New research undertaken by academics at the University of Lincoln into the welfare of our beloved feline companions investigates the ongoing question that has divided caring cat owners for years: does outdoor access increase your cats happiness?
Researchers Dr Luciana Santos de Assis and Professor Daniel Mills, developed a new feline welfare score to investigate the impact of installing a controlled outside environment (i.e. physical barrier from one of the ProtectaPet® range of cat fencing solutions).
Dr de Assis said “The new feline welfare score was built from a mathematical model of the relationships between 21 individual welfare measures. This showed their wellbeing could be considered to four dimensions: health issues, fearfulness, positivity (related to playfulness and being relaxed around their owner) and maintenance behaviours (eating, drinking, hunting and sleeping).”
More than 400 pet cat owners took part in the study. About a third of cats who had no access before were now able to enjoy the outdoors. So what do the results say about indoor and outdoor cats transitioning to a protected outside space?
- Indoor Cats who Now have the system: showed improvement with maintenance behaviours such as thirst and hunting behaviour
- Outdoor Cats who now have the system: showed lower health issues such as physical injuries;
- Outdoor Cats who used to have unsupervised access to outside and now have the system: showed improvement in their health issues sub-scores (e.g. physical injuries) and positivity sub-scores (i.e. Willingness to play with owner, general presence around owner, and active but relaxed around the home).
Interestingly, even cats that used to have unsupervised access outside of their homes seemed to show signs of improved welfare with the ProtectaPet system, which indicates that it’s not just about them being able to do things outside but also feel safe outdoors that is important.
Dr Eve Davies, Communications Director at ProtectaPet said “This study represents a landmark for our British designed product. We expected the welfare of cats who had previously been exclusively indoors to improve after the installation of ProtectaPet. But this research highlighted that the welfare of cats who had previously been used to free roaming also improved significantly. This suggests that cats who have unrestricted access to the outdoors may be exposed to stressors such as neighbourhood bullies or dangers and the implementation of a controlled territory reduces their stress and enhances their wellbeing.”
Professor Mills added: “Many owners feel conflicted about letting their cat out, because they worry about the risks, but feel their cat would appreciate being out. Understandably many owners will keep their cats inside, but our work shows that there is a practical alternative that works, and yes, the cats do benefit from being outside, and even more so when that outside environment is protected.” Read the full article here.