The Cat Tracker Project is a collaboration between Your Wild Life, a group of scientists and others dedicated to studying the world around us from unique angles, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and Movebank, an online site that tracks and records animal movements. The project uses crowdsourcing to compile the needed data. Crowdsourcing is a marriage of crowd (large group of people) and outsourcing (work done by persons other than employees, i.e. consultants or outside entities).
Enroll Your Cat
If you would like to be a part of this study go to http://cats.yourwildlife.org/ and sign up. Participants throughout the United States, New Zealand and Australia agree to obtain a GPS devise which they then affix to their cat via a harness as described on the Cat Tracker website. The device remains on the cat for seven days, documenting where and how far the cat travels once outside the house. After seven days, the data can be downloaded and shown as lines on a satellite map. The purpose of The Cat Tracker Project is two-fold.
Tracking where and how far the cats go the data can yield new information about cat behavior and insight for owners into the “secret” life of their own cat. The other objective of The Cat Tracker Project is to observe what type of wildlife cats may be hunting and killing among the native birds and animals to better conservation efforts to protect these animals.
Over 95 Million!
With upwards of 95 million pet cats and millions more feral cats in the United States, cats can make a big impact on native species, but in order to assess the real toll scientists need to observe where cats are hunting. Hunting in and around urban areas is less of a concern than hunting in nature preserves of other protected areas. It can be difficult to protect preserves from cats because of their small size and hunt at night as well as in daylight.
This projects how could unfold insightful information as what cats kill, including what type of cats hunt and what, if anything, do they do with their prey. Questions range from, do well-fed house cats also hunt wildlife? And if they do hunt, do they also eat their prey? Another question vets would like answered is, if cats eat what they prey on, do they contract more harmful parasites from this practice.
Cheating with other families
As for cat owners, the interest also lies in where and how far their cat goes, but for different reasons. One concern is if cats are “cheating” on us with other families. The first cat fitted with a GPS device belongs to one of the project’s founding members and was found to make his way nearly a mile to his old house. At least some cat owners have found themselves with a pet that simply showed up on their door step or have lost a cat the same way. The cat simply moved on to another home.
As of the cited article from National Geographic’s online magazine dated August 7, 2014, The Cat Tracker Project has garnered data from fifty cats. Their goal is one thousand cats by the project end. They expect to find that house cats have a far wider range than their humans would predict. In another study from 2011, a University of Illinois grad student for his master’s thesis, tracked the movements of forty-two adult cats and included both house cats and feral cats. While the feral cats were found to have a greater range, even house cats covered more territory when outside than previously predicted.
To learn more or to take part in this study go to http://cats.yourwildlife.org/. The results might astound you!