Curious about your cat’s outdoor behavior? The Cat Tracker Project may solve many mysteries

Cat Tracker Project USA
Photo Credit: Flickr User: Chriss Haight Pagani
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If you have an adventurous indoor-outdoor kitty who passionately enjoys his or her daily alfresco explorations, I will bet my bottom dollar that from time to time you may become curious about in which areas your cat hangs out and the extent of his preferred territory.

But it is not only those who have outdoor cats who wonder about their kitties? routines. According to an article by Karen Becker,DVM, a team of curious research scientists from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University are bound and determined to learn more precisely about what these outdoor cats are doing while they are outside roaming about.

Describing the rationale for this recent research project, Robb Dunn, an associate professor in biology at NCSU, who is one of the many scientists involved in the project said, “We view cats through the lens of how we see them culturally, but seldom do we view their actual behavior. We want to change that.” This writer thinks that Dr. Dunn must be an avid cat lover to have made that distinction about how many folks regard their kitties.

Dunn and his colleagues will initiate their project by spying on the cats with the use of kitty-sized GPS tracking devises. Later on they plan to add into their investigation, tiny video cameras mounted on the cats and they will also track and examine the cats’ feces.

Nicknamed “The Cat Tracker”, research has already begun in various locations with dozens of cats who have been fitted with these GPS devices. The majority of these felines are in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Research is also taking place in Charlotte, N.C., and other areas in the state as well as locations in California, and Germany and Australia.

This latest research project was inspired by a controversial study published in 2012 in “Nature Communications” espousing that somewhere between 1.4 and 3.7 million birds are killed annually by outdoor cats, in addition to 6.9 to 20.7 million small prey animals.

This said, according to experts, that the numbers included in that study are far from accurate. This major difference in opinion has led to major acrimonious debates between people who are cat lovers and those who passionately advocate for the birds. What is not in contention however is that there are major consequences and significant risks to housecats who roam freely.

The North Carolina researchers’ opinion is the data they will be collecting concerning the roaming patterns of cats, along with the analysis of their feces, will produce more accurate information about the true impact that cats have on wildlife and the environment.

Responsible for fitting local cats with the miniaturized GPS tracing harnesses, retrieving the devices and downloading the collected data is Troi Perkins, a student at NCSU. Every cat’s activities are then posted on the Cat Tracker website and on an international website that holds the tracking information on thousands of different animal species around the world.

The scientists are hoping to achieve project participation from owners of over 1,000 cats. The poop collection part of the project is voluntary for the cat owners; if the owners prefer they can simply sign their cats up for GPS tracking .

Some of the information already uploaded to the Cat Tracker I find rather fascinating. Most of the time Dunn’s cat stayed close to home, but suddenly decided to wander much further to visit the family’s previous home. Dunn said,

“We would have thought she would never leave our backyard. She’s old, and all her parts don’t work well, but she walked back all that distance, which suggests cats are doing all these things we don?t know about.”

Down the road, researchers are hoping to be able to increase their understanding about feline behavior and what prompts their activities. They are eager to discover more about why cats roam, whether gender plays a role in this behavior and what may stop cats from roaming- such as an impending danger.

This writer thinks that the data this project will produce should be extremely interesting. Additionally, I believe that it carries the potential to lend far more extensive and deeper factual information which can lead to a deeper understanding about feline nature and behavior.

Perhaps this information also has the potential to debunk so many of the inaccurate myths about felines in general that still abounds; myths that often gives cats a totally undeserved bad reputation.

What do you think? Tell us in a comment how you feel about the Cat Tracker Project.

14 thoughts on “Curious about your cat’s outdoor behavior? The Cat Tracker Project may solve many mysteries”

  1. Secret Life Of The Cat – BBC was a doc about a cat tracking project done in the U.K. in 2012 I think. They used GPS devices, which I looked into then and again just recently. It’s still a challenge to find something small and affordable enough for us to use. The map is from that study.

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  2. My 2 cats are indoor cats with a cat enclosure so they are protected from coyotes and pumas (and cars), which have become so predominant in my neighborhood (coyotes more than pumas but an occasional puma sighting is reported) that one seldom sees a cat roaming free these days. However, this does not totally protect the birds and small animals who somehow or other get through the chickenwire and into the cat enclosure. Then my cats have “gifts” to bring in the house from the enclosure Birds are beautiful and sound lovely and they actually do benefit the environment by spreading seeds and such, but some of them are just not very bright and don’t have much of a sense of self-preservation.

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    • Yes birds are beautiful, but they are also pretty vicious especially to each other. No one ever mentions that side except when describing cats “playing” with their prey. It’s not all Disney cartoons out there.

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