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The Five Domains: Animal Welfare and Wellbeing

Animal welfare science tells us that the welfare of an animal includes both their physical and mental state.

five domains paw print graphic

Ways you can apply the Five Domains for your pets


  • Providing a balanced diet suitable for your pet’s age, breed, and health status
  • Using feeding as an opportunity for enrichment e.g. puzzle feeders!
  • Making sure they always have access to clean, fresh water


  • Creating a safe, comfortable, and stimulating living space with:
    • Adequate space and freedom of choice
    • Opportunities for your pet to do the things they love, like being active!
    • Private places where they can retreat and a cozy sleeping area
    • Be aware of potential environmental stressors like loud noises, unpleasant smells, temperature variations, and other animals


  • Keeping them up to date with preventative health care (e.g. parasite control, vaccinations) and routine veterinary care. Being aware of any signs of illness or injury and seeking veterinary care ASAP if you notice anything out of the ordinary about them!

Behavioural Interactions

  • Providing them with opportunities to play, socialize, and explore e.g. toys and scratching posts
  • Making sure they have choice and control over what they do and who they spend time with (as long as it’s safe!)
  • Spending quality time with them every day to help strengthen your bond
  • Using reward-based training techniques to reinforce good behavior and discourage undesirable behaviors

Mental State

  • Protecting them from situations where they might become scared, frustrated, or distressed
  • Doing your best to ensure they get all the love, care, understanding, and companionship they need to live their healthiest and happiest life!

What are the Five Domains?

The Five Domains framework is a way of thinking about animal welfare – going beyond just eliminating or minimizing negative experiences to achieve a neutral state of animal welfare. Instead, we’re encouraging positive experiences in four functional domains, which affect the fifth domain, the animal’s mental state.

To determine an animal’s well-being the following should be considered:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Environment
  3. Health
  4. Behavioural interactions
  5. Mental State

For every physical experience an animal has, there may also be an effect on their mental well-being.

The emotional needs of animals are important as well as their physical needs like food, water, exercise, etc.

To ensure all animals have a life worth living, they must have the opportunity to have positive experiences – such as excitement, anticipation, and satisfaction.

Pet owners and those that care for animals need to provide environments that allow and encourage animals to express behaviours that are rewarding. 

Blog written by Emma Lagoon, Communications & Media Manager for RSPCA Qld

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