Domestic cats roam far, researchers track their every move

Where do cats wonder off to? Researchers tracked feral and domestic cats for two years using radio-transmitters.

Do you know where your cat wanders off to when it leaves the house? It might venture much further than you think. Researchers at the University of Illinois tracked feral and house cats over the course of two years, using radio transmitters and collars with sensors to get a sense of how these cats moved around areas near Champaign and Urbana.

After tracking the movements of cats, the researchers confirmed the obvious: feral cats roam further than pet cats. “There’s no (other) data set like this for cats,” a former Illinois grad student Jeff Horn said in a statement. “Without these sensors, it would require a field team of 10 to 12 people to collect that data.”

The researchers tracked 42 adult cats: They found that one feral cat had a home range of 547 hectares and on average, the home range for pet cats was less than two hectares.

Te researchers also noted that the house cats were only active three percent of the time, while the feral cats were active 14 percent of the time. This was a survival mechanism: the feral cats have to work harder to find food to eat.

The researchers found that the feral cats were pretty territorial, depending on what time of the year it was. But in general, both types of cats had the tendency to stay near buildings.

The study wasn't just a creepy stalking research project, but could help researchers understand how cats spread disease and give insight into their impact on the environment. When domestic cats contract diseases from other wildlife when they are out roaming the streets, they come home and infect their owners and other pets. That said, domestic cats are an invasive species, so the study could help control the spread of diseases and could even protect certain species from predication.

via University of Illinois

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