Domestic cats fall on a spectrum based on their proclivity to h.u.n.ting and roaming and the supervision levels of their owners can affect how the feline pets interact with their surrounding environments.
Whereas some owners embrace the more wild tendencies of their cats and allow them the space to roam outdoors, others prefer raising house cats, keeping their furry friends inside and under supervision. Depending on where in this spectrum, you may be a “conscientious caretakers” or a “freedom defender.”
These groupings were determined as part of the Exeter team’s ongoing research project “Cats, Cat Owners and Wildlife” which aims to identify ways for owners to manage their cats while reducing wildlife k.il.ling. In the UK, where the ongoing study is being conducted, there are upwards of 10 million domestic cats by some estimates. While a large cat population is not inherently negative, these distinctly independent pets can create risks for themselves and smaller animals in their path.
“I think normally it’s framed as a debate between cat owners or cat advocates and conservationists, particularly bird conservationists,” says Sarah Crowley, an anthrozoologist based in Exeter’s Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES). Anthrozoologists study the interactions between humans and other animals.
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). They have since identified five distinctive cat owner perspectives:
1. Concerned protectors focus on cat safety
These are people who keep their cats indoors to keep them safe from the world. Their main worries are cats being s.to.len, lost or k.il.led. They don’t have strong feelings about h.u.n.ting behaviour and wouldn’t keep their cats indoors solely to stop them h.u.n.ting.
2. Freedom defenders strongly prioritize cat independence and oppose restrictions on behavior
Cats h.u.n.ting is a good sign of normal behaviour and helps control the rodent population. They oppose any restrictions of cat access to the outdoors.
3. Tolerant guardians believe outdoor access is important for cats but dislike their h.u.n.ting
They love wildlife and cat h.u.n.ting is the least attractive part of cat ownership, but it is just what cats do. They’re not sure how cat owners can effectively reduce h.u.n.ting behaviour.
4. Conscientious caretakers feel they bear some responsibility for managing their cats’ h.u.n.ting
H.u.n.ting by cats really bothers them, and they particularly worry about birds. They believe owners should have have some responsibility managing their cat’s h.u.n.ting behaviour.
5. Laissez‐faire landlords who were largely unaware of the issues surrounding roaming and h.u.n.ting behaviors
They’ve never seriously thought about the effects of cats on wildlife populations. They’d be more likely to manage their cat’s h.u.n.ting behaviours if it was k.il.ling things all the time.
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 p.r.e.d.a.ti.on of wildlife.”