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Article

Indoors or Outdoors? An International Exploration of Owner Demographics and Decision Making Associated with Lifestyle of Pet Cats

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Brackenhurst Campus, School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottinghamshire NG25 0QF, UK
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Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, Easter Bush Campus, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Sylvia García-Belenguer
Animals 2021, 11(2), 253; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020253
Received: 17 December 2020 / Revised: 15 January 2021 / Accepted: 18 January 2021 / Published: 20 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
Owners may consider many factors when deciding whether to provide an indoor-only or indoor-outdoor lifestyle for their cats. These include safety, mental and physical health, exposure to parasites or disease, and depredation of wildlife. This international study used a series of online surveys to explore the factors cat owners consider when deciding what lifestyle to provide for their cat, alongside investigating if owner and cat features are associated with greater odds of cats having indoor-only or indoor-outdoor lifestyles. Ten variables were found to be significant predictors of lifestyle. Owner features predicting a greater likelihood of cats being kept as indoor-only were being 26–35 years old, having multiple cats, living in city centres or urban areas, and living in the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. For cats, these features included being junior, having health issues, being pedigree, or having unknown pedigree status. Owner features predicting a greater likelihood of cats being indoor-outdoor were owners being 46–55+ years old or 56+ years old and having children (17 years old or under) living at home. For cats, features included being male and being mature or senior. Road traffic accidents were the major concern for owners of indoor-only cats in all regions surveyed. Owners who provided outdoor access predominantly indicated they did so for the mental wellbeing of their cat. These findings are important in understanding the considerations owners give to their cat’s lifestyle and identifying management trends and cat populations potentially at risk of compromised welfare due to unsuitable lifestyles.
Outdoor access for owned domestic cats (Felis catus) is a divisive issue. Cat safety, mental and physical wellbeing, infectious diseases, and wildlife depredation are cited as factors influencing owners; however, the degree of consideration each factor receives has not been quantified. This study (i) analysed which demographic variables are associated with greater odds of cats having indoor or outdoor lifestyles, (ii) identified which factors owners consider when making a choice on lifestyle and any regional variations, and (iii) identified if owners consider the different lifestyle options available and recognise their associated benefits. A series of online surveys were used for data collection. Binary logistic regression models were used to generate odds ratios assessing if demographic variables were significantly associated with cat lifestyle. Quantitative analysis of factors considered when deciding on cat lifestyle was accompanied by a thematic analysis of rich-text open-ended responses, providing nuanced insight into the rationale and elucidating additional factors considered. Of the demographic variables tested, 10/12 were significantly associated with lifestyle. Variables with higher odds of indoor-only lifestyles were owners being 26–35 years old, multi-cat households, junior cats, pedigree cats or unknown pedigree status, cats with health issues, living in city centres or urban areas, or living in the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Variables with higher odds of indoor-outdoor lifestyles were owners being 46–55 years old or 56+ years old, households with residents 17 years old or under, male cats, and cats being mature or senior. Road traffic concerns were the most cited reason for keeping indoor-only cats across all global regions. The second-most cited reason varied regionally. For Europe, it was protection from people. For the USA and Canada, the reason was protection from wildlife, and for Australia and New Zealand, to prevent hunting. Indoor-outdoor cat owners cited most frequently the benefits to their cat’s mental health. Over two-thirds of owners did not consider the alternative lifestyle for their cat. These data give insight into the priorities of cat owners with regards to feline wellbeing, feline safety, and wildlife depredation, helpful for individuals or organisations working with human behaviour change. They provide evidence that the numbers of indoor-only cats are likely to rise with increasing urbanisation. Finally, the data identify cat populations who may be at risk of compromised welfare due to unsuitable, or under-researched, lifestyles. View Full-Text
Keywords: cats; felines; indoor-only; indoor-outdoor; companion animal; Felis catus; management cats; felines; indoor-only; indoor-outdoor; companion animal; Felis catus; management
MDPI and ACS Style

Foreman-Worsley, R.; Finka, L.R.; Ward, S.J.; Farnworth, M.J. Indoors or Outdoors? An International Exploration of Owner Demographics and Decision Making Associated with Lifestyle of Pet Cats. Animals 2021, 11, 253. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020253

AMA Style

Foreman-Worsley R, Finka LR, Ward SJ, Farnworth MJ. Indoors or Outdoors? An International Exploration of Owner Demographics and Decision Making Associated with Lifestyle of Pet Cats. Animals. 2021; 11(2):253. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020253

Chicago/Turabian Style

Foreman-Worsley, Rachel, Lauren R. Finka, Samantha J. Ward, and Mark J. Farnworth. 2021. "Indoors or Outdoors? An International Exploration of Owner Demographics and Decision Making Associated with Lifestyle of Pet Cats" Animals 11, no. 2: 253. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020253

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