How Far Does Kitty Roam? New Study Covers Cat Tracks

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.

Related Stories

Cat vs. Bird: Is it Time to Lock Up Fluffy to Protect Wildlife Diversity?

Fish & Wildlife Plan Threatens Cats’ Lives

Alley Cat Allies Calls For Researcher’s Suspension

Photo credit: JH Mikels


William C
William C2 days ago

Thanks for caring.

W. C
W. C4 days ago

Thank you for the information.

Lin Turner
Lin Turner6 years ago

I'm really tired people who think that their cats should be allowed to run at loose freely and who keep letting their pets breed at will because kittens are so cute or they think that a female cat should be allowed to breed at least once etc. There are a lot of wild bird populations being decimated by your thoughtless actions.

Giovanna M.
Giovanna M6 years ago

Taking action.

dve d.
aa b6 years ago

not got a pussy

Rani Lyons
Rani Lyons6 years ago

my cat is happy with the awning from my second story studio. She can lay in the sun and run up and down to her hearts content. Sometimes i think the birds are lauging at her when they fly by coz they know she can't catch them!

dawn w.
Dawn W6 years ago

Pet cats should not be allowed to roam outside,it's too dangerous.

David N.
David N6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Arild Warud


John Doe
james rico6 years ago

if you let your cat out do not do it during the hunting season as i have heard of cats comeing home with shot gun pellet wounds at this time. some hunters are trigger happy and many think that feral cats will steal their game. and they may shoot your cat even though he has a bright collar on all the more reason to get a tracking collar. know where your cat wanders and what potential dangers are there that he could face. and then you may want to reconsider letting him out with those dangers, whether they be other animals or cars or bad people. or open pits where he can fall into and not get out or trappers setting traps for animals legaly or illegaly. they could even be leg hold traps or conabear traps which can kill instantly