What's YOUR take? Perceptions on free-roaming cats in one JAVMA study
Cats may get the raw end of the deal when it comes to how much their owners are willing to pay for their medical expenses relative to dogs. And they may have fewer bucks thrown in their direction when it comes to research.
Despite the stats, we still love our cats like mad. Dogs may win out for now in terms of dollars but there’s no reason for that condition to persist. In fact, demographic studies show that US cats currently beat out their canine counterparts in total numbers owned (88.3 million cats in 38.4 million households!).
None of this, however, means we’re nationally well disposed towards the free-roaming cats in our midst. A recent JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) study of 703 households in Ohio shows that a huge disparity exists between cat owners and non-cat owners in their attitudes on these kitties.
Non-cat owners were more likely to look at these free-roamers as feline interloping nuisances whereas kitty-keepers reported far more favorable impressions.
Suburban respondents were less likely to see free-roaming cats than rural and urban individuals surveyed. Suburbanites also tended to hold more favorable views on the cats in general. Rural and urban respondents were more likely to consider cats in a less favorable light, though cat owners differed dramatically from non-cat owners in all three zones.
For me (and to a large extent, for the study’s author), what comes through in this extremely detailed study (I’ve not done its depth much justice here, I’ll freely admit) is something we’ve always observed:
- Cats have a way of eliciting strong opinions
- There’s tremendous polarization between various demographic groups when it comes to the proper keeping of cats.
- Cat owners in rural areas are more likely to defend their cats’ outdoor habits.
- Urban cat-watchers are more likely to hold negative views on the free-roamers.
- Sizable differences of opinion exist between cat owners and non-cat owners.
- Significant differences of opinion exist among cat owners themselves, typically depending on whether they allow their cats access to the outdoors or not.
It’s the author’s view, and also my own after reading countless comments on blog posts like this one, that only the more moderate solutions to the free-roaming cat dilemma are likely to hold sway in the court of public opinion. Furthermore, those solutions with the most legs tend also to further the welfare of felines in general.
For that reason, low cost spays and neuters and trap-neuter-return (TNR programs) are the most obvious candidates for public funding. Feral cat eradication programs and restriction of outdoor cat freedoms will ultimately serve to divide communities further, creating rifts not only between cat lovers and those who would see an end to their visible existence altogether, but also between cat owners themselves who differ on their preference of feline lifestyle.
The disparity within our own cat-loving ranks might well prove a chasm the no-catters could drive a truck through, given enough steam and sufficient confusion/lack of collusion on our end.
Hmmm…the self-congratulatory me thinks the Democratic candidates for President could learn a thing or two from Dolittler based on this borrowed insight.