Below is the abstract to the article ‘Cat Ownership Perception and Caretaking Explored in an Internet Survey of People Associated with Cats,’ written by Sarah Zito, Dianne Vankan, Pauleen Bennett, Mandy Paterson and Clive J. C. Phillips. The full article can be found here: https://goo.gl/yvq1fW
People who feed cats that they do not perceive they own (sometimes called semi-owners) are thought to make a considerable contribution to unwanted cat numbers because the cats they support are generally not sterilized. Understanding people’s perception of cat ownership and the psychology underlying cat semi-ownership could inform approaches to mitigate the negative effects of cat semi-ownership. The primary aims of this study were to investigate cat ownership perception and to examine its association with human-cat interactions and caretaking behaviours. A secondary aim was to evaluate a definition of cat semi-ownership (including an association time of ≥1 month and frequent feeding), revised from a previous definition proposed in the literature to distinguish cat semi-ownership from casual interactions with unowned cats. Cat owners and semi-owners displayed similar types of interactions and caretaking behaviours. Nevertheless, caretaking behaviours were more commonly displayed towards owned cats than semi-owned cats, and semi-owned cats were more likely to have produced kittens (p<0.01). All interactions and caretaking behaviours were more likely to be displayed towards cats in semi-ownership relationships compared to casual interaction relationships. Determinants of cat ownership perception were identified (p<0.05) and included association time, attachment, perceived cat friendliness and health, and feelings about unowned cats, including the acceptability of feeding unowned cats. Encouraging semi-owners to have the cats they care for sterilized may assist in reducing the number of unwanted kittens and could be a valuable alternative to trying to prevent semi-ownership entirely. Highly accessible semi-owner “gatekeepers” could help to deliver education messages and facilitate the provision of cat sterilization services to semi-owners. This research enabled semi-ownership to be distinguished from casual interaction relationships and can assist welfare and government agencies to identify cat semi-owners in order to develop strategies to address this source of unwanted cats.