A new study led by the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) has found that domestic cats that are occasionally left by their owners to wander outdoors rarely stray far away from home. In fact, most felines spent an average of 79 percent of their time outdoors within 50 meters of the owners’ homes, with only a few of them wandering farther.
The scientists GPS-marked almost 100 pets in a small town in Eastern Norway in order to track them while they were outside. “The goal was to map the movements of an entire population of pet cats within the same area,” said study lead author Richard Bischof, a wildlife ecologist at NMBU. Since the cat owners all lived within an area of about one square kilometer, the researchers managed to collect detailed data on many cats’ activities within a limited area.
The results confirmed those of previous studies in other European countries: when they go outside, most cats are literally just around the corner, at an average of 50 meters distance from their homes. The average maximum distance for all cats was found to be 352 meters. “Some individuals traveled relatively far, sometimes several kilometers, but those were the exceptions,” said Professor Bischof.
However, the findings suggest that there was a great variation between the individual cats in how they used the landscape. “This is quite typical,” said Bjarne O. Braastad, a professor emeritus of ethology at NMBU. “Cats have different personalities, and research results reflect this: there is often great variation. It is also worth noting that almost all the cats were neutered,” he added. “It will of course play an important role. Neutered cats are less likely to roam.”
Mapping the “catscape” of a specific area made it possible to show what a domestic cat population looked like in time and space. How the cats use the landscape also dictates how they interact with their environment and what effects they have on their natural surroundings.
“An interesting topic for further studies is of course the effects on local wildlife,” said study senior author Torbjørn Haugaasen, an expert in animal movements at NMBU. “We did not have the opportunity to include it in this project period, but in the future, we would like to take a closer look at that as well.”
The study was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer