Science-- there's something for everyone

Friday, July 8, 2011

House cat territories

I’ve written before about the effect cats have on the local fauna. I won’t repeat those arguments. However, you may be interested in knowing just how far tame and feral cats range. If so, you might care to peruse some data collected by Jeff Horn, a graduate student at the University if Illinois.

Horn radio-collared 42 cats, some feral and some free-roaming but tame. About half the collars were equipped with tilt and vibration sensors that could detect the cats’ every movement. Not surprisingly, the feral cats had larger ranges (5.5 square miles vs. 0.2 square miles) and spent more time active (14% versus 3%) than the house cats. After all, the wild cats had no kibble waiting for them at the end of the night. However, as you can see from the graphic below, even the house cats were not staying in their own backyards or even on their own streets. 

One of the feral cats in the study, a mixed breed male, had a home range of 547 hectares (1,351 acres), the largest range of those tracked (red outline). A pet cat in the study, by contrast, stayed very close to home (yellow dot). |
Image courtesy Jeff Horn

For animals that are inactive the vast majority of the time, cats can cover a lot of ground.