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Article

Owners’ Attitudes, Knowledge, and Care Practices: Exploring the Implications for Domestic Cat Behavior and Welfare in the Home

1
Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
2
Clinical Sciences Department, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(11), 978; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110978
Received: 30 September 2019 / Revised: 5 November 2019 / Accepted: 9 November 2019 / Published: 15 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Welfare of Cats and Dogs)
Available research on the link between domestic cats’ environment and welfare has primarily been conducted on cats living in animal shelters or research facilities; a better understanding of the welfare of cats living in homes is needed. We used an anonymous online survey to investigate the attitudes of current U.S.-based cat owners towards cats as pets; owner knowledge about normal cat behavior and environmental needs; current trends in cat care; behavior problems reported for these cats; and the human-animal bond. We found that owners with a more accurate understanding of cat behavior, and stronger reported bond with their cats, reported fewer behavior problems. Conversely, owners’ agreement with certain misconceptions about cats, and high perceived costs of care, were correlated with the use of punishment (e.g., yelling, hitting, or spraying with water) in response to misbehavior. Our results suggest that many cats living in private homes may be receiving only minimal environmental enrichment, particularly in the case of interactive (e.g., playing with a friendly human, or exploring changing environments) vs. static (e.g., cat toys such as stuffed mice) enrichment. Collectively, these results support the premise that better education of cat owners could benefit the welfare of cats living in private homes.
Available research on the link between domestic cats’ environment and welfare has primarily been conducted in animal shelters or research facilities; a better understanding of the welfare of cats living in homes is needed. This study measured the attitudes of current U.S.-based cat owners towards cats as pets; owner knowledge about normal cat behavior and environmental needs; current trends in cat care; cats’ behavior in the home; and the human-animal bond. The primary hypothesis was that owners with a more accurate understanding of cat behavior and a stronger reported bond with their cats would report fewer behavior problems. Data from an online, anonymous, cross-sectional survey of 547 cat owners supported the primary hypothesis: owner knowledge, along with two measures of the human-animal bond (owner-pet interactions, and perceptions of affordability of cat ownership), were significant predictors of the number of reported behavior problems. In addition to fewer reported behavior problems, greater owner knowledge about cats was correlated with less use of positive-punishment-based responses to misbehavior, and increased tolerance of potential behavior problems when present. Owners’ agreement with certain misconceptions about cats and perception of high costs of care were correlated with the use of positive punishment in response to misbehavior. Based on the survey results, many cats living in private homes may be receiving only minimal environmental enrichment. Collectively, these results suggest the need for better education of cat owners. Topics could include: understanding normal cat behavior and correcting misconceptions; enrichment needs (particularly of indoor-only cats) and the risk of behavior problems when cats’ needs are not met; welfare risks associated with declawing; and the importance of sufficient resources to minimize social and territorial conflict. View Full-Text
Keywords: companion animal; human-animal bond; behavior; welfare; cats; Felis catus companion animal; human-animal bond; behavior; welfare; cats; Felis catus
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MDPI and ACS Style

Grigg, E.K.; Kogan, L.R. Owners’ Attitudes, Knowledge, and Care Practices: Exploring the Implications for Domestic Cat Behavior and Welfare in the Home. Animals 2019, 9, 978. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110978

AMA Style

Grigg EK, Kogan LR. Owners’ Attitudes, Knowledge, and Care Practices: Exploring the Implications for Domestic Cat Behavior and Welfare in the Home. Animals. 2019; 9(11):978. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110978

Chicago/Turabian Style

Grigg, Emma K., and Lori R. Kogan 2019. "Owners’ Attitudes, Knowledge, and Care Practices: Exploring the Implications for Domestic Cat Behavior and Welfare in the Home" Animals 9, no. 11: 978. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110978

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