We recognize that not all cats across the world have outdoor access which in some parts of the planet, it’s not encouraged and, in some cases, time curfews are placed on when cats are allowed to possess outdoor access.
However, where outdoor access is allowed, it is often hugely beneficial to cats’ mental wellbeing also as being a crucial source of physical activity. There are however risks that accompany outdoor access, one among the foremost serious being road traffic accidents. As every cat is private and therefore the circumstances it lives in are unique, a full understanding of the danger factors related to road traffic accidents is useful to assist make a balanced decision on whether to permit a cat outdoor access and the way it’s achieved.
However, given the number of pet cats across the world, the frequency of cat RTA’s, and therefore the severe implications of an RTA (injury or death), it’s surprising how little research has focused on better understanding the danger factors related to cats being involved in car accidents. Luckily, some results from the Bristol Cats Study are ready to shed a touch Inner Light this area, providing some insight into the features of the cat and their environment which could put them into the upper-risk category where RTA’s are concerned.
What is the Bristol Cats Study?
The Bristol Cats study may be a longitudinal UK-based study travel by the University of Bristol, UK, that aims to know which factors of a cat’s behavior and health could also be influenced by their management (i.e. diet and lifestyle) and their breed. The study has currently been active for 10 years and has recruited around 2200 kittens and their owners. These cats are followed up via regular questionnaires which are sent bent their owners, to trace the cat’s progress as they age.
The research in question focused on data from over 1000 of those cats during the primary year of their life, which got access to the outside. Owners completed three questionnaires for his or her cat when it had been 8-16 weeks, 6 months,, and 12 months old. Owners provided a variety of data about their cat including:
Whether the cat had been involved in an RTA, at what age, and if this was fatal or not
The cat’s sex, breed, neuter status, and coat color
How the cat responds to traffic (i.e. runs away, seems confident, has little awareness)
How long the cat spends outdoors and at what times of day
Whether the cat hunts at the roadside
The house location (i.e. whether rural, suburban, or city) and whether it had a garden
The type of road the home is on (i.e. size, regulation, frequency of cars, whether long and straight, with sharp bends, or at a junction)
Whether the cat wears a reflective collar
Whether the cat features a catflap
The authors analyzed all of the info collected to undertake to spot which of the above factors might ready to predict a cat being at a greater risk of suffering an RTA.
What were the most findings of the study?
Of all the cats surveyed, a relatively low percentage of cats (3.9%) were reported to possess had an RTA by 12 months aged. of those cats, most were older than 6 months when the RTA happened, which is perhaps reflective of the very fact that the majority of owners may wait until is 6 months old before letting them out. the bulk of RTA’s (74.5%) was reported as being fatal to the cat, with 17% being non-fatal but involving serious injuries that required veterinary treatment.
Interestingly, the authors didn’t find any links between the sex of the cat, their neuter status or coat color, and increased RTA risk. this is often despite male, unneutered cats often being perceived as being more ‘at risk’ because they’ll roam further, and black cats because they might be harder for drivers to identify.
Some of the results were also a touch surprising. Of all the variables analyzed, the study found that the sole factors to successfully predict a greater RTA risk were the cat’s hunting behavior, the situation of the owner’s home, and therefore the sort of road next to the house. They found that:
Cats living in rural areas were 2.66 times more likely to possess an RTA than those living in additional urban locations
Cats living in houses on an extended, straight road were 2.84 times more likely to possess an RTA than people who didn’t
Cats that that were reported to hunt by the roadside were 3.30 times more likely to possess an RTA than people who didn’t
Whilst these results might sound a touch unexpected or counterintuitive, the authors suggest that the cats that sleep in more rural locations (where you’d expect less traffic) are more in danger because it’s much harder for them to find out the rules of the road’. Long, straight country roads can also encourage drivers to travel faster. The traffic that the country-living cats need to deal with is perhaps tons more sporadic and unpredictable, with cars potentially going past at higher speeds on straighter and longer lengths of road. This might make it very difficult for these country cats to find out when it’s safe for them to cross or not, and maybe also for drivers to prevent in time if they see a cat crossing.
Why is that this study useful?
This study highlights several important factors which can increase a cat’s risk of an RTA. Interestingly, a number of these are in contrast to common beliefs which will be held by cat owners or those working in homing centers. These results can therefore help us to make sure that we aren’t unnecessarily excluding people from cat ownership because they live by a ‘busy’ road. it’s going to also prevent people from enforcing that a cat must stay indoors for his or her safety, where the particular risk of an RTA could be very low, and therefore the cat may otherwise benefit greatly from having the ability to venture outdoors.
However, thanks to the broad nature of the study, only basic information about the cat’s environment, their hunting behavior, and their patterns of outside access were recorded. These also relied on owner observations and their reporting, and intrinsically, various important bits of data may are missed. additionally, the study only included cats up to 12 months aged, and that we don’t skills their road crossing behavior may have changed with age. Finally, the study was UK based and thus we don’t know whether the results would be mirrored in other countries where the environment may differ somewhat.
So, should I let my cat outdoors?
As loving cat owners, we would like the absolute best for our pet cats. Of course, this is often not almost keeping them physically safe, but also about ensuring they need a positive, stimulating environment, and good quality of life. we believe good cat welfare takes under consideration both the physical health and therefore the mental wellbeing of the cat. Thus, consideration of outside access for a cat (whether or to not do so and if so, how and when) requires equal thought to both the implications on both a cat’s physical health and mental wellbeing to make sure cat welfare is at the guts of the choice. If you’re unsure what’s best for your cat regarding outdoor access or not, we have a variety of pages on the recommendation section of our website.