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Can persuasive messages work?

McLeod L, Hine DW, Bengsen AJ, et al.  Assessing the impact of different persuasive messages on the intentions and behaviour of cat owners: A randomised control trial. Prev Vet Med. 2017 Oct 1;146:136-142.

Owners of domestic cats are often encouraged to keep their cats indoors not only for their own safety but also to protect the environment in which they live. These investigators conducted an online experiment to assess the effectiveness of the messages given to persuade owners to keep their cats indoors only. A total of 512 cat owners were shown one of three short video messages: 1) showing impact of cats on wildlife and biodiversity, 2) showing improvement to cats’ life and welfare, or 3) and showing a neutral message with general information on cats. The impact of the messages was determined.

Results indicated both messages of impact on wildlife and welfare of the cats motivated owners to contain their cats. Increased motivation led to increased efforts to contain the cats after the experiment. This was strengthened by the bond owners had with their cats. According to the authors, “These findings emphasise the value of adopting approaches incorporating human behaviour and persuasive communication theory to design cat, and indeed any invasive animal, management interventions. They should be relevant to practitioners involved in developing and delivering interventions aimed at improving adoption of best-practice animal management strategies.” (MK)

See also: 
McDonald JL, Maclean M, et al. Reconciling actual and perceived rates of predation by domestic cats. Ecol Evol. 2015 Jul;5(14):2745-53.