“Cat Tracker NZ: Understanding Pet Cats through Citizen Science” is a fascinating report from Victoria University (Wellingon) outlining the results of an extensive research project. The authors looked at 2,428 individual cats’ lifestyles, personalities, owners’ attitudes and preconceptions, and tracked 209 of those cats using small GPS devices. The study is not unlike the University of Georgia’s KittyCam Study, but contained a larger owner-survey component.
The results show some substantial differences between cat-culture in Canada and New Zealand. While nearly 60% of Canadian cat owners keep their cats from roaming, only 15% of New Zealanders do. And while only 80% of Canadian pet cats are fixed, an admirable 91% of Kiwi cats are spayed or neutered.
For the cats that were tracked, the median home range was 1.3 hectares. (A hectare is roughly the size of two North American football fields or 8 Olympic-sized swimming pools). There was no correlation whatsoever between how far the owners thought their cats travelled, and what the data revealed. Indeed, of the 65 cats that owners claimed were strictly indoors at night, 23 had night-time ranges larger than their day time ranges! And one fellow, dubbed “SuperCat” by the researchers, had a range more than 5 times any other cat in the study – over 200 hectares.
The report separated the cats into two groups based on the size of their ranges: ‘sedentary’ cats had a range of 1 hectare or less, and ‘wandering’ cats had a range of more than 1 hectare. Not surprisingly, the number of roads crossed were lower for sedentary cats (3/day) than wandering cats (5/day), but interestingly, the number of fights (based on observed evidence) and the number of prey items returned to owners were almost identical between the two groups (5.1 / month vs 5.2 / month).
As well, the assertion of many cat owners that their beloved feline is “too old to go far” was refuted. There was no statistical correlation between the ages of the cats and the size of their ranges.
The report also looked at awareness of laws about cats: 16% of respondents thought they knew the laws in their area, but only 54% of those were correct.