Cats are known to have a ‘wild’ side, but how do cat owners feel about their pets’ behaviour of roaming and hunting?
According to a study by the University of Exeter, cat owners fall into five categories in terms of their attitude towards their cats’ behaviour.
A research team surveyed 56 cat owners from rural parts of the UK, such as south west England, as well as urban areas like Bristol and Manchester.
The project – Cats, Cat Owners and Wildlife – aims to identify ways owners can manage their cats, but reduce wildlife killing. Researchers wanted to understand how cat owners view their cats and how is best to manage them.
Most owners found dead animals brought into their home an unpleasant reminder to their pet’s wilder side. However, there’s an ongoing argument between prioritising cats’ welfare and focusing on wildlife conservation.
So, which type of cat owner are you?
1. Conscientious Caretakers
Owners who are ‘conscientious caretakers’ recognise they have a responsibility to understand their cat’s impact on wildlife.
2. Freedom Defenders
A more “free” approach to having a pet, according to the researchers. These owners tend to be opposed to any forms on restrictions to cat behaviour.
3. Concerned Protecters
Safety first. Owners that are ‘concerned protecters’ focus on the safety and protection of their cat.
4. Tolerant Guardians
These owners will often dislike their cats’ hunting behaviour, but will tolerate it.
5. Laissez-faire Landlords
Finally, these owners are largely unaware of any issues around cats roaming and hunting.
Commenting on the study, Dr Sarah Crowley, lead author at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute in Cornwall, said: “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.”
Dr Crowley added “cat confinement policies” will likely be unpopular among cat owners in the UK, but as “only one of the owner types viewed hunting as a positive”, suggests the “rest might be interested in reducing it by some means”.
Tom Streeter, chairman of SongBird Survival, said the study highlights the need for cat owners and conservationists to “work together to find tailored solutions that are cheap, easy to implement, and have a positive effect on wildlife and bird populations across the UK”.
One of the suggested measures to reduce hunting success includes fitting cats with brightly coloured “BirdsBeSafe” collar covers. Many owners also fit their cats with bells.
Dr Sarah Ellis, iCatCare’s head of cat advocacy, says finding 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 measures to cat owners and offering them different solutions.