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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Minimizing the Effects of Free-Ranging Domestic Cats on Wildlife: A Framework that Integrates Social and Biological Information

  • Author(s): Gramza, Ashley;
  • Teel, Tara L.;
  • Crooks, Kevin R.
  • et al.

Recently, there has been growing interest in the study of the biology of free-ranging cats and their effects on wildlife, generating new estimates of cat densities and predation rates. Although such biological data are important to consider when formulating management strategies, they have done little to stifle conflict between stakeholder groups or reduce the number of cats on the landscape and their ecological impacts. In many cases, this research has actually rekindled debate, often pitting wildlife biologists against animal welfare organizations and the general public. While some social science research regarding human perceptions of free-ranging cats exists, these studies are often initiated after conflict has occurred or after a controversial management strategy has been implemented. Furthermore, few studies have focused on the perceptions of owned free-ranging cats, although these cats may comprise a large proportion of cats on the landscape. The most effective, humane, and socially-acceptable management strategies will involve front-end integration of both social and biological science information as well as inclusion of diverse stakeholders. Our ongoing research provides a framework that wildlife managers, pest managers, animal protection organizations, and local government entities can use to develop socially-relevant and biologically-effective management programs for owned free-ranging domestic cats. This framework involves social science research methods grounded in social psychological theories to help predict human thought and behavior, as well as biological methods to assess cat impacts. Lastly, using our own research as a model, our framework compiles guiding principles that help managers develop effective communication programs aimed at promoting conservation-relevant behaviors.

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