Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

EXETER, United Kingdom — Cats are truly unique animals with moods and personalities all their own. A new study finds their owners are just as diverse, especially when it comes to how they treat their felines. Researchers in the United Kingdom say when it comes to controlling their kitty’s predatory instincts, there are five kinds of pet owners — and none are called “crazy cat ladies.”

A team from the University of Exeter reveals there are around 10 million cats in that country alone. While most house cats kill very few wild animals, like birds and reptiles, the occasional “present” left on their owner’s doormat adds up over time.

When conservation organizations bring up how pet owners should curb their cat’s killer instinct however, not every person wants to hear it. Just like a parent with their child, some owners can be more protective of their furry friend’s behavior than others.

By studying the attitudes of 56 cat owners in rural and urban U.K. areas, researchers say five particular brands of cat parents emerged.

  • Freedom defenders: owners who fiercely oppose putting rules on their cats when they go outside
  • Laissez-faire landlords: owners largely unaware of issues their cat’s hunting cause
  • Tolerant guardians: owners who dislike when their cats kill something but accept it
  • Concerned protectors: owners who focus more on their cat’s safety outdoors
  • Conscientious caretakers: owners who are concerned about their pet’s impact on local wildlife

Cat owners defend the hunt

While mouse hunting may be a commonly praised benefit of owning a cat. Researchers say conservation groups worry about how felines impact the populations of rare or endangered animals. This is not a viewpoint shared by many pet parents.

“Although we found a range of views, most UK cat owners valued outdoor access for their cats and opposed the idea of keeping them inside to prevent hunting,” says lead author Dr. Sarah Crowley in a university release.

“Cat confinement policies are therefore unlikely to find support among owners in the UK. However, only one of the owner types viewed hunting as a positive, suggesting the rest might be interested in reducing it by some means.”

Managing a feline’s hunting habits

Researchers say by learning more about a pet’s owner, conservationists can use this study to tailor their messages about wildlife preservation.

“If nature is to ‘win’ and endangered species thrive, a pragmatic approach is needed whereby cat owners’ views are considered as part of wider conservation strategies,” says SongBird Survival chairman Tom Streeter.

“The finding that many UK cat owners actually care a great deal about wildlife conservation and their cats’ impact on it, suggests that some owners are receptive to employing cat-friendly ways of reducing hunting,” iCatCare’s Head of Cat Advocacy, Dr. Sarah Ellis adds.

“The right interventions could improve wildlife conservation efforts, maintain good cat mental-wellbeing, and at the same time improve the cat-human relationship. This would be especially true for ‘tolerant guardians’ and ‘conscientious caretakers’, by reducing the internal conflict of loving an animal that often hunts other animals they also care about.”

The findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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