Background. Failure among pet owners to neuter their pets results in increased straying and overpopulation problems. Variations in neutering levels can be explained by cultural differences, differences in economic status in rural and urban locations, and owner perceptions about their pet. There are also differences between male and female pet owners. There is no research pertaining to Irish pet owner attitudes towards neutering their pets. This paper identified the perceptions of a sample of Irish cat and dog owners that influenced their decisions on pet neutering. Methods. This study was conducted using social science (qualitative) methods, including an interview-administered survey questionnaire and focus group discussions. Data was coded and managed using Nvivo 8 qualitative data analysis software. Results. Focus groups were conducted with 43 pet (cats and dogs) owners. Two major categories relating to the decision to neuter were identified: (1) enabling perceptions in the decision to neuter (subcategories were: controlling unwanted pet behaviour; positive perceptions regarding pet health and welfare outcomes; perceived owner responsibility; pet function; and the influence of veterinary advice), and (2) disabling perceptions in the decision to neuter (subcategories were: perceived financial cost of neutering; perceived adequacy of existing controls; and negative perceptions regarding pet health and welfare outcomes). Discussion. Pet owner sense of responsibility and control are two central issues to the decision to neuter their pets. Understanding how pet owners feel about topics such as pet neutering, can help improve initiatives aimed at emphasising the responsibility of population control of cats and dogs.
Keywords: Attitude; Behaviour; Cat; Dog; Focus groups; Neutering; Pet ownership; Population control; Qualitative methods.