Researchers have determined there are five kinds of cat owners, when it comes to their feelings about their felines roaming and hunting outside.
Outdoor cats can be a danger to birds, rodents and small reptiles, and also create dangers for themselves from disease, larger predators and traffic.
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom are trying to bring awareness to the downsides of cat outdoor roaming and the impact on wildlife, and published part of their ongoing study. They note that several attempts have been made to address the issues, including reducing the cat population, regulating ownership and restricting feline outdoor access.
“Such proposals rarely account for cat owners’ perspectives, however, and are frequently met with strong, principled opposition,” the study’s authors wrote.
They found cat owners fell into five “types”:
Concerned Protectors focus on cat safety. They are most worried about their pet’s safety outside and would feel guilty if the cat died while roaming. They are likely to keep their cats inside most of the time if not permanently.
Freedom Defenders prioritize cat independence and natural instincts, “like a wild animal,” and oppose restrictions on behavior. They believe keeping cats inside is cruel, and that any of the risks of being outside are outweighed by the benefits. They generally are not bothered by their cat’s hunting and some expressed pride in their pet’s hunting abilities.
Tolerant Guardians believe outdoor access is important for cats but dislike their hunting and are more likely to bring their cat inside at night. Generally, this group of cat owners try to rescue prey captured by their cats, accepting that their pet is a “carnivorous wild creature” while saving all wildlife.
Conscientious Caretakers feel some responsibility for managing their cats’ hunting. They are worried about their cat’s roaming, and the impact on birds and other smaller creatures. This group generally believes cats require outdoor access, but are not opposed to confinement. They are open to hunting-control measures that owners can take.
Laissez‐faire Landlords were largely unaware of the issues surrounding roaming and hunting behavior. This group generally is concerned their pet may be stolen, get killed in traffic or get lost if outside roaming. They also have never thought about the effect their cat has on wildlife outside. They also believe belled collars are an effective way to manage their cat’s hunting.
The large majority of study participants also felt that cats should be allowed outside at least some of the time. The study’s authors note that four of the five groups viewed hunting to be negative and may be open to more information about how to limit their pet’s predation.
They recommend policymakers stay away from “blanket restrictions” and instead work with cat owners on strategies. “Identifying, refining, and promoting viable management tools and alternatives may be a more constructive approach to resolving this issue than regulation,” the study concludes.