Pussycat, Pussycat where have you been? Cat Tracker study to reveal the covert lives of cats

  Last updated February 15, 2018 at 11:04 am


Calling all cats. Science needs you!

Just as the children’s nursery rhyme says, people have long wondered the whereabouts of their feline friends. Now, the covert lives of Australia’s cats are set to be exposed in the University of South Australia’s new national Cat Tracker study.

The project team is seeking cats to participate in the study.

Led by Discovery Circle Research Leader, UniSA’s Dr Philip Roetman, Cat Tracker will follow the day- and night-time movements of up to 1400 cats to deliver valuable information for cat owners to care and manage their pet cats.

“Domestic cats are one of the most popular pets worldwide and they play an important and much-cherished role in the lives of many Australians,” Dr Roetman says.

Informed decisions for cat care

“But where do our cats go when they’re not with us? Are they out-and-about exploring the neighbourhood, or just lazing away nearby?

Cat Tracker will tell us where they’ve been—some missing information that will help cat owners make decisions about their cat’s care.”

The national research comes on the tail of the successful South Australian Cat Tracker study, which involved more than 3000 members of the South Australian community, 61,250 location data points, survey data of 4314 cats, and 428 monitored cat-tracks.

“The South Australian Cat Tracker project produced amazing insights,” he says.

“For example, cats’ home ranges were between much less than a hectare, to over 30 hectares (less than 1000 square metres, to over 300,000 square metres).

On the prowl

“The median travel range from a cat’s home was around one hectare (10,000 square metres), which is about the size of eight Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Example of cat movements via GPS cat tracker.

“We also found that around 40 per cent of the cats that were thought to be inside at night were in fact, on the prowl, recording night-time home-ranges of over a hectare (10,000 square metres).”

As a citizen science initiative, Cat Tracker engages the community to study the movements of their pet cats, using small GPS units over a period of seven days. Cat owners also complete a survey to volunteer their cats for selection.

Cat Tracker relies on community involvement and right now, we’re looking for people who are keen to register their cats to participate in our national study,” Dr Roetman says.

Balancing gender, breed and age

“We’ll be aiming for a good balance of gender, breeds, ages and locations, as this will provide the most robust data for the study, and extend the work we completed in South Australia.”

Funded and supported by state, territory and local governments plus other stakeholders from around Australia, the Cat Tracker Australia project will commence official cat-tracking on February 1 2018.

“We’re really excited about taking this project nationally,” Dr Roetman says.

“Cats provide great enjoyment, companionship and a connection to the natural world.

“With nearly a third of Australian households owning a pet cat, Cat Tracker gives us a fantastic opportunity to engage the community in a novel and intriguing study about one of our most beloved pets.”

To find out more and volunteer cats visit: www.discoverycircle.org.au/projects/cat-tracker


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Education Resource:

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About the Author

Annabel Mansfield


Published By

The University of South Australia is Australia’s University of Enterprise. Our culture of innovation is anchored around global and national links to academic, research and industry partners. Our graduates are the new urban professionals, global citizens at ease with the world and ready to create and respond to change. Our research is inventive and adventurous and we create new knowledge that is central to global economic and social prosperity.

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