Attitudes to animals

Roaming companion cats as potential causes of conflict and controversy – a representative questionnaire study of the Danish public

By P. Sandøe, A. P. Nørspang, S. V. Kondrup, C. R. Bjørnvad, B. Forkman, & T. B. Lund (2018). 
. Routledge.


Cats have grown in popularity as companion animals, but there are also people who strongly dislike them. Companion cats allowed to roam freely outdoors are seen by some as a nuisance. This paper, drawing on research conducted in Denmark, aims to quantify potentially conflicting attitudes to cats among the public that may feed into cat-related conflicts and controversies. Questionnaire data were collected from a representative sample of the Danish population (n = 2,003), where 21% (n = 415) owned cats and 79% (n = 1,588) did not. In all, 65% of respondents confirmed that they liked cats, 21% reported that they did not, and 14% were undecided. The main reasons for disliking cats concerned “behavior,” not hazards such as the spread of diseases and predation. Of the 21% of the surveyed Danes who reported that they currently had a cat in the household, 72% allowed their cat to roam outdoors. Sixty percent of the respondents did not perceive this as a problem. However, the potential for conflict was demonstrated by the fact that 27% of respondents regarded outdoor roaming as problematic. Of these, about a quarter saw free-roaming cats as a big problem and as a cause of strife between neighbors. Comparatively fewer of those who owned cats saw their animals as a cause of problems. Thus, only 12% of those owning outdoor cats thought that problems were caused when their cats defecated in a neighbor’s garden, which compares with the 17% of the total population who are bothered by other people’s cats defecating in their gardens. Our data show that while the majority of Danes believe cats should be allowed to roam in public spaces, a significant minority strongly dislikes cats and would prefer restrictions on roaming.

Full text (pdf) - limited access

Why do people buy dogs with potential welfare problems related to extreme conformation and inherited disease? A representative study of Danish owners of four small dog breeds

By P. Sandøe, S. V. Kondrup, P. C. Bennett, B. Forkman, I. Meyer, H. F. Proschowsky, J. A. Serpell, T. B. Lund (2017).


A number of dog breeds suffer from welfare problems due to extreme phenotypes and high levels of inherited diseases but the popularity of such breeds is not declining. Using a survey of owners of two popular breeds with extreme physical features (French Bulldog and Chihuahua), one with a high load of inherited diseases not directly related to conformation (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), and one representing the same size range but without extreme conformation and with the same level of disease as the overall dog population (Cairn Terrier), we investigated this seeming paradox. We examined planning and motivational factors behind acquisition of the dogs, and whether levels of experienced health and behavior problems were associated with the quality of the owner-dog relationship and the intention to re-procure a dog of the same breed. Owners of each of the four breeds (750/breed) were randomly drawn from a nationwide Danish dog registry and invited to participate. Of these, 911 responded, giving a final sample of 846. There were clear differences between owners of the four breeds with respect to degree of planning prior to purchase, with owners of Chihuahuas exhibiting less. Motivations behind choice of dog were also different. Health and other breed attributes were more important to owners of Cairn Terriers, whereas the dog’s personality was reported to be more important for owners of French Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but less important for Chihuahua owners. Higher levels of health and behavior problems were positively associated with a closer owner-dog relationship for owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Chihuahuas but, for owners of French Bulldogs, high levels of problems were negatively associated with an intention to procure the same breed again. In light of these findings, it appears less paradoxical that people continue to buy dogs with welfare problems.

Full text (pdf)