Individual perceptions of free-roaming cats can vary from “voracious predators of small birds and mammals” to “cherished and beloved companion animals.” This paper focused on the influence of situational variables (e.g., experiences with outdoor cats), cognitive variables (e.g., attitudes toward cats and cat management), and demographic variables (e.g., gender, cat ownership) on perceptions of the risks posed by free-roaming cats to the ecosystem and the benefits that cats provide to people. In addition, we analyzed the potential role that risk and benefit perceptions play in mediating the relationship between attitudes toward outdoor cats and tolerance for the future cat population. We conducted an 11-item written survey of 474 undergraduate students enrolled in two introductory ecology courses. There were significant differences in perceived risks and benefits of cats between cat owners and nonowners and cat feeders (people who fed free-roaming cats) and non-feeders. Perceptions of the current cat population, experiences with cats and attitudes toward cats predicted both perceptions of risks to the ecosystem and benefits to people. The relationship between attitudes and tolerance was mediated by individual perceptions of benefits to people from free-roaming cats. Experience with free-roaming cats, attitudes toward cats, affection for cats, and demographic variables predicted individual risk perceptions. These perceptions, in turn, influenced support for future cat population levels and should therefore be addressed in management campaigns aimed at reducing the outdoor population of free-roaming cats.
|Publication Title||Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference|
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