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Evaluation of cat and owner characteristics and their relationships to outdoor access of owned cats

Elizabeth A. Clancy MS1, Antony S. Moore BVSc, MVSc, DACVIM2, and Elizabeth R. Bertone ScD3
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  • 1 Harrington Oncology Program, Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.
  • | 2 Harrington Oncology Program, Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.
  • | 3 School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003.

Abstract

Objective—To examine characteristics of cats and their owners with regard to outdoor access of owned cats.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—184 owned cats admitted to a veterinary referral center for nonemergency health concerns.

Results—Cats acquired recently were less likely to be allowed outdoors than those acquired during previous years. Outdoor access was often limited during the day; few owners allowed their cats to remain outdoors at night. Cats acquired from shelters were more likely to be kept exclusively as indoor pets than those cats acquired as strays. The presence of dogs but not other cats in the household was associated with increased outdoor access. Age, health status, and onychectomy status were not significantly associated with outdoor access. Cats allowed outdoor access were more likely to have been bitten by other cats.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The basis for an owner's decision to allow outdoor access appears to be multifactorial, and there may be regional differences in outdoor access of owned cats. Acquisition source is associated with outdoor access of owned cats. Availability of information regarding outdoor access of cats may influence decision making. Educational efforts targeted at specific groups of cat owners, as well as programs that acknowledge owner beliefs regarding quality of life for their cats, may help to address the health, safety, and population concerns associated with outdoor access of owned cats. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:15417–1545)

Abstract

Objective—To examine characteristics of cats and their owners with regard to outdoor access of owned cats.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—184 owned cats admitted to a veterinary referral center for nonemergency health concerns.

Results—Cats acquired recently were less likely to be allowed outdoors than those acquired during previous years. Outdoor access was often limited during the day; few owners allowed their cats to remain outdoors at night. Cats acquired from shelters were more likely to be kept exclusively as indoor pets than those cats acquired as strays. The presence of dogs but not other cats in the household was associated with increased outdoor access. Age, health status, and onychectomy status were not significantly associated with outdoor access. Cats allowed outdoor access were more likely to have been bitten by other cats.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The basis for an owner's decision to allow outdoor access appears to be multifactorial, and there may be regional differences in outdoor access of owned cats. Acquisition source is associated with outdoor access of owned cats. Availability of information regarding outdoor access of cats may influence decision making. Educational efforts targeted at specific groups of cat owners, as well as programs that acknowledge owner beliefs regarding quality of life for their cats, may help to address the health, safety, and population concerns associated with outdoor access of owned cats. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:15417–1545)