Electric Fences . . . For Cats?

December 7, 2016

If you grew up or now live in the suburbs or the country, you’re probably familiar with underground electric fences to keep your dog from leaving your property. These fences are sold under various names like “Invisible Fence” or “Pet Safe,” but the idea is pretty simply: you dig a trench around your property, drop in the electric line, put a special collar on your dog and then your dog “learns” not to cross the fence. Now without getting into the pros and cons of this type of fence and/or training method, let’s just take as a given that these dog fences have been around a long time. Well, did you know they are now being marketed for cats?

A recent study at the University of Lincoln looked at the use of electronic containment systems on cats. While there has been lots of attention paid to the use of hand-held electronic collars as a training devise for dogs, little research has been performed on the use of electronic containment systems as a form of training and never before had there been a study involving electric fences and cats.  Of course the major difference between a hand held electronic collar and an electric containment system is that the former relies on the judgement of a person while the latter allows the cat (or dog) to use its own judgement and behavior to avoid any correction (and let’s face it, they are probably better judges of this than a human).

The researchers at the University of Lincoln “found no evidence of long-term welfare problems in cats living with these fences, compared to control cats able to roam freely in and out of their owners’ gardens.” The researchers acknowledge that “While some will argue that electronic containment systems can never be justified for pets, others highlight that, in the UK alone, 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. In contrast, housing cats solely indoors to remove such risks is associated with increased prevalence of a range of health problems including obesity, Feline Urologic Syndrome and dental disease. Long-term exposure to common flame retardants widely used in homes may also have toxic side effects for cats.”

So what do you think? Do the risks of letting your cat wander the neighborhood justify using an electronic fence to keep him or her safely on your property, or does this only solve half the problem? While maybe your cat won’t wander off your property (thus preventing a run in with a car), the other cats, dogs, and who knows what else, in your neighborhood aren’t wearing the special collar and thus there is nothing to prevent them from wandering onto your property and going after your cat (I assumed a curb would prevent the car from driving on your front lawn with or without an electric fence)?

Thanks for reading.

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