Special Issue "Behavioural Ecology and Welfare of Free-Ranging Cats"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Companion Animals".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 October 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Carla Litchfield
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Associate Professor in Conservation Psychology and Applied Animal Behaviour Research Group, UniSA Justice and Society, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Interests: human–animal interactions; animal behaviour/cognition; animal welfare; psychological wellbeing; personality
Dr. Eugenia Natoli
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Canile Sovrazonale, ASL Roma 3 (Local Health Unit Rome 3), Rome, Italy
Interests: intraspecific cat and dog social behaviour; welfare behavioural indicators; personality

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There are many categories of free-ranging domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus), with definitions typically based on their use of spatial and trophic resources, lifestyle and habits, level of dependence on humans, manageability, and freedom of movement. They are likely to sit on a continuum between a feral cat that hunts prey and has no relationship with humans at one extreme and a pet that sleeps on the sofa at home but has the opportunity to roam the countryside at another. Free-ranging domestic cats have different life histories, may live in colonies, or lead solitary lives, in urban/periurban or natural environments, and relatively little is known about their social cognition. Safeguarding the well-being of free-ranging cats across different categories is a challenge, since their management and associated problems are varied. A further complication arises, since legislation related to the management of free-ranging cats differs within (e.g., states and councils) and between nations, and ranges from persecution to exaggerated protection, sometimes at the expense of common sense. The European Union provides an example of some of the regional issues related to free-ranging cats, with legislative differences between member states, a diversity of natural environments that require protection for vulnerable native fauna that may be predated on by free-ranging cats, and cultural differences in peoples’ attitudes towards cats and the environment.

To date, numerous studies have utilized different approaches to verify the predatory impact of free-ranging cats on the local fauna, and support human management strategies to limit ecological damage; describe the spacing patterns, social organization, and mating systems of free-ranging cats in different environments; and document how free-ranging cat population structures may have influenced the evolution of feline viruses and, in turn, how these viruses may have modified the genetic structure of cat populations. This Special Issue aims to bring this information together.

We invite you to submit innovative original research papers that address free-ranging cat management in different countries, considering the following four aspects (separately or together):

  • Free-ranging cat behaviour, including social organization, social cognition, and predatory impact;
  • Free-ranging cat management strategies enforced by national laws;
  • Human dimensions (knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour): community attitudes towards, and knowledge about, free-ranging cats; legislation and management strategies; interactions between humans and free-ranging cats;
  • Ethical issues associated with cat management.

Dr. Carla Litchfield
Dr. Eugenia Natoli
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Animals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • free-ranging domestic cats
  • solitary behaviour
  • social behaviour
  • management
  • disease transmission
  • ethical issues

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: To what extent do free living, unowned cats face health-related welfare problems? A study based on necropsy of 600 euthanized stray cats from Denmark
Authors: I.S. Thuesen, J.S. Agerholm, H. Mejer, S.S. Nielsen and P. Sandøe
Affiliation: Københavns Universitet, Copenhagen, Denmark

Title: Estimating the population density and distribution of unowned free-ranging cats in an area by means of questionaries – a study using Denmark as a case
Authors: H.B. Nielsen, H. Meilby, S.S. Nielsen, and P. Sandøe
Affiliation: Københavns Universitet, Copenhagen, Denmark

Title: A Review of Factors Influencing the Flexible Social Behaviour of Free-Ranging Cats
Authors: Kristyn R. Vitale
Affiliation: Animal Health & Behavior, Distance Education, Unity College, New Gloucester, ME 04260, USA

Title: Cross-country comparative analysis of free-ranging cat legislation
Authors: Arnja Dale; Jessica Walker; Christine Sumner
Affiliation: SPCA (Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Incorporated), New Zealand

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