Mar 24, 2015 10:46 AM EDT
Although scrunchies stand alongside bubble bangs and stonewashed denim as oft-maligned fashion relics of the past century, this hair accessory might be making a comeback in an unexpected way.
A new study conducted by researchers from Murdoch University in Western Australia found that when brightly-colored scrunchie-like collars were placed on cats, the number of birds, reptiles and amphibians captured by the felines was reduced by 54 percent.
"Bright colors are very noticeable to songbirds, they should see the cats further away, allowing them to escape earlier," lead researcher Catherine Hall told ABC Australia.
For two years, 114 domestic cats were observed in a suburban Australian context, and their owners were told to freeze and save everything their cats killed. By comparing what the felines brought home when wearing the scrunchie collars to what they regularly killed, Hall found that the accessory warned off animals with good color vision, such as birds, reptiles and amphibians. The brighter the color, the more effective the collar was at alerting other animals.
Mice and other mammals with low sensitivity to bright colors, however, were not helped by the collar, which means that their owners could still use their pets to catch garden pests.
"They're best used by owners whose cats catch a lot of birds and lizards and either don't catch a lot of mice and rats, or their owners don't care whether they catch mice and rats," said Hall.
Since the device works on the basis of color and vision, Hall also found that cats are not able to make the collar less effective over time, which is the case with bells.
Nearly four out of five owners involved in the study reported that their cats had no problems with the collar, while another 17 percent said that their cats adjusted within two days. Overall, almost 80 percent of owners planned to continue using the scrunchie-like device - marketed by the U.S. company Birdsbesafe - after the study concluded.