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Engaging with Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities and Their Cats: Human Behaviour Change for Animal and Human Benefit

1
Veterinary Department, Cats Protection, National Cat Centre, Haywards Heath RH17 7TT, UK
2
Bristol Veterinary School, University of Bristol, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(4), 175; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9040175
Received: 19 February 2019 / Revised: 20 March 2019 / Accepted: 12 April 2019 / Published: 17 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
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PDF [239 KB, uploaded 24 April 2019]

Simple Summary

The overpopulation of domestic cats (Felis catus) is an important welfare concern and can be a particular problem in socio-economically deprived areas. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) activities are a humane way of managing unowned cat populations; however continued movement of cats into an area can derail the TNR effort. Consequently, for sustainable change, it is recommended that TNR activities are linked with community engagement to encourage positive behaviours towards cats, such as continued reporting of unowned cats for neutering. We investigated the impact of a community-based partnership approach to TNR, in order to (1) determine the acceptability of the project within the community; (2) determine whether the project leads to sustainable behaviour change and (3) assess the potential benefits of participation in activities. We found residents had increased self-efficacy and confidence to help the cats within the community and were more likely to report unowned cats for neutering now compared to previous years. Engaging communities with programs to control cat numbers, can effectively overcome barriers to helping cats. We hope that the promising results from this program will encourage future efforts to consider community participation when cat management is being delivered, to overcome barriers to helping cats in often hard-to-reach populations.

Abstract

The overpopulation of free-roaming domestic cats (Felis catus) is fuelled by uncontrolled breeding of both owned and unowned populations and has been identified as a particular problem in socio-economically deprived areas. Consequently, for sustainable change, it is recommended that Trap-Neuter-Return activities are linked with community engagement to encourage positive behaviours towards cats. This paper assesses the acceptability and impact of a community-partnership program called “Bulwell Cat Watch” (BCW), set-up to control cat numbers in Bulwell, UK. The data are based on a (1) cross-sectional survey (n = 478); (2) pre-post analysis (n = 21); and (3) targeted survey of people known to engage with BCW (n = 34). We found significant associations between awareness of BCW and an increased likelihood of reporting unowned cats now compared to previous years. Respondents reported increased self-efficacy and confidence to help cats. Our pre-post study corroborated these findings with residents significantly more likely to report unowned cats compared to when surveyed pre-BCW. An indirect benefit to residents engaged with the program was the positive impact on confidence and self-esteem. Taken in combination these results show community partnerships can effectively engage often hard-to-reach populations and foster sustainable management by overcoming barriers to helping cats, alongside the potential for wider community benefits. View Full-Text
Keywords: unowned cats; Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR); behaviour change; Felis catus; community engagement; stray cat; deprived areas unowned cats; Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR); behaviour change; Felis catus; community engagement; stray cat; deprived areas
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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MDPI and ACS Style

McDonald, J.L.; Clements, J. Engaging with Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities and Their Cats: Human Behaviour Change for Animal and Human Benefit. Animals 2019, 9, 175.

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