Farmers' attitudes to cats and population control and husbandry conditions of cats on Austrian farms.
Introduction: The population of rural stray cats is uncontrolled and growing. This project aimed to gain insights into farmers' attitudes towards cats and their population control, as well as into the husbandry conditions of cats on Austrian farms. Materials and Methods: Via face-to-face interviews with farmers, we collected demographic data on cats, their husbandry (including housing, feeding, veterinary care and measures of population control) and their health. We also examined the reasons why farmers keep cats and their attitudes to cats and to population control. As an acknowledgement for their participation, the farmers received a voucher to neuter one female cat. In total, 80 farmers participated in the survey, of which 26 initiated the contact to receive financial support for the neutering of their cats. Results: For 74% of the participants, the main reason for keeping cats was for them to catch mice. 59% fully agreed that "cats can provide for themselves effortlessly". The average number of cats per farm was reported to be 4.6 ± 3.2 (mean ± SD). 85% of the participants reported visits from stray cats. 41% agreed that female cats should be neutered, while 33% agreed that males should be. Per farm, 50 ± 47% of female cats and 38% ± 47% of male cats had been neutered. 49% of the farmers fully agreed that female cats should be allowed to have one litter before being neutered and 45% of participants reported that their female cats had had a litter before neutering. While 41% of the farmers claimed to deworm their cats regularly, only 7.5% had vaccinated their cats. The disease with the highest prevalence was upper respiratory disease, while road traffic accidents were the most frequent cause of injury. While 21% of the respondents said that they had nursed the cat back to health after illness or injury, 38% had sought the aid of a veterinarian. Conclusion: Neutering voucher campaigns for farm cats can be an incentive for population control in rural areas. We recommend that such campaigns be accompanied by information on population control and on measures of health prophylaxis.