Pet cats can be vilified for fouling neighbours’ gardens, killing birds and getting lost — but now an electronic cage that can prevent them from straying beyond their owners’ gardens has won the approval of scientists.
Cat containment systems are controversial among the owners of Britain’s 8.1m cats because they use a collar that delivers a pulse of static electricity when the animals approach preset boundaries. Claims that such systems make pets anxious and scared mean few owners use them.
But researchers have now found that cats do not suffer — and may benefit. “We found no evidence of long-term welfare problems in cats living with these fences compared to cats able to roam freely,” said Naima Kasbaoui of Lincoln University.
Kasbaoui, a vet, said the scientists used behaviour tests to assess the mood and anxiety of cats and found that “those contained with electronic boundary systems appeared more confident”.
Such systems could help the many neighbour disputes caused by cats roaming over neighbours’ gardens and hunting an estimated 55m birds a year — and may save them from being run over.
“Hundreds of thousands of cats are killed and injured on roads each year and these devices can prevent these often fatal injuries and the emotional cost to the cats and their owners,” said Daniel Mills, professor of veterinary behavioural medicine at Lincoln.
Electronic boundary systems usually use detector wires buried in the ground or strung along fences. When a cat approaches, its collar first beeps and then delivers a small shock. The researchers said most cats learnt to respond to the beep and were seldom shocked.