Domestic cats are among the most popular pets. Only in Norway, 5.4 million people own approximately 770,000 cats. However, where do our four-legged friends go when they are outside? You just open the door, they leave and disappear. After a while they \’re back again, but what happened in the meantime?
Researchers and master\’s students at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, are shedding some light on this cat mystery. They have GPS-marked about 100 pet cats in a small town in Eastern Norway and tracked the cats when they were outside. All cat parents lived within about one square kilometer, which gave the researchers a very detailed insight into many cats\’ activities within a limited area and made this study unique.
The results correspond with similar research from other European countries. The answer to the cat mystery lies significantly closer to home than most cat parents probably expected. The cats spent an average of 79% of their time outdoors within 50 meters of the owner\’s home. The average maximum distance for all cats was 352 meters. \”Some individuals traveled relatively far, sometimes several kilometers, but those were the exceptions,\” says Bischof.
Most cats are literally just around the corner when they are outside.
\”As far as we know, no one has ever tracked that many cats in such a small area.\” Bischof says. \”We tend to think of animal populations as a collection of individuals or a single number. Instead, I prefer to see them as surfaces that envelop and interact with the landscape.\”
Bischof also points out that most cat parents probably don\’t think of their cat as a member of a larger animal population. But they are clearly part of what the researchers called the \”catscape\” in their article.
\”The catscape is the combined intensity with which an area is used by all cats living there, and we were able to create a map of it using GPS data,\” Bischof says.
The results of the research showed that there was great variation between the individual cats in how they used the landscape. \”Cats have different personalities, and the results reflect this variation.\” Professor Bjarne O. Braastad, goes on explaining that the cats probably spend a lot of time near the home in their own garden to rest. \”It\’s also worth noting that almost all of the cats were neutered, as neutered cats are less likely to roam \” he adds.
How felines use the landscape is an indicator of how they interact with the environment. Cats definitely have some effects on their natural surroundings. \”An interesting topic for further studies is of course the effects on local wildlife,\” says professor Torbjørn Haugaasen.
A large part of the project has been carried out by NMBU\’s master\’s students, who gained a lot of practical experience with applied science.
Although the study has so far been focused on eastern Norway, rumors spread, and the project received inquiries from across the country to join. \”People are obviously very curious about what their cats do when they\’re out\” says Haugaasen.
After the data collection and data analysis was complete, the cat parents that participated gained access to digital maps where they could see where their cats had been.
Source: Phys Org