Certain risk factors can be identified which if present are likely to lead to a failed relationship between domestic cat and person.
A study conducted in 1996, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, involved interviewing cat owners who had a happy and stable relationship with their cats. The study also interviewed cat owners who had recently abandoned their cat to an animal shelter. The objective was to find out the circumstances under which these different scenarios had developed. The researchers were then able to identify ways of increasing the possibilities of the human to cat bond developing.
The following “risk factors” are likely to lead to the relationship between cat and human failing and the relinquishment of the cat:
- cats who were younger than 6 months of age, intact (meaning not neutered or spayed)
- cat had never visited a veterinarian (I suppose indicating a neglectful attitude by cat owner or without sufficient funds)
- cats acquired at no cost (lack of funding? Casual adoption)
- cats acquired on a spontaneous decision (casual adoption. Unprepared and not thought through)
- cats who do not live in the home with their caretakers. For example, the cat lives in the basement or a garage (uncommitted cat ownership. Lack of understanding of the domestic cat and lack of sensitivity)
- the owner reports “bad cat behaviour” such as scratching and inappropriate elimination (not respecting the cat and/or lack of understanding of cat behavior and requirements)
- the cat owner does not allow sufficient time for attachment to develop between herself and her cat
- the cat owner has unrealistic expectations with respect to cat caretaking and I suspect also with respect to cat behaviour
In another study similar results were arrived at:
- People who kept their adopted cat for one year or longer were much more attached to their cat than those who gave up the cat. The results is unsurprising but it emphasises the need to allow time to form an attachment. I suspect that this is particularly important for a person who is new to cat caretaking.
- Rigid and unrealistic expectations about the role of a cat in their household and about cat behaviour in general was far more likely to lead to the abandonment of the cat to a shelter.
A much higher success rate in respect of forming a bond between human and cat resulted when the human accepted the cat as a cat and all that that imports into the relationship (as opposed to expecting the cat to behave in a certain way). In other words when a cat caretaker respects the cat and accepts cat behaviour as it arrives and likes it, the relationship is much more likely to be strong and long-lived.
- Patronek et al – Risk factors for relinquishment of cats to an animal shelter 1996
- Karsh and Turner – The Human-cat relationship 1988