Owners’ Attitudes, Knowledge, and Care Practices: Exploring the Implications for Domestic Cat Behavior and Welfare in the Home
Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Clinical Sciences Department, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 September 2019 / Revised: 5 November 2019 / Accepted: 9 November 2019 / Published: 15 November 2019
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.