For the love of cats: Researchers identify five types of cat owner

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Cat owners fall into five categories in terms of attitudes to their pets’ roaming and hunting, according to a new study.

Researchers surveyed UK cat owners and found they ranged from “conscientious caretakers” concerned about cats’ impact on wildlife and who feel some responsibility, to “freedom defenders” who opposed restrictions on cat behaviour altogether.

“Concerned protectors” focused on cat safety, “tolerant guardians” disliked their cats hunting but tended to accept it, and “laissez faire landlords” were largely unaware of any issues around cats roaming and hunting. Conservation organisations have long been concerned about the numbers of animals caught by the UK’s large population of domestic cats.

Most pet cats kill very few wild animals, if any, but with a population of around 10 million cats, the numbers of birds, small mammals and reptiles taken can accumulate. Apart from their role as “mousers”, most owners find the dead animals brought home an unpleasant reminder of their pet’s wilder side.

Addressing this problem has been difficult because of disagreements between people prioritising cat welfare and those focusing on wildlife conservation. Researchers at the University of Exeter are using the “Cats, Cat Owners and Wildlife” project to find a conservation win-win, by identifying ways of owners managing their cats that benefit the felines as well as reducing wildlife killing. The study included 56 cat owners, some from rural parts of the UK, including the south-west of England, and some from Bristol and Manchester.

This research is a step towards understanding how cat owners view their cats and how best to manage them. They say their findings demonstrate the need for diverse management strategies that reflect the differing perspectives of cat owners.

“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,” said lead author Dr Sarah Crowley.

“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. “To be most effective, efforts to reduce hunting must be compatible with owners’ diverse circumstances.”

Suggested measures to reduce hunting success include fitting cats with brightly coloured “BirdsBeSafe” collar covers and many owners also fit their cats with bells. The research team are now examining the effectiveness of these and other new measures and how owners feel about them, with a view to offering different solutions.

“This latest research we have funded reveals the incredibly diverse perspectives amongst cat owners in regard to their pets’ hunting behaviour,” said Tom Streeter, chairman of bird charity SongBird Survival. “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. “The study highlights the urgent need for cat owners and conservationists to work together to find tailored solutions that
are cheap, easy to implement, and have a positive effect on wildlife and bird populations across the UK.”

And cats like people (really!), study says.

What do cats think about their owners? Do they love us? Will they protect us? Or are we just a meal ticket? The popular stereotype of domestic pets says cats are aloof, remote, and arrogant creatures who tolerate humans as servants. But is it true? Science says No.

The study.

Researchers at the Oregon State University’s Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) lab investigated how cats interact with humans. To conduct their experiment, these scientists recruited 38 cats. Half came from shelters and half from loving homes. The researchers isolated each cat for 2 hours and 30 minutes, giving the animal no food or social attention during this time.

Then, they brought each cat into a room and offered it access to its choice of a cat-friendly person, food, a cat toy, or a cloth that smelled like either catnip or a gerbil. Half the cats chose the person and spent about 65% of the time interacting him or her. Only 14 cats went to the food, four to the toy, and one kitty chose the cloth. The shelter cats and pet cats showed no difference in their preferences. At the experiment’s conclusion, the researchers wrote, “Although it is often thought cats prefer solitude to social interaction, the data of this study indicate otherwise.”

What do cats think about their owners?

Some humans have had a thing for cats going back nearly 10,000 years. But cats…well…they still don’t know what to think about us.

John Bradshaw, author of the book Cat Sense and a cat behaviour expert at the University of Bristol, says cats don’t understand humans the way dogs do. As soon as a dog sees a person, the animal changes its behaviour. They play with us differently than they play with other dogs. Cats, on the other hand, treat us like we’re other cats, just large and oddly shaped ones. Much of the way cats behave toward people actually mirrors how they act toward their mothers.

Do cats love humans?

We pet lovers all have that one friend who swears our fur buddies don’t love us. Now, you can point to science that shows your friend is wrong. Dogs and cats do in fact love their people. The feelings of love a human experiences – and the behaviours we associate with love – are governed by a hormone called oxytocin. In laboratory studies, both dogs and cats produced elevated levels of oxytocin after playing with their humans. Cats also showed emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear, grief, curiosity, anger, and anxiety.

Do cats know we love them?

They certainly can! Hugs and kisses are not always part of a cat’s love language, but kitties do understand slow blinks, head butts, snoozing together, and exchanging scents. Of course, food is a great way to build the love between you and your cat. Some cats also adore massages, training time, catnip, treats, or toys. Over time, your cat recognises that you are the source of these things, and in a feline’s way, it understands your love.

How much human interaction do cats need?

If cats enjoy loving and being loved, how much attention to do they need? It depends on the individual cat, of course, but as a family, cats don’t need the same attention as some other domestic animals. They definitely aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of pet, though. Cats need regular stimulation, exercise, and attention from their people. Plan on giving your kitty at least 15 minutes of engaged attention every day.

Why do cats sleep with their people?

Catching winks together is a great way to show mutual affection between you and your cat. An estimated 80% of cat parents sleep with their pets, and the cats seem to love it. Sleeping with their person gives them the same feelings of warmth, security, and companionship they enjoyed as kittens in the nest. If you also share your bed with a human partner, though, keep a separate, much-loved bed for your cat. That way, you can enjoy sharing your sleep space with your human, too.

Final thoughts.

Our cats love us. They may show it in a restrained, dignified way, but cats definitely feel a lot of affection for their people. Look for signs like exposing the belly, sitting on you, doing the slow blink, giving love bites, kneading, and approaching you with their tails pointing straight up. Those are a cat’s love notes.

(Article source: Various)

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