Cat owners are often perceived as being quiet and introverted, but a new study shows that there is much more to the story. A new study from the University of Exeter has identified different types of cat owners, ranging from “freedom fighters” to wildlife advocates.
Based on survey responses of cat owners, the researchers determined that they fall into five categories. While some cat lovers believe cats should roam free without restrictions, others are more “conscientious caretakers” that feel responsible for their cat’s impact on wildlife.
People who are primarily focused on cat safety fall into the category of “concerned protectors,” while “tolerant guardians” dislike their cat’s hunting but tend to accept it. Meanwhile “laissez-faire landlords” are mostly unaware of any issues around cats roaming and hunting.
In the UK, conservation organizations are increasingly concerned about the number of animals killed by domestic cats. Even though some cats do not kill wild animals, and most kill very few, the number of victims can quickly accumulate with a population of around 10 million cats.
The Exeter team has launched a research project called “Cats, Cat Owners and Wildlife” with the goal of identifying ways that owners can best manage their cats while protecting wildlife.
According to the researchers, their findings demonstrate the need for diverse management strategies that reflect the differing perspectives of cat owners.
“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.
“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.”
“To be most effective, efforts to reduce hunting must be compatible with owners’ diverse circumstances.”
Dr. Sarah Ellis said the finding that many UK cat owners actually care a great deal about wildlife conservation, including their cat’s impact, 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,” said Dr. Ellis.
“This would be especially true for ‘tolerant guardians’ and ‘conscientious caretakers’ by reducing the internal conflict of loving an animal that often hunts other animals they also care about.”
The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment