The University of Georgia conducted a fascinating study, dubbed the Kittycam Project, which used small, cat-mounted cameras to investigate outdoor cats’ behaviour, including hunting and roaming.
One of the reasons the hunting portion of this study is very useful is that previous studies all relied on cat owners’ reporting of prey brought home. It turns out that’s not a very accurate measurement: the cats in the study brought home less than a quarter of the prey they killed. Forty-nine percent of prey was left at the capture site, and twenty-eight percent was eaten. The average rate was 2.4 items per hunting cat per week of footage. The most common prey were reptiles (mostly snakes) and California anoles, with mammals and birds and invertebrates coming in lower on the list.
The study’s analysis of what type of prey the cats caught isn’t particularly applicable in Canada since our wildlife is different, but the hunting behaviours are likely to be very similar. If we assume the predation rates are the same among Canadian cats and cut the number in half because of the differing climate, the math works out to 237,931,200 wild lives a year ended by the 41% of Canadian cat owners who let their pet cats roam unsupervised. (That figure doesn’t include homeless cats.) Interestingly, the study results found no significant influence of age, sex or habitat on hunting behaviour.
One of the most surprising results was that four of the project’s kitties were discovered to be entering another household for food and/or affection! Only four?
In terms of risks to the cats themselves, a full 85% of cats were witnessed exhibiting at least one risky behaviour, including:
• crossing roads (45% of the sample)
• encountering strange cats (25%)
• eating and drinking substances away from home (25%)
• exploring storm drain systems (20%)
• entering crawlspaces where they could become trapped (20%).
Male cats were more likely to engage in risk behavior than female cats and fewer risk behaviours were witnessed with older cats. Total time spent outside also influenced the number of risks experienced by roaming cats.
More good reasons to keep your cat safe from roaming outdoors!
Read more about the KittyCam Project.