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How Far Does Your Cat Roam?

Heidy Kikillus and a cat fitted with a GPS unit and harness to record its wanderings as part of the Cat Tracker project.

Heidy Kikillus and a cat fitted with a GPS unit and harness to record its wanderings as part of the Cat Tracker project.

By Heidy Kikillus, Philip Roetman & Roland Kays

It’s 10 pm. Do you know where your cat is? Would you believe it could roam up to 30 km in a week?

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Despite living alongside humans for so long, cats can have a very aloof and mysterious nature. It is fascinating that one of the animals that we commonly keep around is also the one whose habits we know the least. What other pet do we allow to wander freely and unsupervised for the majority of the time? Dogs must often be registered and contained to their owners’ property, yet in many areas cats are allowed to roam where and when they want.

Where do pet cats actually go when they leave through the cat flap? Previous research on the ranges covered by pet cats has typically focused on very few cats, making it difficult to generalise the results beyond the cats involved in the particular study.

The Cat Tracker project was deliberately established to track a large number of cats. It was initiated in the USA but has expanded through international collaborators to several other countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

While cats are popular pets, they are also introduced predators in these countries and may negatively impact rare native wildlife. Hence, a better understanding of their movements may help balance cats and conservation.

As part of the Cat Tracker project, we fitted a large number of pet cats with harnesses and GPS loggers to record their movement. The GPS units were pre-programmed to begin recording at least a day after being...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.