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What Do House Cats Do All Day? GPS Maps Reveal Their Secret Lives

What Do House Cats Do All Day? GPS Maps Reveal Their Secret Lives

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch

About a year ago, we reported on new KittyCam technology that uncovered just how much wildlife our house cats kill. Turns out they’re murderous little buggers. It was revealing to find out that 30% of outdoor cats capture and kill prey, with an average of 2.1 kills a week — and that owners see less than one-quarter of the kills their cats make. It was eye-opening to see just how deadly house cats are to wildlife and what kinds of problems that may cause. But would knowing where cats go and how they move also be enlightening? One team of scientists thinks, Absolutely!

Alan Wilson, a professor specializing in animal movement at the Structure & Motion Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), studies how animals move and, importantly, why. Though tracking wild animals is a common focus, Wilson says that no one has ever really applied the technology to house cats.

“In fact, we know less about some aspects of their behaviour than we do about many wild cats. So the Horizon programme and the study in our chosen village – Shamley Green in Surrey – was a fantastic opportunity to find out some of this missing information,” Wilson writes in a recent BBC article.

So, he and his team fitted 50 house cats living in the village with GPS collars. They watched the cats’ movements, and then visualized the data. And what a new visual it provided.

“The project was fascinating for us as we were able to learn so much about cats and their human interactions. Often our findings would contradict what owners believed their cats were getting up to,” writes Wilson.

The team found that the house cats had fairly small ranges, and few left the village to venture into the countryside. Why? “One theory is that their roaming is dictated by the hunt for food – something more easily done in the village. For example, we saw cats going into houses other than their own,” says Wilson.

With information like this, we may be able to learn more about cats’ patterns of movement and, importantly, how local wildlife can be protected from the clutches of roaming house cats. Cats are, after all, a number one enemy of birds.

Take a closer look at the results of the study and more maps over on BBC.

This post was originally published at TreeHugger.

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Photo from Thinkstock

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108 comments

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4:48AM PDT on May 12, 2015

You create sense out of the foremost complex topics. www.removallondon.biz

2:21AM PDT on May 13, 2014

Thank you

2:21AM PDT on May 13, 2014

Thank you

10:04AM PST on Dec 23, 2013

House cats read your mail, try your clothes on and throw parties while you're out. They get bored.

5:03AM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

thanks for sharing

5:21AM PDT on Jul 15, 2013

thank you for the interesting article 15/7

1:52AM PDT on Jul 15, 2013

30% well least its pretty low.

7:36PM PDT on Jul 13, 2013

There is the eternal debate about whether or not cats should go outdoors or be kept indoors. The indoor advocates believe the cats remain shielded from harm while the indoor/outdoor advocates favour the cat experiencing the great outdoors. It often depends on where one lives, if in a heavy traffic situation it is not really conducive to the cat’s safety, if in a quiet area then there is less of a chance of an accident. There are no guarantees on that but the same goes for people leaving their homes as well.

There are the cat haters who often say that since cats are ‘an invasive species’ (one can say the same about humankind) they are too much of a threat to be allowed outside. The cat that owns me is presently an indoor cat but in the past depending on where I had lived the cats were indoor /outdoor cats. Ela V, I think that it really depends upon the situation as to whether or not cats should be let outside or not. Some people build some rather spacious outdoor enclosures for their cats as well. Not everyone can but it offers a solution for some.

7:35PM PDT on Jul 13, 2013

Patti T, the sequester applies to programs within the U.S., however this study was done in the U.K. I guess that I missed that study on the relationship between pickles and cucumbers! Certainly there are some useless studies that be ditched in favour of more spending on the poor but tell that to Republicans who prefer to spend money in some rather dubious places. I do find it fascinating to see what our furry friends are up to at night.

Some say that cats are ‘murderous little buggers’ as this article mentions but compared to what humans have done, I would not blame cats for a lot. Some of these studies have also been dubious as well.

7:18PM PDT on Jul 13, 2013

Fascinating article, certainly it is interesting to see exactly what does go on when the cats that do go outside are out there.

Yes, it is true Ravenna C, that birds can kill other birds. I always knew that Great Blue Herons ate fish, that is a given but was I ever surprised to see a video shown on YouTube. It was about herons and one was standing and watching for fish in the water. A family of ducks swam by. The heron flew right over to them and then proceeded to gobble down one small duckling and the mother was unable to do anything about it. Mother Nature works in many ways. Various raptors can carry off small mammals such as rabbits, including small cats and kittens.

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