When it comes to attitudes about their pets’ roaming and hunting, a new study finds that cat owners fall into one of five categories.
University of Exeter researchers surveyed UK cat owners and found they ranged from “conscientious caretakers” who were concerned about cats’ impact on wildlife and feel some responsibility, to “freedom defenders” who opposed restrictions on cat behaviour altogether.
The five distinctive cat‐owner perspectives:
1) Concerned Protectors focus on cat safety,
2) Freedom Defenders prioritize cat independence and oppose restrictions on behavior,
3) Tolerant Guardians believe outdoor access is important for cats but dislike their hunting,
4) Conscientious Caretakers feel some responsibility for managing their cats’ hunting,
5) Laissez‐faire Landlords were largely unaware of the issues surrounding roaming and hunting behavior.
Cat welfare versus Conservation efforts:
Conservation organisations have long been concerned about the numbers of animals caught by the UK’s large population of domestic cats. Most pet cats kill very few wild animals, if any, but with a population of around 10 million cats, the numbers of birds, small mammals and reptiles that are preyed on by cats can accumulate.
Addressing this problem has been difficult because of disagreements between people prioritising cat welfare and those focusing on wildlife conservation.
Policies such as regulating ownership and restricting outdoor access for cats, are often much with strong opposition, according to the researchers, who also state in the abstract to their research that these and other policies don’t account for a variety of cat-owner perspectives. Concerned Protectors, for example, could help reduce the amount of wildlife killed by keeping their pets inside at night.
The Exeter team’s ongoing research project “Cats, Cat Owners and Wildlife” aims to find a conservation win-win, by identifying ways of owners managing their cats that benefit the cats as well as reducing wildlife killing.
The researchers say their findings demonstrate the need for diverse management strategies that reflect the differing perspectives of cat owners as opposed to generic policies.
“Although we found a range of views, most UK cat owners valued outdoor access for their cats and opposed the idea of keeping them inside to prevent hunting,” said lead author Dr Sarah Crowley, of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute in Cornwall.
Cat confinement policies are therefore unlikely to find support among owners in the UK.
“However, only one of the owner types viewed hunting as a positive, suggesting the rest might be interested in reducing it by some means,” Crowley related.
To be most effective, efforts to reduce hunting must be compatible with owners’ diverse circumstances.
Suggested measures to reduce hunting success include fitting cats with brightly coloured “BirdsBeSafe” collar covers. (Bells have also been used on collars by cat owners to help reduce hunting.)
iCatCare’s Head of Cat Advocacy, Dr Sarah Ellis, said, “The finding that many UK cat owners actually care a great deal about wildlife conservation and their cats’ impact on it, suggests that some owners are receptive to employing cat-friendly ways of reducing hunting. The right interventions could improve wildlife conservation efforts, maintain good cat mental-wellbeing, and at the same time improve the cat-human relationship.”
The research team are now examining the effectiveness of these and other new measures and how owners feel about them, with a view to offering different solutions.
More information about the study:
The study included 56 cat owners, some from rural parts of the UK (mostly in south-west England) and some from urban areas (Bristol and Manchester).
The paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, is entitled: “Diverse perspectives of cat owners indicate barriers to and opportunities for managing cat predation of wildlife.”
Alongside the detailed research survey, the researchers have created a simple quiz so cat owners can find out which category bests describes them. You can find out what category you fall into by taking the quiz at this link: https://wildlifescience.org/catquiz/
Ware Manufacturing Cat Grooming Tunnel [More]