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Abstract

The potential impact of domestic cats on wildlife is the subject of growing international interest and concern. While feral cats are often the primary focus of research and debate, in many societies a substantial proportion of domestic cats are owned by private individuals. We present a typology that classifies domestic cats in relation to varying degrees of human control over their reproduction, movement, and provisioning. Understanding the perceptions and practices of cat owners will be key to identifying and mitigating any negative ecological effects of cat hunting behaviour. To investigate how cat owners perceive (a) their pets’ hunting behaviour, (b) their responsibilities for managing this, and (c) the mitigation strategies available, we conducted detailed interviews with a diverse sample of cat owners in the United Kingdom. We identified a spectrum of views on hunting behaviour, from owners who perceived hunting as positive (for pest control, or as healthy cat behaviour) to those who were deeply concerned about its consequences for wild animals, their populations, and welfare. However, hunting was widely understood as a normal, natural component of cat behaviour, and owners rarely perceived a strong individual responsibility for preventing or reducing it. Those who did wish to manage hunting perceived several barriers to this, including concern that they were unable to control behaviour effectively without compromising cat welfare, doubt about the efficacy and practicality of popular mitigation measures, and unfamiliarity with alternative options. We recommend that (a) initiatives directed at changing cat owners’ behaviour consider the multiple factors and competing priorities that inform their decision‐making (particularly cat health and welfare and practicality or cost of interventions); (b) researchers work collaboratively with cat owners and veterinary, cat welfare, and conservation organizations to identify effective solutions, and (c) some degree of accountability for managing problematic hunting behaviour should be promoted as a part of “responsible pet ownership” initiatives.
People and Nature. 2019;1–13.    
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wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pan3
Received:30July2 018 
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  Accepted:26Octob er2018
DOI:10.1002/pan3.6
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Hunting behaviour in domestic cats: An exploratory study of
risk and responsibility among cat owners
Sarah L. Crowley | MartinaCecchetti  | RobbieA.McDonald
Thisisanop enaccessarti cleundertheter msoftheCreativeCommonsAttributionL icense,whichpe rmitsuse,dis tribu tionandreprod uctioninanymed ium,
provide dtheoriginalwor kisproperlycited.
©2019TheAuth ors.People and NaturepublishedbyJohnWiley&SonsLtdonbehalfofB ritishEcologicalSociety
EnvironmentandSustainability
Instit ute,Universit yofExeter,Penryn,
Cornwall,UK
Correspondence
SarahL .Crowley,Environmentand
SustainabilityIns titute,Univer sityofE xeter,
Penry n,Cornwall,UK.
Email:s.crowley@exeter.ac.uk
Funding information
SongBirdSurvival;UniversityofExeter
Abstract
1. Thepotentialimpact ofdomesticcatson wildlifeisthesubject ofgrowinginter
nationalinterestandconcern.Whileferalcatsareoftentheprimaryfocusofre
searchanddebate,inmanysocietiesasubstantialproportionofdomesticcatsare
ownedbyprivateindividuals.Wepresentatypologythatclassifiesdomesticcats
inrelationto varying degrees of human control over their reproduction, move
ment,andprovisioning.Understandingtheperceptionsandpracticesofcatown
erswillbekeytoidentifyingandmitigatinganynegativeecologicaleffectsofcat
huntingbehaviour.
2. Toinvestigatehowcatownersperceive(a)theirpets’huntingbehaviour,(b)their
responsibilities for managing this, and(c)the mitigation strategies available, we
conducteddetailedinter viewswithadiversesampleofcatownersintheUnited
Kingdom.
3. Weidentifiedaspectrumofviewson huntingbehaviour,fromownerswhoper
ceivedhuntingaspositive(forpestcontrol,orashealthycatbehaviour)tothose
whoweredeeplyconcernedaboutitsconsequencesforwildanimals,theirpopu
lations,andwelfare.However,huntingwaswidelyunderstoodasanormal,natural
componentofcatbehaviour,andownersrarely perceivedastrong individualre
sponsibilityforpreventingorreducingit.
4. Thosewhodidwishtomanagehuntingperceivedseveralbarrierstothis,includ
ingconcernthattheywereunabletocontrolbehavioureffectivelywithoutcom
promising cat welfare, doubt about the efficacy and practicality of popular
mitigation measures, andunfamiliarity with alternative options.Werecommend
that(a)initiativesdirectedatchangingcatowners’behaviourconsiderthemulti
plefactorsandcompetingprioritiesthatinformtheirdecision‐making(particularly
cat healthand welfareand practicality orcost of inter ventions);(b)researchers
workcollaboratively with catownersand veterinary,catwelfare, andconserva
tionorganizationstoidentifyeffectivesolutions,and(c)somedegreeofaccount
abilityformanagingproblematichuntingbehaviourshouldbepromotedasapart
of“responsiblepetownership”initiatives.
KEYWORDS
animalmanagement,domesticcat,predation,responsiblepetownership
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1 | INTRODUCTION
Managing the effects of domestic cats (Felis catus) on wildlife is
an international challenge in conservation science, policy, and
practice.The issue is complex;cats undoubtedlyhave significant
detrimental effects on some vulnerable species, especially in is
land ecosystems (Medina et al., 2011; Nogales et al., 2013), and
previous research indicates that, even when killing behaviour
is not univer sal, large n umbers of ca ts inevit ably kill lar ge num
bers of wil d animals (Bla ncher, 2013; Loss, Wil l, & Marra, 2 013;
Woods, McDo nald, & Harri s, 2003). Howeve r,sub stantial va ria
tionsinlandscapetype, catdensit y,the vulnerabilityofdifferent
species andpopulations,andcatmanagementmeasuresresultin
uncertainty in determiningtheoccurrence,type, andseverityof
impacts.
The majority of research to date hasfocused onthe behaviour
andimpactsofunowned (i.e. feralor “colony”)cats.Morerecently,
researc hers have also begun investigating the ro le of owned do
mestic c ats in wildl ife declines , by attemptin g to quantify t he dy
namics and drivers of predatorybehaviour in pet cats (Dickman &
Newsome,2015;vanHeezik,Smyth,Adams,&Gordon,2010;Loyd,
Hernandez,Carroll,Abernathy,&Marshall,2013;Thomas,Fellowes,
&Baker,2012;Tschanz,He gglin ,Gloor,&Bont ad ina,2011)ands ub
lethal effectsof cat presence (Bonnington,Gaston,& Evans,2013;
Mahlaba,Monadjem,McCleery,&Belmain, 2017).While manage
mentdecisionsaboutunownedcats can be made bypublicauthor
ities, themanagementofowned catsis primarilytheresponsibility
ofprivate individuals—cat owners. Effortstoavoid or mitigate any
impactsofownedcat sonwildlifewillrequirecatownersto(a)iden
tify cathuntingbehaviour as a problematicactivity, (b) take orac
ceptresponsibilit yformanagingthatbehaviour,and(c)beequipped
with the appropriate incentives, knowledge,and capacity to do so
effectively.Wearethereforeinterestedinwhether,andtowhatex
tent,cat ownersconsiderhuntingbehaviour problematic;whether
theyconsider themselves responsible for theirpet s’hunting; and if
so,whatmethodstheyemploy,ormightemploy,tomitigatethis.To
exploretheseissues,weconducteddetailed,semi‐structuredinter
viewswithcatownersintheUnitedKingdom.Qualitative research
ofthis kindisnot ableorintendedtobe representativeofthepop
ulation nor to show theprevalenceordistribution ofcertain views
amongcatowners.Instead, inter viewsenableusto examineissues
surroun ding cat husb andry an d management i n greater dept h and
detailthanlarge‐scalesurveys.Throughoursubsequentanalysis,we
haveidentifieda seriesof keyissues and challenges that shouldbe
takenintoaccountincontinuing discussions about cat ownership,
husbandry,andmanagement.
1.1 | Catownershipisdefinedbycontroland
responsibility
Domestic cats are generally classified as either “owned” or “un
owned.”Inpractice,however,cat ownershipisbestconceptualized
as a spec trum of contro l over cat behavio ur,wi th three key are as
of human influence: provision of food, control of reproduction,
FIGURE 1 Differentcategoriesofcatownershipandhusbandrypracticesinrelationtohumancontroloverprovisioning,reproduction,
andmovement.AllimagesareclassifiedasavailableforreusewithmodificationunderaCreativeCommonsLicence.Credits:CássiaAgini
(indoorcat),StephenHanafin(indoor–outdoorcat),DonGraham(free‐rangingcat),PhilRoeder(feralcat)
    
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and contro l of movement (Fig ure 1). Self‐sust aining fera l cats tha t
donot rely onanyhumanprovisioning,noraresubject toanyform
of anthrop ogenic controls, ar e at one end of the spec trum. Fully
confine d cats whose f ood provision , breeding, a nd movement are
closely controlled by humansare atthe otherend.The majority of
catsfallsomewherebetweenthese extremes. Feral cat “colonies”
form around areliable food source, generally provided(either in
tentionallyorunintentionally)byhumans.Humans,therefore,exert
some controloverthe provision offood, andpotentiallyreproduc
tion (throughneutering programmes). “Indoor–outdoor” cats tend
to have closer r elationships wit h individuals or f amilies who pro
videfood and shelter;ownersmay alsocontrolreproduction and/
orcatmovement(e.g.,throughgardenconfinementorkeepingcats
in overnight ). These dif fering level s of control are ass ociated with
varyingdegrees ofattributed orassumed responsibilitybyowners.
Colonycatsareoftensuppor tedby“caretakers”whoassumevolun
tary responsibilityfor provisioningand in some cases sterilisation,
butareunlikelytoattempttoconfinethecatsorcovertheirveteri
narycare.Conversely,someownerskeeptheircatswhollyconfined
duetotheir perceptionof responsibility fortheir cat s’safetyatall
times.Legislativeandregulatoryresponsibilitiesvaryinternationally
andregionally(seeSection1.3below).
1.2 | Catownerperceptionsand
management practices
Thefocusofexistin gresearchonpeople'spercept ionsofc atowner
shipandmanagement variesby region.Research from theUSAhas
pr im ari lycon centr ate do npe rcept ion sa ndman age me ntoffer al, co l
ony,andowned“free‐ranging”cats(Ash&Adams,2003;Dombrosky
& Wolvlerton, 2014; Loyd & Hernandez, 2015; Loyd & Miller,
2010;Peterson, Har tis, Rodriguez,Green, & Lepczyk,2012; Wald,
Jacobson,&Levy,2013).Feralcatmanagement,andparticularlythe
strateg y oftrap–neuter–return, is the subject of long‐standingand
increasi ngly polaris ed public deba te in North Am erica, wit h sharp
divisionsdrawnbetween activist ssupportingandopposingit (Loss
&Marra,2018;Loss,Will,Longcore,&Marra,2018;Petersonetal.,
2012;Wald etal.,2013).The managementofowneddomesticcats
has receivedless attention,excepting Gramza,Teel,VandeWoude,
andCrooks(2016),whoexaminedColorado residents’ perceptions
of the “bidir ectional r isks” associ ated with cat ro aming behavio ur:
threatsto cats(e.g.,injury,loss),andthreat sfromcats (e.g.,wildlife
pre da tion) .USsa mp le swerealsoi nc lu de dinHa lletal.’s(2016)i nter
national comparison ofcatownerattitudes,which identified ahigh
rate ofpermanent confinement (indoor cats)inthe USA compared
with Aus tralia, New Ze aland, and t he United Kingd om, and whic h
maypartiallyexplainthegreaterfocusonmanagementofunowned
andsemi‐ownedcatsinNorthAmericandiscourses.
InAustralasia,thereisheightenedinterestincatsaspredatorsof
nativewildlife,andinAustralia,theownedcatpopulationisreport
edly declining (Hall et al., 2016). The management ofpredation by
feral cats, though not without controversy (Farnworth, Watson, &
Adams,2014;Hillier&Byrne,2016),iswidelyconsideredanecessit y
(Dohertyetal.,2017).Socialresearchondomesticcatmanagement
has there fore been emp loyed as a means of a ssessing th e accept
abilityofpotentialregulatoryinter ventionsforownedcats(Grayson,
Calver, & Styles, 2002; Lilith, Calver, Styles, & Garkaklis, 2006;
KingboroughCouncil[Tasmania]2017),whichinsomeregionshave
been enactedinlaw(e.g.,WACat Act2011). Althoughsupportfor
registr ation and nig ht confineme nt of cats is rel atively high , there
isnevertheless resistance to permanent confinementandbanson
cat ownership (Grayson et al., 20 02; Lilithetal., 2006; Travaglia &
Miller, 2017). A seri es of studies ( Toukhsati, Benn ett, & Cole man,
2007; Toukhsati, Young, B ennett , & Coleman , 2012; Zito, Vankan ,
Bennett, Paterson, &Phillips, 2015) has additionally examined the
phenomenon ofc at“semi‐ownership” inAustr aliaand has sought
toidentifyboththeprevalenceofthisandparticipants’perceptions
ofresponsibilitytowardssemi‐ownedcats.Thisresearchfoundthat
althoughsomepeopleregularlyfeedcatstheydonotown,theyare
unlikelytotakere spo nsibilityforneuteringthoseanimalsforanum
berofreasons,includingtheassumptionthatotherpeopleown(and
arethereforeresponsiblefor)them.
These studies have almost invariably employed quantitative
surveys , at differe nt scales, to a scertai n differen ces in public pe r
ceptionsandattitudesbetweendemographicorstakeholdergroups
(e.g.,catownersandnon‐owners).Thishashelpedidentifypatterns
andtrendsinattitudesandbehaviourswithinandbetweenpopula
tions.However,suchsurveysarelimitedintheirabilitytoextendour
unders tanding a s to the reason ing and affe ctive fac tors infor ming
theseperceptions.Morerecently,researchersinAustralia(McLeod,
Hine, & Bengsen, 2015) and New Zealand (Harrod, Keown, &
Farnworth,2016)haveinvestigatedperceptionsand useofspecific
managementinterventions—containmentandcollars,respectively—
withtheaimofidentifyingbarrierstotheiruseand/orinformingbe
haviourchangestrategies.
Here, we have taken a different, qualitative approach to ex
ploring issues surrounding cat roaming behaviour, predation, and
manageme nt in the United K ingdom. Th is research a imed to flesh
out,contextualizeanddevelopourunderstandingofcatownerper
ceptions and behaviours by exploring participants’ self‐reported
thought s and feeling s about their r esponsibili ties towards and f or
theircats.
1.3 | Catownershipandmanagementinthe
UnitedKingdom
Given cult ural variat ions in the so ciolegal cont ext of domes tic cat
management, it is wor th outlining current circumstances in the
UnitedKingdom.RecentestimatesplacetheownedUKcatpopula
tionat8–11million(PDSA, 2018;PFMA, 2018).Thecareandman
agement ofcatsfallunder multiplelegislativeacts andregulations.
TheAnimalWelfareAct2006requirescatownerstoberesponsible
forprotectingtheirpetsfromunnecessarysuffering,pain,injury,or
disease. H owever, owners must a lso pay due rega rd to their pet s’
needto display normalpatternsofbehaviour(which,forcats,argu
ably includes exploratory and hunting behaviour). Owned cats are
4 
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CROWLE Y Et aL.
legally consideredpropert y(rather than persons), andthereby of
fences wou ld be commit ted if they were st olen, injure d, or inten
tionallykilled.Unownedcats,however,arenotprotectedmammals,
andsocan legally be humanely killed.Finally, catsarenotcovered
byeitherofthekeyactsthatrestrictroaminginotherdomesticani
mals—theRoadTrafficAct1988or DangerousDogsAct1991—and
thereforeretainacommonlaw“righttoroam”(asproperty,theyare
alsoincapableoftrespass).Ownersarenotlegallyliableformostcat
behaviourthat may be regarded as problematic (including hunting,
defecatinginprivategardens,enteringhouses,orfightingwithother
people s’ cats). This refl ects wide r societal at titudes in the U nited
Kingdom t hat normal cat b ehaviour inclu des these ac tivities, th at
moreseriousthreat sofdamagetopeopleorproperty arerare,and
thatcatscannot“realisticallybefencedin”(Nurse&Ryland,2014).
Twostudies have investigated UKcat owner at titudes towards
wildlife , both as part of eco logical resea rch studying ow ned cats’
roamingand/orpredationbehaviour.Thomasetal.(2012)sur veyed
householdersintheirurbanstudyareatoexamine perceptions of
theimportanceofcatpredationonwildlife,theacceptabilityofdif
ferent man agement strategi es, and how existi ng practices ref lect
those perceptions. They found a generally low level of concern
aboutthepotentialimpactsofcatsonwildlifeandalowlevelofac
ceptabilityformostmanagementstrategies;collar‐mounteddevices
were considered the most acceptable. McDonald, Maclean,Evans,
andHodgson(2015) conducted door‐to‐doorsur veys todetermine
whetherowners’perceptionsoftheircats’huntingbehaviourcorre
spondedto actualpreyreturns,andto identify whethertheextent
ofpredatorybehaviourinfluencesownerattitudestomanagement.
Themajority of participatingowners wereable to predict whether
or not their cats would return prey, but not how much. Owne rs
tendedtodisagreewiththemanagementoptionspresented(neuter
ing,nightconfinement,permanentconfinement),exceptneutering,
whichwa sw id el ya cc ep te d;98%di sagreedwithperm an en tconfi ne
ment. A s in Thomas et al.'s (2012) s tudy, a substant ial propor tion
(60%) did not consider catstobeharmfultowildlife.McDonaldet
al.'s (2015) stud y did not find own er opinions to b e influenced by
theircats’predatorybehaviour.
Theseearlyfindingssuggestthat,intheUnitedKingdom,catim
pactsonwildlifehavelowculturalsaliencecomparedwithAustralia,
NewZealand, andtheUSA, andthatpublic supportforanyform of
cat manage ment is relati vely low. This is supp orted by Ha ll et al.’s
(2 016)i n ter n a tion a lsu r v ey,wh i c hfo u n dt h a tow n ersf r omt h e Uni t ed
Kingdom we re the least li kely to consider c ats a threat to wi ldlife
(exceptinnaturereserves)andtheleastlikelytosupportmostman
agementoptions(exceptneutering).Currentadviceandguidanceon
cathusbandr yintheUnitedKingdomreflectsthis, with unconfined
cats acceptedasthenorm,includingamong conser vationorganisa
tions,manyofwhichdonotofficiallyreportcathuntingbehaviouras
asignificantthreattowildlife (e.g., Royal SocietyfortheProtection
of Birds, 2018). Re cently, however, resear chers have pro posed the
introduction of cat exclusion “bufferzones” aroundareas inhabited
byvulnerablespecies(Hanmer,Thomas,&Fellowes,2017).
2 | METHODS
A key aim of this ex ploratory st udy was to identif y the perspec
tives of a dive rse group of cat own ers implement ing a variety of
husbandry practices. To achieve this diversity, 48 participants
from37householdswererecruitedthroughseveraldifferentchan
nels. We distributed leaflets in pet shops and veterinary practices
in south‐we st and centr al Cornwall , and posted a n electro nic ver
sionoftheleafletoncommunityinterest(notcat‐related)Facebook
groups bas ed in Cornwal l and Greater O xford. This e nabled us to
target cat ownersfrom urban, suburban, andruralareas while not
restricting our sampleto,forexample,themembers of cat interest
groups or ownerswhose pets are registered witha vet.Toinclude
owners practicing lesscommon management methods (e.g.,those
with whollyoutdoororspatiallyconfinedc ats), we purposively re
cruited additionalparticipants:two households withfarm cat sand
three where “ProtectaPet” (https://protectapet.com) fencing had
been inst alled around the property.Table1 provides summary de
tailsaboutpar ticipantsandtheircats;additionaldetailsareprovided
asSupportingInformationTable S1.Although wewerenotseeking
arepresentativesample, and there are more femalecat owners in
theUnited Kingdom(58%: PDSA ,2017),it is worthnotingthatthe
majorityofourrespondents(almost80%)were female.Thisiscon
sistent withother studies investigating similarissues (e.g., Wald et
al., 2013;Harrodetal.,2016;Halletal., 2016),thoughtheprecise
reasonsforsuchabiasinresponserateareunknown.
ThisstudyreceivedethicalapprovalfromtheUniversityofExeter
(Ref:2017/2058).Participant swereprimarily interviewed at their
ho m e s(t h reew e rei n ter vi e wed a ta g r e eda l tern a t ive l ocat i o ns) .SL C
conductedallinterviews,followingasemi‐structuredschedule(see
SupportingInformationDataS1).Participantsreadaninformation
TABLE 1 Summarytableofparticipantsincludingkey
demographicinformationanddetailsoftheamount,sex,andbreed
ofownedcat sinthestudy.Afulltablewiththedetailsofall
participantsandcatsisprovidedasSupportingInformationTable
S1
Participants
Region
Cornwall/Devon 35
GreaterOxford 13
Areatype
City 13
Rural 8
Village 12
Tow n 15
Gender
Female 38
Male 10
Tot a l 48
    
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 5
People and Nature
CROWLE Y Et aL.
sheetexplainingthetopicofstudyandsignedconsentformsprior
to their inte rview. Part icipants were i nformed that t hey had the
righttowithdraw atanytime.Allinterviewswereaudio‐recorded
and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analysed withthe as
sistanceofNVivoforMac(v11).Following aninitialread‐through,
asingle codercategorizedsectionsoftranscripts by response re
garding(a)perceptionsofcathuntingbehaviour;(b)perceptionsof
owner responsibility for hunting behaviour;and (c) views andex
perienceofpossiblemitigationmeasures.Thesegroupswerethen
furthercodedinto thematicresponsesand interpretedinrelation
totheexistingliteratureandwiderdiscussionwithowners.Coded
identifiersareusedheretoprotectparticipants’identities.
3 | RESULTS
3.1 | Docatownersconsiderhuntingbehavioura
problem?
We identifi ed six differe nt perspec tives on cat hu nting behaviou r
(Figure2),whicharenotnecessarilymutuallyexclusive.
3.1.1| Huntingisnotaproblem,becauseit
is desirable
Fewowners expressed the opinionthat cat huntingbehaviourwas
desira ble or a positive asp ect of cat owners hip. The two nota ble
exceptionsto this were the owners of farm cats (“I do want them
hunting onthefarm,keepingthevermin down” [17])and an owner
whofelt proudof theircatfor their hunting prowess.Hunting was
interpretedasanexpressionofthecat'sskillandauthenticity:“Iwas
almostthinking,youknow,ifyoubringapheasantbackI'llbereally
proud of you. Not that I actually wantedhimtokill it, but because
hewasbeingacat”(33).Similarly,19a,thoughnotproudofhunting
perse,oneownerneverthelessfeltasenseofreassurancefromtheir
cat'shuntingbehaviour:
When she di d bring in a vole or a m ole, I reall y felt
shewassettlingintoherenvironment,andshewasn’t
scared . I thought well t hat’s a good thin g, she’s out
there, doinga bit ofhunting. Youknow,she’sfeeling
comfort able,relaxedandsafe.(19a)
3.1.2 | Huntingisnotaproblem,becauseitisnatural
Anothergroupofowners,whilenotnecess arilyview inghuntingbe
haviourpositively,didnotperceiveitasaproblem;itwasconsidered
an acceptable, normal, “natural” component ofcat behaviour: It's
wh at anima lsd o, is n't it , hu ntoth era ni mal s?So ,n o,I 'm notbo the red
byit atall”(24);“I don'tac tuallymindas long as they havenotgot
maggotsallover them.It's nature.Theyarenature” (37a).Multiple
participantscommented that hunting was“what cats do”, and felt
that accept ing this was pa rt and parce l of cat ownersh ip. Indeed,
several went fur ther and suggested that,“Youknowfullwellwhat
catsarelikewhenyougetacat,soanybodythatkeepstheminfor
[hunting],Ialsofindannoying.Don'tgetacat,basically”(07).
3.1.3 | Huntingisaproblem,butitisnatural
The most prominent viewpoint appears somewhat paradoxical.
Manypar ticipantsdidnotliketheirpets’huntingbehaviourforrea
sons incl uding, but not l imited to, its p otential effe cts on wil dlife.
Nevertheless, hunting was tolerated because it was perceived as
“natural.”Here,weneedtoteaseapartdifferentconnotationsofthe
term “natural.”Inmost cases,owners’useoftheterm implied that
hunting behaviour isa normal component of catbehaviour; some
thing that catsaredriventodoandfindrewarding(e.g.,“ Youcan't
really ch ange what they do an d what's par t of their genes , I sup
pose…par toftheirmakeupistohunt”[20]).Inothercases,cathunt
ingbehaviourwasconsideredanormalecologicalprocess,partofa
natural o rder of thing s: “it's just n ature unfor tunately ” (04). The se
ownersthereforethoughtcathuntingbehaviourlegitimate,ifunde
sirable,eitherbecauseitwaspartofcats’behaviouralrepertoirethat
they “couldn' t” or “woul dn't want to” cur tail, and /orbe cause they
sawcatpredationasanaturalecologicalprocessthattheyneednot
interve ne in. Many owne rs were confli cted, tho ugh, by what th ey
perceivedasnaturalbehaviourbutalsoapotentialproblem:
Interviewer:Whenyouthinkaboutyourcatsashunt
ersorpredators,howdoesthatmakeyoufeel?
06: It's a k ind of mixture. Li ke, it's acceptan ce that
that's in t heir nature to d o it, but, yo u know... I still
feelabitcrosswiththem.
FIGURE 2 Schematicshowingrange
ofowners’perspectivesondomesticcat
huntingbehaviour.Seetextfordet ailsand
examples
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People and Nature
CROWLE Y Et aL.
22: I know it's their instinct,it's a hunting instinct, I
understandthat.Stillyouthink‘ohGodno’,youknow,
andyoutryandrescuethem.
Related to th is view was a percep tion that, alt hough huntin g by
catscouldposeathreattowildlife,inthecontextofotherfactorsthis
was (compar atively) minor: “ there's lots of thin gs that are affec ting
wildlife,certainlycan'tblameitprimarilyonacat,canyou?”(08).
3.1.4 | Huntingisaproblem,becauseitiscrueland/
or unnecessary
Amorespecific versionofthisperspective was the view that hunting
behaviour, while naturalfor cats, seemed unnecessary and/or cruel.
Thisreflectsrecognition thatowneddomesticcat shuntdespitebeing
wellfed:“Iknowit'sinstinct,butitdoesannoyyoubecauseyouknow
they'renothungrysothey'rejustdoingit,Idon'tknowwhy”(14).One
par ti cipantfurt herexplainedt hat,“Ife elt hatwithourstheydon' tne ed
tohunt itto eatit.Itisjustplay.AndIknowit'stheirinstinctsand na
ture,butIjustdon'tlikedeath.Animalsdyingfornoreason,beingtor
mentedandscared”(23).Participantsexpresseddistasteattheideaof
killing for pleasure, severalnoting the mannerinwhich catsplaywith
and disreg ard prey: “He do esn't kill th em quickly… I know tha t they
don'tmeanitlike that butit'sabout thisuncaringnature”(08).Others
weredist ressedatth esufferin gofthepr ey:“Idon'tliketoseeanyt hing
sufferingtobehonest,nomatterwhatitis,andwhenit'sdeadit 'sstill
upsettingbecausethatpoorlittlecreaturedidn'thavemuchofachance
anditjustseemsabitpointlessbecausethey'renothungr y”(20).Here,
theconcern forwildlifewas focusedonwelfareoftheindividualprey
animal,ratherthanconsiderationofathreattowildpopulations.
3.1.5 | Huntingisaproblem,becauseitaffectswild
(bird) populations
Mostparticipant swhoidentifiedhunting behaviour asproblematic
duetoitspotentialimpactsonwildlifedifferentiatedbet weentypes
ofp rey,wi thpar t ic ipa nt spr ima ri lycon ce rne dab ou tth ei rc atsc at ch
ingbirds.Several wereawareofwiderissues surroundingsongbird
declineandwereconcernedthatcatscouldcontributetothis;afew
indicatedaparticularfondnessfor,interestin,or“affinitywith”birds
comparedwith otherpreyspecies, and farming participants noted
thatbirdswerenot pests:“thebirdsdon'tgiveusanytrouble”(17).
Othersreportedfeelingdifferentlyaboutbirds,butstruggledtoar
ticulatewhy:“Idon' tknowwhy...justsomethingaboutbirds”(05);“a
birdismoreupsettingbutthere'snotlogicinthat”(08).
Parti cipants re ferred to pop ulation size of sm all mammals as a
factoraffectingtheirviews,butthisvariedindirection,from“Idon't
thinkwe'lleverbeshortofmice”(12)to“littleshrewsandfieldmice,
some of the m are in declin e, aren't th ey?”(15a). Th e classific ation
ofmice, rats,andrabbits as“vermin”wasalsogivenas areasonfor
less concern about these species, and their predation was consid
eredmoreacceptablegiven cats’traditionalroleaspestcontrollers
(“that'swhatpeopleusedtohavecatsfor,wasn'tit?”[09]).However,
some par ticipants were equally concerned about birds and small
mammals , especiall y in terms of welfa re and defencel essness (se e
Section3.1.4above),andoneparticipantwas moregenerallycon
cernedthatcatpresencewas“unnatural”,statingthat:
03: [Wildlife has]got more right, I think to be there
thanthecat.
Interviewer:Whyisthat?
03:Well,[catsare]domesticated,aren'tthey?They're
notawildthing…Ijustthink,wellifyou'regoingtolet
yourcat out,itwill kill animals. Andthat is…the one
thingthatIstruggleabitwith.
3.1.6 | Huntingisaproblem,becauseit
is unpleasant
Some owne rs reported no sp ecific concern ab out populations or
welfareofwildlife,butstillconsideredhuntingproblematicbecause
cats br ought prey into t he home, crea ting an unple asant situat ion
fortheowner: “Absolutely the worstthing…is thehunting because
obviouslythat 'sabitgrossandyouendup,occasionally,withalive
mouseorwhatever…”(28).Manyparticipantsvividly recalledocca
sionswhentheircat shadbroughtdead,mauled,orlivelypreyhome:
“Theworst everwasalivevole…I wokeup with itrunning through
myhairandthatwashorrible”(34).Again,however,concernsabout
thiswereof tenqualifiedwithrecognitionthathavingpreybrought
inwasaconstituentpartofcatownership.
3.2 | Ownerperceptionsofresponsibilityfortheir
cats’ hunting behaviour
Weasked about hunting behaviour as part of aseries ofquestions re
gar dingowne rs’responsibilitie stoandforth eircats .Cons equentl y,so me
oftheresponsesinthissectionadditionallyrefertoownerresponsibility
forotherissuesassociatedwithcatsroaming outdoors, particularlynui
sance behaviours (e.g., fighting, toileting)andrisks to cat safety.Among
ourparticipants,weidentifiedfivedifferentperspectivesrelatingtoown
ers’responsibilitiesformanagingtheircats’huntingbehaviour(Figure3).
3.2.1| Catownershavenoresponsibilityfor
managinghunting,becausehuntingdoesnotneedto
be managed
Participantswhodidnot considercathuntingbehaviouraproblem,
orwhodesiredhuntingbehaviour,werecorrespondinglyunlikelyto
believe themselves—or anyone else—responsible for managing it.
Additionally,someowners,thoughnotnecessarilyhappywiththeir
cats’hunting,hadnotconsideredwhethertheyheldanyresponsibil
ity for it asowners (e.g., “I hadn't reallythoughtabout birds being
endangeredandtherefore[hunting]beingabadthing”[32]).
    
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 7
People and Nature
CROWLE Y Et aL.
3.2.2 | Catownershavenoresponsibility
formanaginghuntingbehaviour,because
cats are autonomous
Themostimpor tantbarriertoassumingresponsibility,however,
wasowners’perceptionsthat itwouldbeeitherextremelydif
ficult , or impossible, to c ontrol their cat s’ behaviour. For one
group of par ticipants, this barrier was sufficient for them to
assume no responsibility for their cat when roaming, for ex
ample,“Idon'tthinkcatownersshouldhavethatmuchrespon
sibility…it's reallydif ficult,whentheygooutof yoursightyou
don't know wherethey are, andyoudon't know what theyare
doing”(22).Thisviewwasinformedbyakeyperceptionofcats
as somewhat wildand independent, and therefore (compared
to dogs and other pets) exempt from tight control: “They're
notfully domesticated. I mean, thereisquite a lot of wildin a
cat” (33). There was also aview—consistent with common law
intheUnitedKingdom—that itissociallyacceptableforcatsto
roamandthathuntingandotherbehaviourswereencompassed
within that: “I thinkthere's a general perception…thatcats are
independent bynature and they'lldoexactlywhattheylike.In
someways,that'swhywelikethem,becausetheydothat”(09).
Indeed, independence and autonomy were regularly given as
keyreasonsfor choosing and preferring c ats over other, more
closelycontrolled,pets.
3.2.3 | Catownershavesomeresponsibilityfor
managinghunting,butcatbehaviourischallenging
to control
Another group of par ticipants was conflicted about this same
issue; they didfeel some responsibility for theircat'sbehaviour,
but also fe lt that this was ext remely challen ging to control ef
fectively:“Ithinkyoucan take personalresponsibilitytoapoint,
whe nyouc an”(31).T hisgr oupprop os edarang eofpossi bl estrat
egiesfor taking someresponsibility,including “restrict[ing] their
access to certain things,whetheritwouldbeacollar with a bell
onitorkeep[ing]theminatnightwhentheirhuntingseemstobe
worse”(20).Still,manyparticipantsdid not suggest—orbelieve—
that they co uld fully curt ail this behaviour, as it was ge nerally
assumed that this would involve permanently confiningcats, an
unpopularmanagementoption.
3.2.4 | Catownershavesomeresponsibilityfor
managinghunting,butthisconflictswithother
responsibilities
Our findings suggest thatthe practiceofallowing cats to roamis
associatedwith a widespread belief that confining cats has nega
tivewelfare implications,particularly in relation to cats’ ability to
express “natural” or normal behaviours including exploration, out
door rela xation (e.g., ba sking in sunshi ne), and hunting. A s noted
above,someownerswereconcernedabouttheircats’predationon
wildlife,whichconflictedwiththeirpreferenceforallowingcatsto
roam:“Isupposeitismyresponsibilitytotryandstopthat.Butit's
difficult… Icould shut the catflapatnightsohe doesn't getout…
ButthenformeI'mdenyinghimhisnaturalinstincts”(04).Amore
prevale nt view, however, was that owner s were conflic ted about
allowingroamingduetoconcernforthecats’safet y(particularlyas
regardsroadtraffic).Ownerswere,therefore,requiredtoweighup
theris kofroa mi ng ag ainst th er isk sofconfi ne ment, whichformany
pa r tic ipa nts’wa sas soc iat edw ith alo we rqu ali t yofli fe, for exa mpl e ,
“IdofeelresponsiblebutthereisnothingIcandoaboutthatother
than not lettingit out and I think its freedom is more important”
(35); “Ther e's the risk of them get ting knocked d own…or gettin g
lost whe n going outsid e, but I think t he quality of l ife outweig hs
thatrisk,forme”(28).
3.2.5 | Catownershavesomeresponsibility,asa
collective,formitigatingtheimpactsofhuntingby
reducing cat numbers
Finally,afewparticipant sviewedthemitigationofhuntingbehaviour
asacollective(ratherthanindividual)responsibility:“you'llreadthe
incrediblefigureofhowmanywildcreaturesthatc atswillkilland,to
alargeex tentthat'sb ecausewe'vegotah ugep opulationofcat s.So,
let'sstopbreedingthecats…”(10).Thispositionwasassociatedwith
aperceptionthat,inurban–suburbanareas,individualcatswereun
likelytosubstantiallyeffectwildlifepopulations,butthathighdensi
tiesofcatscouldplaceunduepressureonvulnerablewildlife.
FIGURE 3 Schematicshowing
variationinparticipant sviewsonc at
ownerresponsibilitiesformanaging
huntingbehaviourindomesticcats.See
textfordetailsandexamples
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3.3 | Catowners’perceptionsofhunting
mitigation methods
Inthisfinalsection,wediscusshowparticipantsperceiveddifferent
kinds of met hods for miti gating hunti ng behaviour i n cats, incl ud
ing both wel l‐known strateg ies (e.g., contain ment, collar‐mounted
devices),but alsoindirectmeasuressuchasremoving bird feeders
toreduceopportunitiesforpredation(Figure4).Manyparticipants
didnotperceivetheircats’huntingtobesufficientlyproblematicfor
them to inte rvene, bo th for reason s discussed a bove and also be
causeownersoftenperceivedthattheircatwasnotkillingasignifi
cantquantit yofwildlife, orasignificantenoughspecies,torequire
intervention. Never theless,theyoften went ontoconcludethat“if
Ihadacatthatwaskillingstuf fallthetimeIwouldmakesureitwas
shutup…atnight”(01);and“Wildlife...Iguessitisanissue.Iguessif
theystartedbringingloadsandloadsofstuffin…Iwouldkeepthem
inatnight”(34).Ofthoseownerswhoused,orhadpreviouslyused,
mitigationmeasures,thefollowingstrategieswerereported.
3.3.1 | Temporalandspatialconfinement
Participantswhokept their cat sin atnightsometimesdidsotore
ducetheir cat'shunting, althoughthisoften ser vedadualfunction
ofminimizingrisksfromroadtraffic.Onehouseholdonlykepttheir
catinatnightduring springwhentheyhadfoundhunting offledg
lings to be a par ticularproblem.Twohouseholds keptcats indoor‐
onlyorfullyconfined(inruns)which,althoughprimarilyforthecats’
protection,also preventedany hunting.Anotherthree households
had fence d their gardens , which enable d their pets to go o utside
without roaming and reportedly limited their hunting. However,
manyownersperceived strong ethical and practical barriers to cat
confinementandparticularlypermanentindoorconfinement(which
was conside red unfair or “comp letely agai nst a cat's nat ure” [27]).
Confinement is also not a realistic option for those people who
keep cat s for pest contr ol purposes , and who are inde ed unlikely
tocontemplate anymeasuresto mitigatehunting,as this isthepri
mary p urpose of thei r keeping cats . Temporary conf inement (e.g .,
keeping cats in overnight), while not necessarily opposed by own
ers, was sometimes considered difficult to implement in practice,
with repo rts of cat s previously all owed outdoor acce ss becoming
stressedanddisruptiveiftheirroutineswerechanged.
3.3.2 | Collar‐mounteddevices
Ownerswerebroadlyawareofthepracticeofusingcollar‐mounted
devices,and par ticularlybells, asameansofreducingcats’success
rate when hunting. Several participants had usedcollarswith bells
andbelievedthesetobeeffective.However,othershadtrialledcol
lar‐mounted devices unsuccessfully, either because cats rejected
wearing a collar (“Iputit on him and he justwentberserk”[04])or
bell(“evenifIjustringthebellawayfromthem…Theygomad”[29]).
Therewasalsoconcern aboutthewelfareimplications ofbothcol
larsanddevices;severalownershadexperienced,orknewof,inci
dences of cat sbeing injured by their collar.A few wereconcerned
thatthepersistentnoise made by bellswouldbestressfulforcats.
Finally,several ownerswerenotconvincedthatcollars were an ef
fectivemitigationmethod: “If we could justputabellonhercollar
andknowthatshewouldneverbeableto hunt againwe would do
iteventhoughIknowit'sabitannoyingforher.Butitdoesn'treally
seemto work”(30). Ownerscomfortableusingquick‐releasesafety
collarsneverthelessfoundthischallenging,ascollarswerereported
to be frequently lost or, in some cases, “pinged off” by the cat s
themselves:“We'veputcollarsonhim"(25b)"andhe'sgotthemoff
withinseconds”(25a).Someparticipantsalsobelievedthattheircats
hadlearnedtostalkwithoutthebellsounding,reducingthedevice's
effectiveness.
3.3.3 | “Rescuing”prey
When prey w as returned to t he home stil l alive, owners r egularly
repor ted attemptin g to intervene an d stop the cat fro m killing it.
Reporteddriversfor this behaviour wereconcern forprey welfare
and, morepragmatically,wishing to avoidhaving live animalsand/
or the mess of “maimed” animals in the house. Participants fre
quently acknowledged,however,thatremovingpreydidnotneces
sarily guaranteeits sur vival. A coupleofowners reportedwarning
orotherwisedistractingtheircatswhentheyobservedthemhunt
ing: “I shout at themwhen I seethem st alking” (29); which c an be
FIGURE 4 Directandindirect
interventionsparticipantsreportusing,
orhavingtried,asmeansofmitigating
huntingbehaviourindomesticcats.
Althoughownersreportedemploying
thesemethodswithvaryingdegrees
ofsuccess,theireffectivenesshasnot
necessarilybeenevaluatedfroman
ecologicalperspective
    
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interpretedaseitheraneffort todirectlyintervenein cats’hunting
behaviour,orasa casualattempt tomoregenerallydiscouragethis
behaviourthroughaversiontraining.
3.3.4 | Indirectmitigationmethods
Providing supplementary food forwild birds is a common practice
inthe UnitedKingdom.Oneregularlyreported,indirectmitigation
strategy involved owners avoiding attracting birds into their gar
denbyremoving,orintentionallynotinstalling,birdfeedersornest
boxes.However,a coupleof participantsconverselyexplainedthat
theyactivelyfedbirds,eitherasacounterpointor“balance”against
thedetrimentaleffectofcatpredation,orduetoabeliefthat“ifyou
feedbirds,ifyougetmorebirdsinyourgarden[...]they'relesslikely
tobehuntedbecauseofthevolumeofthem”(08).
One ownerwho did notconsider her cat a prolific hunter sug
gested th at: “maybe it's b ecause I… play with him a lot an d enter
tainhim...Iwonderwhetherifyouspendenoughtimewithyourpet,
thatthatcanpossiblymakeadifference”(11).However,otherswere
scepticalaboutthe potentialfortoysand otherenrichmentstrate
gies to eff ectivel y replace hunt ing behaviou r: “We give the m toys
butatthe end of thedaytheir toys don't do anything, andthey're
cats an d [hunting is] what cat s do” (36). One owner rep orted re
searchingcat breedsthat were lesslikely toroam and huntbefore
gettingacat.
4 | DISCUSSION
4.1 | Huntingasaproblematicbehaviour
Forcatownerstoconsidermitigatingtheirpets’huntingbehaviour,
theyfirstneedtoperceive it as eitheranactual or potential prob
le m .W eid e nti f ied asp e c t rum ofv i ew s amo n gou rpa r t i cip a nts, f rom
those whosaw hunting as desirable to those who found it deeply
concerning.Akeyperspective,however,wasaccept anceofhunting
asanormal,“natural”behaviourthat,regardlessofowners’feelings
about it, wasunder stoodas a constituent element ofc atowner
ship. If prospective cat owners were strongly concerned about
wildlife impacts, therefore, they maybeless likely to obtain a cat;
conversely,acceptanceofhuntingbehaviourmaybemorecommon
amongcatowners.Thiswouldbeconsistentwithexistingresearch
indicating that non‐owners are more likely to consider domestic
catsathreattowildlife(Graysonetal.,20 02;Lilithetal.,2006;Hall
etal.,2016).However,non‐ownershavealsobeenfoundtobemore
likelytohavenegative attitudestocatsin general(Toukhsatietal.,
2012),sowhetherornothuntingbehaviourspecificallyisagenuine
orwidespreadbarriertocatownershipremainsunknown.
Althoughsomeowners hadbroaderconcernsaboutcats’po
tential(ingeneral)tonegativelyimpactwildlife,participantsoften
didnotconsidertheirown catstobeprolificenough,ortargeting
therel ev antspec ie s,tobeaprob lem .Itmayth er eforebeth at on ly
owners wh ose cats are p rolific hunter s, or who have par ticular,
competinginterests in wildlife (andespecially bird) conservation
and/or welfare are likely to consider hunting behaviour suffi
cientlyproblematictointervene.Someofourparticipant s,having
beenalertedtothepotentialthreat towildlifeby wordofmouth
ormediareport s,hadsubsequentlyresearchedtheissuebuthad
foundlittleevidencetoconvincethemthattheircatposedarisk
worthyofintervention.
Concern for thewelfare ofindividualwild animalsmay,insome
cases, be a strongerdriver ofintervention thanconcernforwildlife
populationsatlargerscales.Even ifownersdo notseetheir catsas
havingaparticulareffectonpopulations,theyareoftenforcedtoob
servecat scausingpreytosufferandmayempathise.Formany,how
ever,predation by cats is thought of as “natural”, not onlyinterms
of cat behaviour but also as a self‐regulating ecological process.
Veryfewpar ticipantsraisedor(whenprompted)hadconsideredthe
potential effects of catdensity or conceptualised domestic cats as
particularly distinct from native wildlife. Most participant s there
foreconsideredhunting behaviour an acceptable,ifnotnecessarily
desirable, aspec tofcat behaviour.Furthermore, therewereindica
tionsthatcats’independenceand“wildness”arepart of their appeal;
catswereconsideredmoreautonomousthandogs,andparticipants
regularlyreferredtothecomparativelackofcommitmentandatten
tion they fe lt cats re quired. Thi s autonomy par tially re lies on cat s’
territor ial behaviour a nd accompanyin g ability to sel f‐exercise and
self‐entertainthrough roaming. Predationonwildlifeis dependent
onaccesstotheoutdoors,anditisthereforedifficulttodisentangle
theper ce ivedben ef itsofroam in gf romth ea pp arentrisk so fh un ting.
4.2 | Responsibilityformanagingbehaviour
Inthe UnitedKingdom,anyimpacts ofdomesticcatsonwildlifewill
likely be related to cat density and overall numbers. Consequently,
unless theyareparticularlysuccessful orenthusiastichunters orare
roaming insensitive habitats (e.g., nature reserves),individual cats
are unlikely tos trongly impact wildlife populations. Minimising cat
impact smight therefore be considered a shared,ratherthansimply
an individual,responsibility. However,as with other environmental
issuesthatarisefromdetrimentalcumulativeactions(e.g.,waste,en
ergy consumption), individuals may not feel thatchanging theirper
sonalbehaviourcanmakeapalpabledifference.Furthermore,there
arehighdegrees of individual variation in cat roamingandhunting
behaviour.Ourfindings suggest thatwhereownersrecognise their
catasaprolifichunter(andareconcerned abouthunting), they may
bemorein clinedtota kemitigatingac tio n.However,ifowner sdon ot
seetheirpet'sbehaviourasunusualorproblematic,theymaybeless
likely tovoluntarily assumeresponsibilityformanaging it.Thisphe
nomenon isheightened by the broader societal acceptance,in the
Un i tedK i n gdom , ofu n c onstr a i n edr o a m ing b yow n e dcat s ( M cDo n a l d
etal.,2015;Thomas etal.,2012),evenwhencomparedtoculturally
similarcountriessuchastheUSAandAustralia(Halletal.,2016).
Many owners did, however, perceive themselves as at least
partlyresponsible forreducing theircats’potentialtocauseprivate
nuisance,particularlyifthisinvolvedriskstoothers’petsorproperty
(i.e., cat–cat ag gression or c ats enterin g people's home s). In these
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instances,ownersweremorewillingtotakereparativeresponsibility
fortheircats’behaviour(e.g.,bycoveringcostsofveterinarybillsor
damage).However,thiswasgenerallydrivenbyadesiretomaintain
goodcommunityrelationships,ratherthanasenseofmoralrespon
sibilityfortheircats’behaviour,indicatingthepotentialimportance
ofsocialnormsandexpectationsasinfluencesonownerbehaviour.
There was lessconcern aboutcats urinating and defecatingingar
dens,somethingmostparticipantsthoughtunrealistictocontrol(the
onuswas generallyplacedon garden ownerstohumanely protect
theirpropertyfromcats).Culturalfactorsarerelevantagainhere,as
thepresenceofcat singardensandpublicspaces,whilenotalways
appreciated,retainsahighlevelofsocialacceptabilityintheUnited
Kingdom (com pared with th e USA, where m ost public ordi nances
relating tocatsare implemented to manage such private nuisance
behaviours:Halletal.,2016).
4.3 | Mitigationstrategies
Cat safety—and particularly road safety—was a strongerdriver for
ownerstorestricttheircats’roamingthanwildlifeimpacts,asmost
participantsdidfeelresponsibleforprotectingthehealthandwell‐
being of their cats. It is therefore wor th recognizing that, in some
cases, cat ownersmaybe unintentionallymanaging huntingbehav
iour as a cons equence of th eir protec tive behavio ur towards the ir
cats; t hat is, owners do not n ecessarily n eed to perceive hunt ing
asa problem,orassume personal responsibility for managing it, to
practice cat confinement. Simultaneously, however, many owners
recognis edthatexplorat io n,ter ri torialroamin g,andhu ntingareno r
mal cat be haviours and wi shed to avoid rest ricting the se. A com
monconclusionamongparticipantswasthatthebenefitsprovided
tocats by roaming outweighed the potential risks of injury,death,
orloss(despite suchrisksbeingrelativelyhigh,especiallyforyoung
cats: O'Neill, Church, McGreevy, Thomson, & Brodbelt, 2015).
Consequently, although Australasian and North American cam
paignsadvocatecatcontainmentas ameasureofimprovinganimal
welfare,thisisnotasstraightforwardadriverasitmayseem,andis
complicatedbythewelfareimplicationsofpermanentconfinement.
Indoorcatsaremorelikelytosufferfromobesityandstress‐induced
pathologies, especiallyif insufficientenrichment is provided (Alho,
Pontes, & Pomba, 2016).This and other,morepractical barriersto
confinement(suchasthechallengesofchangingadultcat s’routines)
arerarelyconsideredbyadvocatesofrestrictingcatroaming,butare
significantininformingthedecisionsofcatowners.Itshouldalsobe
notedthatriskstocatsinNorthAmerica,forexample,includerabies
andpredationofcats by wildlife, neitherofwhich are per tinentto
manycatowners in the UnitedKingdom (thoughsomereportcon
cernsaboutpredationbyredfoxesVulpes vulpes).
Use of collar s may be limited by resi dual concerns abo ut their
safety(despitetherelativeinfrequencywithwhichquick‐releasecol
larshavebeenfoundtocauseinjury;Calver,Adams,Clark,&Pollock,
2013),p ra ct ic alconce rnsab ou tthee xp enseofco nsisten tl yrepl acing
quick‐releasecollars,lackofacceptance bycats, orperceivedinef fi
ca c yat pre ve n tin ghu nti n g.T her eis cle a rly an e edf orm ore rob u sty et
reliablysafequick‐releasecollarstobedeveloped, andalthoughcol
lar‐mounted devicescanreduce huntingefficiency (Calver,Thomas,
Bradley, & McC utcheon, 20 07; Gordon, Mat thaei, & He ezik, 2010;
Hall, Font aine, Br yant, & Cal ver,2015; N elson, Evans, & B radbur y,
2005;Ruxton,Thomas,&Wright ,2002;Willson,Okunlola,&Novak,
2015),furtherwork tocompare theef fectivenessandsafety of dif
ferent devices would be beneficial. There are also multiple other
strategies,somelessdirect,bywhichcathuntingbehaviourmightbe
reducedormitigated,andwhicharecomparativelyunder‐researched.
Theseincludeenhancedenrichment(tosatisfybehaviouraldriversof
hunting),differentmodelsoftemporaryconfinement(e.g.,overnight,
dusk/dawn, day time), breed a nd early‐life ef fects, a nd dietary f ac
tors.Inadditiontoresearchingtheeffectivenessofthesealternative
management strategies, social research should be simultaneously
conductedtoidentifyincentivesandbarrierstotheirimplementation
(e.g.,McLeodetal.,2015;Harrodetal.,2016).
5 | CONCLUSION
We have (a) highlighted the diversity of UK cat owners’ percep
tions of their pets’ hunting behaviour and their responsibility, or
other wise, for it; an d (b) identified a nd explored so me of the key
issues surroundingincentives andbarrierstomanaging thisbehav
iour.Particularly,wehaveidentifiedthatalthoughownersareoften
unhappy abouttheir cats’ hunting,they may feelunable to control
iteffectively without compromisingcat welfare. It is therefore im
portantthatanyinitiativesintendedtoalterbehaviourconsiderthat
catownershavetodealwithmultiple,complexfactors,andcompet
ingprioritiesintheirdecision‐making. When itcomestohusbandry
decisions, immediate concerns about cat safety and welfare—an
owner'slegalaswellasmoralresponsibilit y—arelikelytotakeprec
edence overbroader,more abstract ethicalresponsibilitiestowild
life.Consequently,proposed management interventions, aswellas
being ef fective, s hould ideal ly improve, and a t worst not comp ro
mise,catsafetyandwelfare.Itisalsovitalthatresearchtodevelop
andtrialmanagementinterventionsisconductedinpartnershipwith
catowners,whowillbekeytotheiruptakeandeffec tiveimplemen
tation (forasimilarargumentfroma NewZealandperspective,see
Kikillu s, Chamber s, Farnworth , & Hare, 2017). Given t he diversit y
ofviewsidentifiedinthisexploratorystudy,furtherresearchisalso
warrantedtobetterunderstandtheprevalenceof,andrelationships
between,differentcatownerperspectivesonthisissue.
Globally,domesticcats,andparticularlyferalpopulations,are
considered a significant threat to vulnerable wildlife (Medina et
al.,2 011;Losset al .,2013;Dohe rty etal.,2017;IUCNIS SG ,2018).
However,thereissubstantialvariation in howcats are perceived
indifferentsocioculturalcontexts.TheUnitedKingdomprovides
aparticularlyinterestingexamplebecause(despiteferalcatsbeing
formallyclassifiedas non‐native)domesticcats are not generally
characterized as an introduced species, and indeed are often
treated akin to native, wild fauna. There is widespread accep
tance ofroamingcatsin gardensandpublicspaces, and conflicts
    
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People and Nature
CROWLE Y Et aL.
surrounding individual catmanagement tend to revolve around
nuisance behaviours rather than predationper se. Nevertheless,
cultura l norms are sub ject to chang e. The United K ingdom's cat
population has already undergone substantial changes in hus
bandryover the past century,including both asteady increasein
overallpopulationnumbersand,reportedly,agrowingproportion
ofcats being kept partiallyorwholly indoors (20%: PDSA , 2016,
andseeInternationalCat Care,2017). Thiscorrespondswiththe
developm ent of commercial c at food, cat lit ter,a nd the growth
ofcats ascompanions, as opposed to free labour on rural prop
ertie s. These shif ts potentially have b oth positive and ne gative
implications for catimpact sonwildlife.The growingcat popula
tionmay placemorepressureon vulnerable species, particularly
whereoutdoorcatsarefoundinhighdensities,buttherehasalso
been an increase in owner attachment to andinvestment in pet
cats. Ahighproportionofownedcat sin the United Kingdomare
now neuter ed, for example (Ha ll et al., 2016; Sánchez‐Vizca íno
et al., 2017), which theoretically helps minimize the incidence
of unwanted k ittens and t he estab lishment of fer al populati ons.
Oneareainwhichuncontrolledbreedingisstillanissueisamong
farm cats. Animal welfare and conservation charities both advo
cate conce rted effor ts to reduce unn eutered and inter breeding
farmpopulations,andthereisvaluablepotentialforcollaboration
andcapacitybuildingin thisarea.Greatercollaboration between
welfare,veterinary,andconservationorganizationsmayalsohelp
identif yconstruc tiveandpra cticalmeasuresthatownerscantake
toreducetheriskdomesticcatsposetovulnerablewildlife.
IntheUnitedKingdom,anyregulatoryinterventionsincatown
ershipormanagementonthesolegroundsofreducinghuntingbe
haviour would runcountertocurrentlywidespreadsocietalvalues
and could place unnecessary restrictions on owners whose cats
either do not huntorarevaluedforpest control. However,action
tomitigate hunting behaviour should be encouraged as a positive,
valuable, and practical component of responsiblepet ownership.
Despite their different priorities, cat welfare, veterinar y,and con
serva tion organi zations oft en agree on the i mport ance of neuter
ing,vaccinations,worming,andmicrochipping.Ensuringthatthese
responsibleownershippracticesbecomesocialnormsmayserveto
(a) reduce the n umber of str ay and unwante d cats, (b) re duce the
riskandincidenceofdisease,includingzoonoses,and(c)encourage
owners to recognize and takeresponsibilit y for theircats (shifting
attitudes away from an underlyingperceptionofcats as compara
tively commitment‐free,or even disposable).Par ticularly,compul
sorymicrochipping(whichhasrecentlybeenlegislatedfordogs,and
of whi c hma nyp a r t ici p ant s were sup p o r tive)w o uld cons t itut eas t ep
towardsformalizing owners’ responsibilities for their cats,regard
lessoftheirwhereaboutsandactivities. Althoughnotcontributing
directlytomitigationofpredation,promotingresponsiblepetown
ershipencourages acultureofgreaterattentivenessandaccount
ability,the benefits of whichmayextend to widerissues including
ecologicaland environmental health. Encouraging ownersto take
responsibilityfortheircatswillthereforebekeytobothimproving
catwelfareandminimizingcats’nuisanceandwildlifeimpacts.
COMPETINGINTERESTS
TheprojectofwhichthisresearchformspartisfundedbySongBird
Surv ival. The fund er was involved in th e conceptualiz ation of the
project,buthadnoroleindesign,datacollection,analysis,decision
topublish,orpreparationofthemanuscript.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Wethankallourparticipantsfortheir time andcontributions. Weare
grateful to theprojectsponsor, SongBird Survival, forfunding thisre
search. We al so thank Protect aPet for assisting wi th recruitment of 
ownerswithcatenclosures,themembersofourProjectAdvisoryGroup
forvaluableguidanceandfeedbackonthisstudy,andMarkFarnworth
andAshleyA.Dayerfortheirconstructiveandsuppor tivereviews.
AUTHORCONTRIBUTIONS
S.C. and R .M. conceived theideas and designed the methodology;
S.C .collec te da nd an al ys edthed at aandledthewritingoft hema nu
script.R.M. and M.C. contributedcriticallyto the draf ts and all au
thorsgavefinalapprovalforpublication.
DATAACCESSIBILITY
Raw (redacted, anonymized) transcripts: Zenodo entr y http://doi.
org/10.5281/zenodo.1493301 (Crowley, Cecchetti, McDonald,
2018).
ORCID
Sarah L. Crowley https://orcid.org/0000‐0002‐4854‐0925
Martina Cecchetti https://orcid.org/0000‐0003‐3962‐8834
Robbie A. McDonald https://orcid.org/0000‐0002‐6922‐3195
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SUPPORTINGINFORMATION
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How to cite this article:CrowleySL,CecchettiM,McDonald
RA.Huntingbehaviourindomesticcats:Anexplorator y
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Nat. 2019;00:1–13. https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.6
... Veterinary professionals also tend to favor TNR, but not overwhelmingly (Sherwood et al., 2019, but see also : Jessup, 2004). Some cat owners view cats' outdoor access as integral to the cat's welfare (Crowley et al., 2019), and similarly prefer management options like TNR that provide sterilized cats some degree of caretaking from humans while still living outdoors (Crowley et al., 2019;Parsons et al., 2018;Loyd and Hernandez, 2012). Conservationists and advocates for native animal welfare, on the other hand, argue that the ecological impact of predation by cats is too great to justify their outdoor access (Crawford et al., 2019;Loss et al., 2013, Calver et al., 2011see also: ABC, 2014) and often recommend the complete banning of outdoor cats or fines for unrestrained cats (Loss and Marra, 2017;Calver et al., 2011). ...
... Veterinary professionals also tend to favor TNR, but not overwhelmingly (Sherwood et al., 2019, but see also : Jessup, 2004). Some cat owners view cats' outdoor access as integral to the cat's welfare (Crowley et al., 2019), and similarly prefer management options like TNR that provide sterilized cats some degree of caretaking from humans while still living outdoors (Crowley et al., 2019;Parsons et al., 2018;Loyd and Hernandez, 2012). Conservationists and advocates for native animal welfare, on the other hand, argue that the ecological impact of predation by cats is too great to justify their outdoor access (Crawford et al., 2019;Loss et al., 2013, Calver et al., 2011see also: ABC, 2014) and often recommend the complete banning of outdoor cats or fines for unrestrained cats (Loss and Marra, 2017;Calver et al., 2011). ...
... As obligate carnivores, cats prove efficient hunters of small-bodied vertebrates (Bradshaw, 2006) and are often used as a biological control for pest management, especially against non-native rodents (Foreman-Worsley et al., 2021;Crowley et al., 2019). While cats may be known for their predation of non-native rats, most studies conclude that such predation is relatively rare and is unlikely to suppress rat populations (Glass et al., 2009;Parsons et al., 2018). ...
Article
The ecological impact of free-roaming domestic cats (Felis catus) is well-studied. However, despite receiving considerable attention in both the scientific and popular literature, predation behavior is rarely an explicit consideration when developing cat population management plans. We used motion-activated wildlife cameras to document predation events by cats in Washington, D.C. (U.S.A), and assessed the relationships between predation and local environmental characteristics. Our analyses reveal that predation by cats is greatest where supplemental food is most abundant, and that the probability of a cat preying upon a native species increases closer to forest edges. Conversely, we found that the probability of a cat depredating a non-native brown rat increases with increasing distance from forest edges. Therefore, we recommend the implementation of cat exclusionary buffer zones around urban forests and that free-roaming domestic cat management policies explicitly consider the spatial location of cat-feeding sites. Our findings provide a data-driven approach to free-roaming cat management.
... Owners regularly express concern about the hazards to which outdoor roaming exposes their pets, and some are also concerned about their cats' impacts on wildlife (Crowley, Cecchetti, & McDonald, 2019, 2020a. To limit these risks, approaches like keeping cats indoors, or using enclosures such as cat patios ("catios"), have been advocated by groups promoting conservation, for example, American Bird Conservancy, and cat welfare, for example, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, alike. ...
... Complete confinement effectively eliminates predation of wildlife by cats, as well as their exposure to outdoor hazards. However, cat owners may perceive permanent confinement as impeding what they see as natural feline behaviors (Crowley et al., 2019;Tan, Rand, & Morton, 2017), though such perceptions are highly variable among human societies (Foreman-Worsley, Finka, Ward, & Farnworth, 2021). Partial curfews tend to be more acceptable to owners, with nocturnal mammals being the main beneficiaries of nighttime confinement of cats (Woods et al., 2003), while night-time or crepuscular confinement, particularly in warmer months, is recommended when most wild species are active and in their reproductive periods (Mori et al., 2019). ...
... However, the collar-mounted pounce protector CatBib (Cat Goods Inc.) and the Birdsbesafe collar cover (Birdsbesafe LLC) have been found not to reduce cat home range size (Hall, Bryant, Fontaine, & Calver, 2016). Again, cat owners vary in their acceptance or application of such measures for several reasons and uptake may be low if purported benefits do not align with owners' priorities for their cats' welfare (Calver, Adams, Clark, & Pollock, 2013;Crowley et al., 2019Crowley et al., , 2020aHarrod, Keown, & Farnworth, 2016). Finding noninvasive interventions that both reduce the exposure of wildlife to the hazards presented by cats, and the exposure of cats to environmental hazards encountered while roaming, might offer opportunities to increase owner action to reduce depredation of wildlife, even where this is not their primary motivation. ...
Article
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Domestic cats (Felis catus) that roam outdoors have increased exposure to hazards to their health and welfare. Outdoor cats can themselves present a hazard to biodiversity conservation and wild animal welfare. Approaches to reducing predation of wildlife by cats might also bring benefits to cats by reducing their roaming and associated risks. We investigated ranging behaviors of domestic cats that regularly captured wild prey, and that had restricted or unrestricted outdoor access. We tested whether interventions aimed at reducing predation also affected their spatial behavior. We evaluated cat bells, Birdsbesafe collar covers, using a “puzzle feeder”, provision of meat‐rich food, object play, and a control group. Seventy‐two cats in 48 households in England completed the 12‐week trial in spring 2019. Home ranges were small (median AKDE95 = 1.51 ha). Cats with unrestricted outdoor access had 75% larger home ranges, 31% greater daily distances traveled, and reached 46% greater maximum distances from home, than cats with restricted outdoor access. None of the treatments intended to reduce predation affected cat ranges or distances traveled. While owners might use interventions to reduce predation, the only effective means of reducing cat roaming and associated exposure to outdoor hazards was restriction of outdoor access. While some interventions, like object play and dietary changes, can reduce domestic cat predation of wildlife, we found that these measures do not affect cat roaming behavior. Restricting access to the outdoors, even partially, does reduce the extent of cat ranging and likely reduces associated exposure to outdoor hazards.
... Although free-roaming cats are widely considered invasive species in the animal ecology and conservation communities, cats are also companion animals and used for pest control. These diverse roles and values of concerned stakeholders (e.g., cat owners, animal welfare activists, wildlife enthusiasts) have led to substantial controversy around cats, their impacts on wildlife, and methods to manage their populations (Crowley et al., 2019;Gow et al., 2021;Wald & Peterson 2020). Reflecting these complex human dimensions, reviews have also covered legal, policy, ethical, sociological, and philosophical aspects of cats and their management (Calver et al., 2011;Crowley et al., 2020). ...
... Related to impacts, we recorded types of free-roaming cats studied, including owned cats (pets allowed outdoors, sometimes called indoor-outdoor cats and considered semi-owned; Crowley et al., 2019); unowned cats (feral and semiferal cats, the latter of which also are sometimes considered semi-owned), cat models (mounts or plush toys used to assess impacts), and cats associated with trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs, which entail trapping, sterilization, and release of cats back to the outdoors. We distinguished TNR cats from other groups because this method receives substantial public, conservation, and policy interest, as well as substantial controversy (Wald & Peterson, 2020). ...
Article
A vast global literature documents that free‐roaming domestic cats (Felis catus) have substantial negative effects on wildlife, including through predation, fear, disease, and competition‐related impacts that have contributed to numerous wildlife extinctions and population declines worldwide. However, no study has synthesized this literature on cat impacts on wildlife to evaluate its overarching biases and major gaps. To direct future research and conservation related to cat impacts on wildlife, we conducted a global literature review that entailed evaluation and synthesis of patterns and gaps in the literature related to the geographic context, methods, and types of impacts studied. Our systematic literature search compiled 2,245 publications. We extracted information from 332 of these meeting inclusion criteria designed to ensure the relevance of studies analyzed. This synthesis of research on cat impacts on wildlife highlights a focus on oceanic islands, Australia, Europe, and North America, and on rural areas, predation, impacts of unowned cats, and impacts at population and species levels. Key research advances needed to better understand and manage cat impacts include more studies in underrepresented, highly biodiverse regions (Africa, Asia, South America), on cat impacts other than predation, and on methods designed to reduce impacts on wildlife. The identified areas of needed research into cat impacts on wildlife will be critical to further clarifying the role of cats in global wildlife declines and to implementing science‐driven policy and management that benefit conservation efforts.
... In addition, these felids still have an aggressive hunting instinct compared to dogs. Poisoned and less alert rodents can be easy prey (Crowley et al., 2019). It should be noted that in Belgium, some cats are positive for warfarin, an anticoagulant used as a human drug for the prevention of thromboembolic events. ...
Article
Full-text available
Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) are important tools for controlling rodent pests, but they also pose a health threat to non-target species. ARs are one of the most common causes of pet poisoning. However, exposure of domestic animals to subclinical doses of ARs is poorly documented. To study the random exposure of dogs and cats to ARs, feces from animals showing no clinical signs of rodenticide poisoning were collected from a network of French and Belgian veterinarians. We analyzed fresh feces from 304 dogs and 289 cats by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. This study showed a limited prevalence of AR exposure in dogs and cats of 2.6 and 4.5% respectively. In both species, access to the outdoors is a risk factor for ARs exposure. In contrast, the sex of the animals did not affect the ARs exposure status. The observation of the ratio of cis and trans isomers suggested primary exposure in dogs, but also in some cats. While primary exposure in dogs appears to be related to the use of ARs as plant protection products, primary exposure in cats may be malicious, as warfarin, an anticoagulant formerly used as a rodenticide and now used only in humans, was found in 4 of 13 exposed cats. Secondary exposure may also occur in cats.Our study showed reduced exposure in dogs and cats, compared to wildlife, which often has high exposure, especially in areas where rodent control is important.
... Although several studies suggest that the ecological impact of pet cats are determined by the attitudes and behavior of their owners (Crowley et al. 2019;Kays et al. 2020), the owner behaviors did not affect the predation by pet cats in the present study. For instance, feeding had no influence on the frequency of individuals depredated. ...
Article
Full-text available
The domestic cat (Felis catus) is one of the most abundant predators and a serious threat to many wildlife species. While a large body of literature explores the number and diversity of individuals depredated by pet cats, the drivers of predation have been investigated much less. Although the environment of the cat, the owner behavior, and the intrinsic characteristics of the cat itself could impact the predatory behavior and should therefore not be considered separately, very few studies simultaneously take these three components into account. In this study, we explored 21 concomitant drivers of predation by pet cats linked to these three components at different scales, to explain the owners-reported frequencies of captured birds, mammals, and herpetofauna. Among the 1,400 sociological surveys received from cat owners, 740 reliable answers were analyzed. Results suggest that the owners-reported prey capture frequencies were strongly influenced by the environment, especially by factors relating to urbanization. Rural owners were around two times more likely to report more frequent predation events than owners living in urban areas, whatever the group of prey studied. As a result, the urban habitat variable had the highest impact on predation in this study. An experimental approach would be beneficial to identify the factors influencing the reported predation rates, which are causally related to the number of wild animals killed.
... Cat management and public perceptions of outdoor cats vary between countries, meaning that tailor-made policymaking might be required in each country. Managing cats' urination and defaecation, for example, is not an evident concern in the UK (Crowley et al. 2019), and disease-related risks tend to be of less concern than the risks to biodiversity in the USA (Gramza et al. 2016). Kota Mameno et al. ...
Article
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Message framing contributes to an increase in public support for invasive species management. However, little is known about people's preferences for the multiple objectives of management within different contexts relating to the challenges and benefits of invasive species management. We examine Japanese citizens' preferences for the goals of free-roaming unowned cat (Felis catus) management in three contextual frames by applying experimentally controlled information and the best-worst scaling technique. Our results indicate that the ecological frame highlighting the ecological impacts of free-roaming unowned cats on native ecosystems significantly increases Japanese citizens' concern about cat predation, although the frame did not change the preference ranking of goals. There are differences in the effects of message framing depending on cat ownership. The best-worst scaling technique shows that Japanese citizens prefer to maintain a sanitary environment, followed by the prevention of zoonotic diseases. Although the ranking of sanitary environmental management does not depend on cat ownership, the ranking of the other goals differs depending on cat ownership. The findings highlight the importance of strategic message framing and its prioritization in encouraging public support for invasive species management.
... Die Frage, wie viele Katzenhalter tatsächlich an der Studie teilnehmen, bleibt offen und die Anzahl der gehaltenen Hauskatzen basiert oft auf Schätzungen und ist schwer zu ermitteln. Zur Vorsicht bei der Interpretation und Verallgemeinerung dieser extrapolierten Daten ist zudem geraten, da die Zahlen von getöteten und vorgelegten Tieren durch Hauskatzen extrem schwanken je nach Untersuchungsgebiet und Jahreszeit (Woods et al., 2003;van Heezik et al., 2010;Tschanz et al., 2011;McDonald et al., 2015;Crowley et al., 2019 (Kauhala et al., 2015). ...
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The impact of domestic cats on vertebrates is now known globally - they are a major risk for endangered and threatened species. Hybridization of domestic and wild cats must also not go unnoticed, so there are already studies across Europe with differentiated results on this. Especially in the last decades, however, the domestic cat has become an increasingly popular pet throughout the western world, and its numbers continue to increase, which can lead to unnaturally high densities in settlements, for example. To summarize the current state of knowledge on this topic we supplemented the previously published report of Hackländer et al. (2014) with current data and literature. In particular, the topics of hybridization, potential management measures, legal framework and food analyses, which specifically address the impact of domestic cats on biodiversity, were considered in an expanded manner. The research revealed the need for action on the topic, which should not be underestimated, and the necessity of both the acceptance of personal responsibility and the consistent implementation of given political frameworks. The paper appeared in the BOKU Berichte zur Wildtierforschung und Wildbewirtschaftung and is available online. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
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The choice of words we use often conveys specific meanings and tone to a topic. Hence, the words that we use in conservation science often have important ramifications in scientific, legal, and social contexts. The management of free-ranging cats is an important example, because of the animal welfare, predation, and public health implications. In this context, one set of words that has recently arisen outside of conservation but has particular relevance for it and many other fields is ‘community cat.’ As we note, through an evaluation of the literature, ‘community cat’ is almost always used as a synonym for unowned, free-ranging cats. Such rebranding is significant for conservation, policy, and management because it implies community ownership of animals without, in many cases, explicit agreement from the community. As such, there is a need to understand the history of the term, what it really means, and its implications for the advancement of conservation biology, natural resource management, veterinary medicine, and animal welfare.
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Misinformation (or denialism), the disingenuous assertion of information contradicting overwhelming scientific consensus, increasingly poses a challenge for invasion biology. The issue of free-ranging domestic cats (Felis catus) provides an example of this misinformation: overwhelming consensus shows that cats are invasive species that impact wildlife and human health yet free-ranging cat advocates propagate misinformation about such impacts to support policies keeping cats on the landscape. These advocates also attempt to discredit peer-reviewed scientific research on cat impacts, as exemplified by the response to a high-profile paper estimating cats annually kill billions of U.S. birds and mammals (Loss et al. in Nat Commun 4:1396, 2013). Although favorably received by scientific and invasive species management communities, an effort was launched to discredit this paper by criticizing its methods, including a report commissioned by a feral cat advocacy group and a post by a feral cat blogger. These same organizations and individuals have made similar criticisms at scientific conferences and policy roundtables. Given the realized effects of this campaign in influencing invasive species policy, we here respond to these criticisms and show they are characterized by numerous errors and misrepresentations. We conclude that the criticisms are part of the broader campaign to fabricate doubt about outdoor cat impacts and stymie policies favoring removal of cats from the landscape. Because misinformation surrounding cats is emblematic of the broader issue of misinformation and denialism, this response will not only facilitate evidence-based policy for managing cats but also stimulate research and discussion into causes and impacts of misinformation in invasion biology.
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Separating fact from misinformation is a major barrier to public understanding of science and institutional adoption of evidence-based policy (UCS 2017). As described in Merchants of Doubt (Oreskes & Conway 2010), there are myriad examples of industry and special interests manufacturing doubt about scientific consensus to keep controversies alive and hinder policy changes regarding environmental and public health issues such as DDT, cigarette smoking, and climate change. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
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Domestic cats (Felis catus) are the most abundant predator in many urban ecosystems, and their ranging behaviour will influence predation rates. To investigate how degree of urbanisation affects cat ranging behaviour, we used Global Positioning System trackers to follow 38 cats in 3 (urban, suburban and peri-urban) residential areas in the large town of Reading, UK. Median home range (95% KE) was 1.28 ha, but varied from 0.9 ha in the urban habitat, to 1.56 ha in the suburban habitat and 1.60 ha in the peri-urban region, with a maximum range size of 6.61 ha. The median maximum distance reached from home was 99 m, and again varied with level of urbanisation (urban: 79 m; suburban: 141 m; peri-urban: 148 m; maximum 278 m). For home and core (50% KE) ranges, there were no significant differences with respect to study areas, cat sexes, cats living in the same household or day/night range. A decreased proportion of constructed surfaces (a proxy for urbanisation) was associated with an increase in cat range size. As urban areas grow, many areas containing species of conservation importance are encroached upon by residential zones on urban fringes. To protect these species we suggest that boundary habitats should be managed to reduce rates of cat access to these areas, or that buffer zones of 300–400 m should be formed between housing and areas containing vulnerable species. These management options may help mitigate the ecological consequences of cat predation.
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International differences in practices and attitudes regarding pet cats' interactions with wildlife were assessed by surveying citizens from at least two cities in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, China and Japan. Predictions tested were: (i) cat owners would agree less than non-cat owners that cats might threaten wildlife, (ii) cat owners value wildlife less than non-cat owners, (iii) cat owners are less accepting of cat legislation/restrictions than non-owners, and (iv) respondents from regions with high endemic biodiversity would be most concerned about pet cats threatening wildlife. Everywhere non-owners were more likely than owners to agree that pet cats killing wildlife were a problem in cities, towns and rural areas. Over 85% of respondents from all countries except China valued wildlife in cities, towns and rural areas. Non-owners advocated cat legislation more strongly than owners except in Japan. Many Australian (62%), New Zealand (51%) and Chinese owners (42%) agreed that pet cats killing wildlife in cities, towns and rural areas was a problem, while Hawaiian owners were similar to the mainland USA (20%). Thus high endemic biodiversity might contribute to attitudes in some, but not all, countries. Husbandry practices varied internationally, with predation highest where fewer cats were confned. Although the risk of wildlife population declines caused by pet cats justifes precautionary action, campaigns based on wildlife protection are unlikely to succeed outside Australia or New Zealand. Restrictions on roaming protect wildlife and beneft cat welfare, so welfare is a better rationale.
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Predation by cats is one of the largest threats to land-based Australian mammals. Although cat control programs are controversial, an understanding of community attitudes can help shape outreach programs designed to raise awareness and increase public support for management goals. This study examined community values towards cats in Australia, knowledge of impacts and attitudes towards management. A mixed-mode survey was used to gather information from residents in Greater Melbourne (postal surveys, n = 145, 15.7 per cent response rate; telephone interviews, n = 61, 43 per cent response rate). The level of support for lethal management of feral cats was, in general, high as was agreement with traditional domestic cat regulations such as compulsory de-sexing, micro chipping and night curfews. Respondents were less certain about the impacts of domestic cats on wildlife and as a result showed resistance towards the introduction of 24-hour cat curfews and lethal control of roaming domestic cats. There was overwhelming support for governments introducing ‘cat free’ zones in areas with high conservation value. This research indicates strong support for feral cat management in Australia but urges further education around the need for stricter domestic cat regulations.