Cat owner cognitive biases in reported cat health.

Cat owner’s observations may prove to be biased towards their own preconceived notions. Dodd structured her survey to avoid biasing people towards being a booster for their particular diet philosophy.

“Pet diet can be a very emotional subject for people to think, speak, and answer questions about,” she said. “For this survey, the question of diet was left to the very end of the survey (and respondents could not back track through the questions) to try to avoid the bias that could be induced by a subconscious desire to ‘defend’ a particular feeding practice. That said, there could be a general bias that a pet parent feels regardless of whether they have been asked about diet or not. I would assume that this would bias away from the null, as I would expect that owners feeding unconventional diets likely have a perception of their pet’s health being superior, considering previous findings relating feeding habits and health perceptions.”

Feeding and health intertwine in pet obesity, one area where cat owners’ perceptions may be wrong. Reported body conditions scores (BCS) in Dodd’s study didn’t match up with companion animal obesity statistics collected by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and other groups. That provides an opportunity for pet food companies to help reduce pet obesity and the health problems that go with it.

“Even though pictures representing BCS were used without a numerical scale and randomly ordered to try to prevent owners from trying to select the ‘right’ image, it would appear likely that BCS was still underestimated for many cats,” Dodd said. “Pet food brands could help to fight the pet obesity epidemic by utilizing only images of animals with healthy BCS in their content (media, packaging, etc.) and by helping to promote awareness of the risks of obesity and the benefits of healthy body condition for pets.”

Along with cat health, pet owners increasingly mind the health of the planets’ ecosystems and cultures. Incorporating plant-based cat foods into a product line-up may be a way to meet this demand.

“Sustainability is still a major motivational factor for consumers, yet animal by-products, the more sustainable option for animal ingredients, maintain poor reception by many consumers,” she said.
“As long as plant-based cat diets are considered niche and fringe and are produced only by specialist companies, the greater acceptance will be limited. If more companies were to formulate feline-appropriate diets without animal ingredients, this may improve reception among the cat-keeping population.”

Post time: Jul-05-2022