Carnivores are valued by conservationists globally but protecting them can impose direct costs on rural, livestock-dependent communities. Financial incentives are increasingly used with the goal of increasing people's tolerance of predators, but the definition of tolerance has been vague and inconsistent. Empirical correlations between attitudinal and behavioural measures of tolerance imply that attitudes may be a valid proxy for behaviours. However, theoretical differences between the concepts suggest that attitudinal tolerance and behavioural intention to kill cats would have different underlying determinants. We surveyed 112 residents within a forest–farm mosaic in northern Belize inhabited by jaguars Panthera onca and four other species of wild cats. A conservation payment programme pays local landowners when camera traps record cat presence on their land. Results indicated that tolerance was associated with gender and participation in the camera-trapping programme, whereas intention to kill cats was associated with cultural group (Mennonites vs Mestizos), presence of children in the home and, to a lesser extent, tolerance. Neither dependent variable was significantly related to depredation losses or economic factors. Results suggest that monetary payments alone are unlikely to affect attitudes and behaviours towards carnivores. Payment programmes may be enhanced by accentuating non-monetary incentives, leveraging social norms and targeting specific groups with information about risks and benefits associated with carnivores. By empirically separating two concepts commonly conflated as ‘tolerance’ we clarify understanding of how social forces interact with financial incentives to shape people's relationships with predators.