when researching new pets, and if you adopt from us we can also give you some more information on the individual personality of each animal to help them adjust to a new home. 

You can find out more about the Five Freedoms here and advice on different pets here

Tags: pet care, five freedoms, welfare
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