Cats have surpassed dogs as the most popular pet in the United States, with 38.4 million households owning an estimated 88.3 million cats.1 Despite this national popularity, there is still considerable controversy regarding free-roaming cats. A free-roaming cat is defined as a cat that lives outdoors at least part of the time. This includes pet cats that are allowed to spend time outdoors, lost and abandoned owned cats, tame unowned cats, and feral cats. A great deal of attention has been given over the past 2 decades to managing free-roaming cat populations, particularly feral cat populations.2-6 Although many authors have advocated the use of trap-neuter-return methods to manage feral cat colonies, others have suggested that no cats, including owned pet cats, should be allowed to roam freely because of the potential negative impact they have on wildlife and the destruction they can cause.7-9
Unfortunately, the increase in the popularity of cats as pets has been accompanied by an increase in the number of cats entering animal shelters each year. In Ohio, for instance, the number of cats entering animal shelters increased 20% and the number of cats that were euthanatized increased 14% between 1996 and 2004,10 even though the human population was relatively stable during this timeframe. At the same time, controversy exists as to whether animal control laws, such as restricting free-roaming cats and mandating cat licensing, are the most effective ways to reverse this increase in the number of cats entering animal shelters.
Despite the complexity of issues surrounding free-roaming cats, little work has been done to assess individual attitudes toward free-roaming cats. The purposes of the study reported here, therefore, were to evaluate attitudes and perceptions toward free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio and to examine differences in attitudes and perceptions between cat owners and non-cat owners and among individuals living in various residential areas (ie, urban, suburban, and rural).
Strategic Research Group, Columbus, Ohio.
Copies of the survey are available from the author on request.
Genesys Sampling Systems, Fort Washington, Pa.
Computer-Assisted Survey Execution System (CASES), version 4.3, University of California, Berkeley, Calif.
Stata, version 10.0, StataCorp, College Station, Tex.
Levy JK, Gale DW, Gale LA. Evaluation of the effect of a longterm trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:42–46.
Hughes KL, Slater MR, Haller L. The effects of implementing a feral cat spay/neuter program in a Florida county animal control service. J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2002;5:285–298.
Foley P, Foley JE, Levy JK, et al. Analysis of the impact of trapneuter-return programs on populations of feral cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1775–1781.
Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, et al. Demographic trends for animal care and control agencies in Ohio from 1996 to 2004. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229:48–54.
Levy JK, Woods JE, Turick SL, et al. Number of unowned free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and characteristics of community residents who feed them. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:202–205.
Johnson KJ, Lewellen L, Lewellen J. National Pet Alliance survey report on Santa Clara County's pet population. Cat Fanciers' Almanac 1994;Jan:71–77.
Johnson K, Lewellen L. San Diego County survey and analysis of the pet population. Available at: www.fanciers.com/npa/. Accessed Sep 8, 2007.
Manning AM, Rowan AN. Companion animal demographics and sterilization status: results from a survey in four Massachusetts towns. Anthrozoos 1992;5:192–201.
Dabritz HA, Atwill ER, Gardner IA, et al. Outdoor fecal deposition by free-roaming cats and attitudes of cat owners and nonowners toward stray pets, wildlife, and water pollution. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229:74–81.
USDA accepting comments on microchipping standards. Humane Society of the United States Web site. Available at: www.animalsheltering.org/resource_library/magazine_articles/the_scoop/microchip_standards_usda.html. Accessed Jul 7, 2007.
Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, et al. Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost cat. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2007;230:217–220.