"A fair amount of research has been done on the effects of cats roaming and hunting wildlife, but comparatively few researchers have asked cat owners their views on these complex and controversial issues," the new study's lead author, Sarah Crowley, of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute in Devon, said in an interview. "We wanted to find out what cat owners thought about their pets’ roaming and hunting behavior, and their views on whether and how this should be managed."
The researchers from the University of Exeter surveyed 56 cat owners in the UK in both rural and urban areas. The owners were given 62 statements on a variety of perspectives (such as "Cats hunting doesn't bother me" and "Keeping cats indoors keeps them safe”) that they had to rank. Based on the answers given by the cat owners, the researchers found five distinct types of cat owners. The study results were published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
These groupings were specified as part of the Exeter team's ongoing research project "Cats, Cat Owners, and Wildlife". The aim of the project is to recognize ways for cat owners to manage their furry friends and also reduce wildlife killings.
The five types of cat owners
According to the study, these are the five types of cat owners and some of their essential beliefs.
* They focus on cat safety and believe in keeping them indoors.
* They are concerned about roaming cats being lost, stolen, or killed.
* They don’t have strong feelings about their cats hunting. However, they wouldn’t keep their cat inside just to keep it from hunting.
* They strongly give priority to cat independence and oppose restrictions on behavior.
* They are more likely to embrace their pet's natural instincts and accept the risks of a cat that roams around freely.
* They also believe that cat hunting helps in controlling the rodent population.
* They love wildlife and are put off by hunting. That is one of the things they dislike about their cats.
* They feel outdoor access is vital for cats and want them to roam about without any hindrance.
* They have doubts about how the hunting behavior of cats can be reduced by their owners.
* They are more likely to keep their cat indoor at least some of the time.
* They are particularly concerned about birds and hunting irks them.
* They believe that the hunting behavior of the cats can be kept in check by their owners.
* They are generally unaware of the issues surrounding roaming and hunting behaviors.
* They feel it’s natural for cats to go out and accept that trouble might arise because of it.
* They would be willing to control their cat’s hunting behavior if it’s killing things continuously.
Should cat owners take the study seriously?
While this study is unique and fun, one mustn’t forget that it was only done in the UK. The responses, hence, can easily shift in places where people have different perceptions toward outdoor cats and letting them roam. Despite this, however, the researchers believe that the five types of cat owners will be largely similar in other countries. They do feel that there might be differences in the relative popularity of each type, though.
In their research, the team also discovered that the responses were quite diverse. They found that most owners don’t like their cat's hunting, and would like to lessen the number of wild animals their pets killed. However, they are not sure how to reduce hunting without keeping cats indoors.
The team from the University of Exeter now intends to continue this research and wants to highlight which views are more common among cat owners.
"We hope this research inspires people to think about what type they are and to have conversations with their friends and family about the responsibilities that cat owners might have, both to themselves and to other wildlife," Crowley said. "We think this can happen without conflict between cat lovers and bird projects."
It is up to cat owners, of course, how they look at this study. You can enjoy it and discuss it with other cat owners. However, if the research does eventually help in getting a better understanding of cat owners all over the world and how they can help reduce the amount of wildlife killed by domestic cats, then it might prove to be a great initiative.
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