Res Vet Sci. 2021 Mar 2;136:209-219. doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2021.02.025. Online ahead of print.
Stray cat population management is an important worldwide issue. Understanding citizen attitudes towards stray cat control options is vital to the success of controlling stray cat numbers, as public perception affects the acceptance of, support for and collaboration in stray cat management policies. Audience segmentation, as to enable each group to be engaged in the stray cat management policy, is important for the success of the interventions. Therefore a web-based survey was conducted among Flemish citizens in order to examine differences in acceptance towards seven management scenarios: household cat neutering with financial support for the owner, household cat neutering without financial support for the owner, encouraging responsible household cat ownership, trapping stray cats and taking them to a shelter, trapping and neutering stray cats for release into a managed “cat colony” (composed by so called “community cats”), trapping and killing of stray cats, and undertaking no action. A total of 4059 valid responses were collected and the proportions of agreement were compared across the different management scenarios using the two-sample z-test. Interactions among factors that influenced each management scenario were investigated using the CHAID (Chi-squared Automatic Interaction Detection) analysis and visualized on a tree. Our results showed that fostering responsible household cat ownership (89.9%) and conversion of stray cats to “community cats” (76.3%) were most supported by respondents in our sample (which consisted mainly of females, cat-lovers, and families without children). Least supported were the killing of stray cats (7.7%) and undertaking no action (3.3%). The demographic analyses revealed that for the acceptance of management scenarios there were three important factors (attitude towards cats, area of residence, and gender), two weaker factors (education and having children) and two which had almost no impact (age and cat ownership). We propose that future studies should focus on the effect of ‘area of residence’, ‘having children’ and ‘education’. In conclusion, our research confirms that management of and communication on stray cat strategies should not be developed with a one-size-fits-all approach. Efforts should be tailored to each audience segment, thus adapted to the area of residence and human characteristics.