This is a flawed study. It’s currently being well publicised particularly on the website Mail Online. The researchers from Nottingham Trent University and the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, concluded in broad terms that 41% of pet cats worldwide live indoors and don’t go outside. The Mail Online exaggerated that figure to half i.e. 50%.
The conclusion came from an online survey which was sent out using social media. It was in the English language. The main social media platforms were Facebook and Twitter. There were 5000 participants. Most respondents lived in Europe (76.2%). The majority were UK-based (80.3%).
It seems that the major regions tested and analysed were Europe, USA and Canada, and Australia and New Zealand. This is supported by the pie charts produced by Mail Online.
These are developed countries. What about South America, Central America, all of Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Russia and even Africa? In most of these countries, which appear to have been excluded, community cats are the default type of relationship between domestic cat and human.
Community cats are those, as you would expect, living in the community without a distinct owner. They are domesticated but they don’t live in homes all the time. They live mainly outside in fact.
Also the survey automatically excludes all cat owners who don’t speak English. What percentage of cat owners do they represent? A hell of a lot. And these cat owners are probably more likely to let their cats go outside.
The problem with this study is that it simply does not reflect the true state of domestic cat ownership across a wide enough spectrum of countries and lifestyles. It is therefore biased. I wrote about it a couple of days ago. I’ve since decided that it is next to useless as a form of research.
I don’t think you can simply send out questionnaires on social media and come to firm conclusions. THere is a problem, too, with how people answer questionnaires. How objective are the participants?
Certainly in America the concept of keeping cats indoors all the time is well established. This is because there are predators outside such as coyotes. Coyotes are a genuine danger to outside domestic cats. Road traffic accidents are also a problem in America but less so than in heavily urbanised countries such as the UK and the Netherlands.
But it is more to do with human attitude. The attitude in countries such as South America will be to let cats go outside. The same applies to Asia in general. The attitude of cat owners is divided between safety for the cat and allowing cats to behave as naturally as possible. There is conflict between these two objectives.
The attitude of cat owners overrides logic in terms of the criteria mentioned above. It is often based on emotional preferences. Online newspapers should be cautious about reciting the research of scientists. This is an example which should not be disseminated quite so positively and conclusively. The research is not comprehensive and therefore biased in my view.