The secret lives of Mudgee’s wandering cats have been exposed as part of a Domestic Cat Tracking project organised by Central Tablelands Local Land Services.
During the project GPS motion sensing devices were attached to 12 domestic cats in and around the city of Mudgee to track their every movement for up to 10 days.
The citizen science project funded through the Commonwealth’s National Landcare Program was designed to educate cat owners and promote awareness of the surprisingly large distances domestic cats can roam if given free access to the outdoors.
Land Services Officer Julie Reynolds says the results shocked some owners.
"People will tell you their cat just lays around the house, that it doesn't go anywhere, however the tracking data has shown many cats are far more active than their owners realised,” said Julie.
"Most of the cats regularly roamed up to two blocks from their homes and many wandered half a kilometre away on a daily basis.”
Mudgee cat, Mason, was recorded wandering up to 2 kilometres away from his home base, and stayed out for several days.
“We wanted to track Mason because he would disappear for a few days at a time,” said Mason’s owner, Margaret Hoffman.
Mason’s family assumed he was off visiting his girlfriend at a neighbour’s house, but it turns out Mason was travelling much further afield.
“We desexed him because we thought it would stop him wandering but he still disappears and when he comes home he sleeps for two days. Now we know why,” said Michael Hoffman.
The cat is a very important companion animal, however Local Land Services is urging cat owners to restrict the movement of their pets to the house, the backyard, or a cat enclosure.
Researchers estimate pet cats kill approximately 61 million birds every year, with cats likely to significantly increase the extinction risk faced by some bird species in Australia.
Keeping your cat in at night can halve the number of wildlife killed by your pet. Other options include putting a bell on your cat’s collar and desexing to reduce your cat’s drive to roam, and more importantly to stop unwanted kittens being born.
“We’re hoping this research will encourage more cat owners to keep their pets from roaming and reduce their impact on native wildlife,” said Julie Reynolds.
Controlling cat movement will also protect pets from traffic accidents and fights with other cats, while reducing exposure to infections such as feline AIDS.
The Cat Tracker project is supported by funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.
 Report compiled by John Woinarski, Brett Murphy, Leigh-Ann Woolley, Sarah Legge, Stephen Garnett and Tim Doherty, published in
The Guardian 4 October 2017 https://theconversation.com/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-cats-kill-more-than-a-million-australian-birds-every-day-85084
Photo Caption: Mudgee cat, Mason, was tracked wandering up to 2 kilometres away from his home base