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Animals 2018, 8(11), 190; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110190

Management of Pet Cats: The Impact of the Cat Tracker Citizen Science Project in South Australia

1
School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia
2
Conservation Psychology and Applied Animal Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 18 October 2018 / Revised: 18 October 2018 / Accepted: 22 October 2018 / Published: 24 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
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Simple Summary

Domestic cats are popular pets worldwide and play an important role in the lives of many of their owners; however, there is growing awareness of the potential negative impacts of cats. The Cat Tracker citizen science project was conducted in South Australia to better understand domestic cats, their movement, and related community views. The project was deliberately designed to engage cat owners and assist them to make informed decisions about the management of their pet cats. The project collected data through an online social survey and tracking of pet cats, using small GPS units. This study evaluates the project and examines its impact on participant knowledge, attitude, and behaviour. We found that participation in the tracking activity had positive learning outcomes for cat owners and that, after participating, many cat owners placed an increased level of importance on containing cats. Participants reported that they changed their behaviour with existing pet cats and reported intentions to change behaviour with future pet cats. We discuss positive impacts on other members of the community, and how negative impacts may be avoided. We advocate for further research in this area to understand how projects can drive positive changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours.

Abstract

Domestic cats (Felis catus) are popular pets worldwide and play an important role in the lives of many of their owners; however, there is growing awareness of the potential negative impacts of cats. Accordingly, there is increasing interest in pet cat management, including changing the attitudes and behaviours of cat owners. The Cat Tracker citizen science project was conducted in South Australia to better understand domestic cats, their movement, and related community views. The project was deliberately designed to engage cat owners and assist them to make informed decisions about the management of their pet cats. The project collected data through an online social survey (n = 3192) and GPS tracking of pet cats (n = 428), conducted between February 2015 and September 2016. A public report was published in February 2017 and an evaluation survey (n = 410) was conducted between March and May 2017. This study evaluates the project and examines its impact on participant knowledge, attitude, and behaviour. We found that participation in the tracking activity had a statistically significant influence on participant-reported learning. For participant cat owners, we recorded statistically significant increases in the level of importance placed on containing cats (both during the day and at night). Participants reported that they changed their behaviour with existing pet cats and reported intentions to change behaviour with future pet cats. We discuss impacts beyond what we set out to measure, including impacts on project onlookers, profound impacts on participants, and how the rebound effect (which can generate negative impacts) may be avoided. We describe social science applied to citizen science and advocate for further research in this area to understand how projects can drive positive changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours. View Full-Text
Keywords: citizen science; behaviour change; pet cat management; domestic cats; evaluation citizen science; behaviour change; pet cat management; domestic cats; evaluation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Roetman, P.; Tindle, H.; Litchfield, C. Management of Pet Cats: The Impact of the Cat Tracker Citizen Science Project in South Australia. Animals 2018, 8, 190.

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