GPS Data Shows Cat Owners Where Their Pets Go During The Day

Some cats wandered almost two miles away from their homes.

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Cats were fitted with GPS vests to track their movements. Via Central Tablelands Local Land Services/ABC News Australia

Have you ever wondered where your cat goes when you let him outside? Sure, you might think that he’s just outside the back door, waiting for your handsome face to appear at the window, but there’s a chance that he could be a lot of footsteps away.

An Australian organization, Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS), equipped more than a dozen cats with GPS harnesses to track their movements and show their owners that their pets might prowl significantly more than they thought.

“When you speak to a lot of cat owners they say, ‘Oh my cat just sleeps on the end of my bed, it doesn’t go anywhere,'” Peter Evans of Central Tablelands LLS told ABC News Australia. “But we’ve seen some [cat tracking] work that’s been done down at the University of South Australia and we actually know that’s not the case.”

Evans was right. Although the group had hoped to track 30 cats, that number was sliced to 13 after a number of cats refused to wear the GPS harnesses. The participating cats wore the devices for up to 10 days and more than 100 sets of cat-roaming data was generated. Of the cats that were studied, very few of them stayed at the end of the bed… or even at the end of the yard.

“If you look at some of the tracks, it’s phenomenal how much they’re out in the streets,” Evans said. “Some of the cats have stayed relatively close — 10, 15 or 20 doors down — and we’ve actually had one cat that’s gone three kilometers (1.8 miles) from home.”

After seeing the data, some owners have decided to keep a better eye on their cats — and to make it more difficult for them to leave that many pawprints through the neighborhood.

“Now I bring [my cats] in for their dinner at around two to half past two and I close the windows, and unless they’re really, really desperate, I don’t let any of them out,” Stephen Barnes, whose two cats were tracked, told ABC.

Central Tablelands LLS hopes the tracking data will be helpful, for pet owners and residents.

“We’re not saying cats are bad or anything, but perhaps they can be better managed to control where they go,” Evans said.

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  • My cat stays around the house. But when I am gone for a longer period, she starts to investigate the neighbourhood looking for other cats, as she is quite sociable.
    Last time I came home after two weeks and my neighbour was sleeping on the couch waiting for my cat, while she was with her “friends” across the street. Only when she heard my car, she immediately came home. I even don’t want to know her paths, it scares me to death.

    Eva May 31, 2016 12:51 pm Reply
  • My Boy Cat Flower. Rest his Soul. Loved to wander far and wide. A true free Spirit. I miss him, my fur babies now have regulated and supervised outside time in the back yard.

    Jonathan May 31, 2016 2:55 pm Reply
  • I would like information on the cost of the GPS collar.

    Thank you

    Angela Holland

    ANGELA HOLLAND May 31, 2016 5:14 pm Reply
    • You can get a small gps tracking chip to hook onto your cat’s collar. Look up TrackR, works with your smart phone.

      Jennifer June 1, 2016 6:30 am Reply
  • Knowing how cats roam far and wide with predators, unkind people and traffic all around them, I decided to have my cats indoor only. They do find being indoor and since we had a covered deck, we enclosed it with screening and made a catio for them. They love it.

    Mary Cathey May 31, 2016 5:48 pm Reply
  • I have been a cat lover all of my life and I have come to the conclusion that cats do need to be able to go outdoors. However, I do not believe they need to roam freely to be happy. I do take my cats outside in my yard and it is completely enclosed for safety and privacy. There is enough room for them to run and pretend to hunt. Of course they are able to catch and eat some flying insects and there is no threat of ticks where i live. I came to this conclusion because I lost a beloved cat to a busy roadway when he was hit and killed chasing a vole late at night. I consider it my fault because I was careless and stupid at the time. If it is possible, please take your cats outside for their own entertainment but never leave them alone.

    Koko Loewen June 1, 2016 8:22 am Reply

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