How far do outdoor cats roam? A study tracking cats in Champaign, Ill., found that domesticated felines wander approximately 4.9 acres each day, while their feral counterparts cover upwards of 388 acres.
Discovery News reports that veterinarians working with the Illinois Natural History Survey equipped the cats with special radio collars to track their movements. In addition to measuring the distance traveled by each animal in a given day, half of the collars included tilt and vibration sensors to monitor the kitties’ activity level. Eighteen indoor-outdoor pet cats were collared for the study, along with 24 unowned feral cats.
The researchers tracked the cats for 16 months. In a conclusion that may elicit a big “duh” from cat owners, the researchers found that house cats spend 80% of their time sleeping or sitting quietly. The pets also spent many of their waking hours lazing about: 17% of their activities were deemed “low-intensity” by the researchers. Only 3% of a house cat’s day was devoted to “high-intensity” behavior.
The feral cats, meanwhile, were inactive for 65% of the day. Low-intensity activities made up 23% of their routine, with “high activity” reported another 14% of the time. Besides wandering farther, feral cats also explored a greater variation of habitats. Researchers tracked the unowned cats across urban landscapes, farms, forests and grasslands in the Champaign-Urbana area. Pet cats just hung around their humans’ neighborhoods.
Margaret Slater, a veterinary epidemiologist with the ASPCA in Champaign, told Discovery News that the new statistics stress the importance of spaying and neutering cats, especially feral populations. Slater points out that feeding and sheltering feral cats in a specific place shrinks their range. When the feral cats don’t roam as far, it cuts down on over-hunting and minimizes conflicts between feral cats and pet cats.
Photo credit: JH Mikels