How Far Does Your Cat Roam?

If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, do want to know how far your cat roams from your home? The recent BBC television documentary on the domestic cat tells us clearly what cats do when let loose. Do you know how far your cat roams and where he or she goes?

The program tells us the size of, what I would call, the “home range” of a typical domestic cat living in the England, UK. I would expect the range size to be similar for all domestic cats under similar circumstances but there is a marked difference between males and females, inline with the wild cat species.

The home range is the area that a cat calls his territory and which he considers his home. It is the area that he would scent mark. The cat with the world’s largest home range is the snow leopard. It can extend to 1000 square kilometers. Totally awesome.

For the BBC programme, 11 cats were fitted with video cameras around their necks. These devices also had some sort of incorporated GPS device which allowed the cats to be tracked. A map of their movements (link opens in a new window) was produced.

The cat’s movements radiate out from their owner’s home. The directions taken appear to be random as if wandering rather aimlessly waiting for something to happen. Although cats follow routines and well worn tracks.

Here is the list of range sizes together with some details about each cat gathered from the BBC website:

Comment:

  • It is nice to see some hard facts on home ranges although the figures are what I would expect.
  • Females have considerably smaller home ranges. In the wild male cat ranges tend to overlap female ranges.
  • Although I have described the cats appearance I am unsure if the information is relevant in this instance. However, some people claim that calico and tortoiseshell cats have “catitude” and that red tabbies are boss-like, so there may be a connection between coat type and behavior and therefore home range sizes (see also calico cat behavior)
  • The range of the Asia-African wildcat, the wildcat ancestor of the domestic cat, is up to about 1.6 kms² (male). There are 247 acres in one square kilometer so 1.6 square kms is 395 acres. You can see that the wildcat ancestor of the domestic cat has a vastly greater home range than its domestic cousin. I guess domestication did that.
  • An apartment (of 1200 square feet) cat has a home range of .027 acre.
  • The size of a domestic cats home depends a great deal on where the cat lives.  At the top end of the scale a male Australian feral cat might have a home range of 900 acres, which is greater than the wildcat. There are some super feral cats in Australia that are like wild cats.

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How Far Does Your Cat Roam? — 14 Comments

  1. My old Marvin has a huge range I am sure. I’d love to have a cameras eye view of his comings and goings. He was born a wild cat and had freedom to roam all of his life. He was neutered probably at three years old. He has the old Tom cat look and I am pretty sure he is king of the mountain around here to any cats he encounters. Though he is a huggable cat to humans and will tolerate anything except being put in a cage.

    Bigfoot has an outdoor range of one side of the house to the other, then back inside.

    Yellowcat likes to stick close to home as well, though she will follow her boyfriend Shadow anywhere. I’ve seen them together on a distant hill gopher hunting.

    Wouldn’t it be great to watch their life via a camera. Or not.

    • Hi dw, feral cats turned domestic, as you say, will tend to have larger home ranges. Also, I suspect that cats in the USA might roam further because the landscape is less compact, more open (generally) and there is less traffic (generally).

    • I also imagine Marvin goes pretty far – I know Red did. I think when the boys are young they go the farthest. That’s why after Red I decided I only want girlcats until I move somewhere it is safe from the roads outside.

      • Even if you have indoor/outdoor cats keeping a female cat is probably less of a worry (if a person worries) because she will stay closer to home. That must reduce risk of being harmed. Just a thought.

  2. Excuse us but we cats need our privacy you know and no way would we walk around with a camera showing all our secret places we go and who we meet, anyway we think it might give our mammies a heart attack each if they knew the half heeheeee
    They get in a blue tin box on wheels outside our gate and go off for hours sometimes, so where do they go? Right we say cats lib and let’s put cameras on you silly people who walk on two legs and find out what you get up to 😉 😉

    • You make a really good point Jozef and Walter. Should humans be intruding on the secret, wild lives, of the domestic cat? Perhaps not. The BBC program was for people. It is a commercial enterprise. Cats don’t benefit. Do they? Thanks Walter and Jozef for giving me the cat’s viewpoint.

    • I think I’d rather not know what those two scallywags get up to, a few weeks ago Jozef led me away right along the other end of our Grove, everytime I nearly got hold of him he ran a bit further until he was at the end of the houses rolling about on his back to tice me on then he disappeared under a gate, I was distraught thinking he wouldn’t know his way home – I hung about for nearly an hour but no sign of him so came back home, he wasn’t long and followed me into the house! I reckon he’s been there before. No, I’d rather not know, the knowledge might drive me to drink 😉

      • Jozef’s behavior looks like the cats I have known. I tend to agree that we should let our cats discover their wild side when they are out of the home. This is their moment to express their inner character.

        • I thought that Walter and Jozef’s comment was most insightful.

          As for your comment, Michael….
          –I tend to agree that we should let our cats discover their wild side when they are out of the home. This is their moment to express their inner character.–

          Yes, I know it was meant partly in jest, and in some ways I don’t disagree. I got a fair view of Tootsie’s inner character, or perhaps more correctly “talents”, when she started bringing me presents- a chipmunk, some frogs….

          No, she did not kill them, and they were quite alive when she presented them. Oh, and they were quite alive when I scooted them out the door. Tootsie was carrying them quite carefully, and seemed she just wanted me to be proud of what a great “hunter” she was. Oh, geez, I just thought of this, maybe she thought she was trotting in with some kitten substitutes!

          On the other hand, I don’t want Tootsie to get terribly wild ideas when she’s outside- certainly not anything that jeopardizes her safety!

          • The classic reason, as I understand it, for bringing prey back alive is for the kitten (you ;)) to kill it and practice that task until Tootsie is happy you are able to go out with her hunting. So I suggest you start getting your head in gear to go out and hunt chipmunks and frogs.

            • Now that is funny! I really had no idea about the classic explanation! That is absolutely worth a post. Next time Tootsie and I go out “hunting” aka “walkies” I will view the experience in a new light.

  3. Monty does not roam. He totally stays in our fenced yard, but he’s very territorial. That is his yard. He marks trees with his claws, rubs against everything in sight and occasionally sprays the back fence with urine. He spends a great deal of time in ambush mode, as Jeff calls it, hiding under vegetation just waiting to pounce! I can find him by listening to and watching the birds. They know where he is and call out warnings that sound like “cat! cat! cat!”

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