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Applying social science to inform conservation solutions regarding owned outdoor cats in urbanizing landscapes

By Ashley Gramza

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Free-ranging domestic cats (Felis catus) incur and impose risks on ecosystems and represent a complex issue of critical importance to wildlife conservation and domestic cat and human health. There is an inherent social dimension to the issue of owned free-ranging cats, as humans are their caregivers and can contribute to the cause as well as the solution to this issue. To address this social component, we examined public risk perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs towards owned free-ranging cats along a gradient of urbanization via a survey of residents in two study areas in Colorado. Residents did not view all types of risks uniformly; they viewed the risks of cat predation on wildlife and carnivore predation on cats as more likely than the risks of disease transmission to and from wildlife. Additionally, risk perceptions were related to such factors as attitudes and general beliefs about cats, prior experiences with cats and their interactions with wildlife, and cat owner behavior. These findings provide support for the notion that changes in risk perceptions can result in behavior change, and they offer insight for development of communication campaigns aimed at promoting risk aversive behaviors and cat management strategies that are both acceptable to the public and have direct conservation implications. Our study can also be used as a model for further research focused on integrating social and biological information to promote conservation of wildlife and habitats.


Katie Carroll

Date 2014
Pages 50
Publisher Colorado State University Libraries
Department Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
Degree Master of Science
Language English
University Colorado State University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Cats
  3. Cities and towns
  4. Conservation
  5. Mammals
  6. Pet ownership
  7. Pets and companion animals
  8. Physical environment
  9. risk
  10. Social sciences
  11. urban areas
  12. wildlife