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Attitudes and Care Practices of Cat Caretakers in Hawaii
Individuals who were maintaining colonies of homeless, free-roaming cats on the island of Oahu were surveyed to learn about the attitudes and care practices associated with colony maintenance. The 75 respondents were primarily female pet owners, middle-aged, living with spouses, well-educated, and employed full time, dispelling the image of caretakers as elderly, socially-isolated individuals. Most of the them believed that outdoor cat colonies should continue to exist and that colony maintenance is a way of curbing pet overpopulation so long as the cats are sterilized. The majority of respondents had been maintaining cat colonies for two to four years. All caretakers reported having attempted to socialize the cats and nearly half had been successful in adopting out cats. Most were caring for one colony consisting of fewer than 10 animals which were fed once or twice daily. All caretakers were making efforts to trap the cats and take them for sterilization and veterinary care. Although many took advantage of the Hawaiian Humane Society's free sterilization program for colony cats, some caretakers paid out-of-pocket for sterilization and more than half reported paying for all veterinary care. Love of cats, opportunity for nurturing, and enhanced feelings of self-esteem appear to be some of the factors underlying the remarkable commitment of the caretakers. Colony management may not be practical in some areas due to risks to wildlife and human health. However, where feasible, the availability of individuals willing to provide ongoing, responsible care to these animals may be a significant resource for animal welfare and control organizations.
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