Paws-itively fascinating: U of G researchers using 'catcams' to study how felines behave outdoors
GUELPH -- Have you ever wondered what your cat gets up to when you let it outside? Researchers at the University of Guelph have the purr-fect study for you.
A research team at the university is aiming to get a cat-eye-view of the world as part of a study that will see felines outfitted with camera collars and sent off to explore the great outdoors.
“We’re trying to understand what behaviours they have outdoors," said integrative biology professor Elizabeth Gow, who specializes in animal behaviour.
Individuals in the Guelph region can enrol their own furry friends into the study to get a glimpse into their cat's life outside the house. Volunteer owners will be supplied with a lightweight camera collar to attach to their cat each time it goes outdoors.
"(The cameras) allow us to see where the cats go, what they do, what they hunt," Gow said. "What risks they may be taking, are they crossing roads or they going up into car engines, are they coming into contact with coyotes or anything that can hurt the cat."
Researchers are aiming to better understand how far cats travel, what dangers they face, how they interact with other animals and what sort of prey they kill.
The team is particularly interested in learning about what kinds of birds and other creatures cats hunt.
"We really want better estimates of how much wildlife cats take – and what kind of wildlife," Ryan Norris, an ecologist who studies migratory birds, said in a release. "We know it’s a lot and we tend to assume it’s just mice and birds, but perhaps it’s also butterflies, moths, amphibians – we’d like a better estimate of those."
The cat cameras could provide a more complete picture of what felines hunt, as the researched noted most other studies rely on owners' reports which don't take into account any critters that cats may have killed but not dragged home to the front porch.
"We’re really concerned in trying to understand how many birds they’re actually capturing," Gow said. "We’re trying to use these cameras to get more information, because not all cats bring everything they kill back to their owners, and they don’t eat everything they kill as well."
Tatyanna Vanlenthe said she'd be eager to enrol her two-year-old barn cat Rosecourt in the study.
"I can’t worry about her, but I am always curious about her," she said. "She obviously has a lot of access to different toys, such as the birds, the chipmunks, and the bats and the bunnies that she brings as presents."
Cats one year and older that live in the Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge area are invited to participate in the study. Selected felines will participate for five weeks at a time and during different seasons.
Owners will be trained virtually on how to use the custom-built cat cameras.
Pet owners will also receive a highlight reel of their cat's behaviour when the study is completed.
Interested owners can enrol their felines at thecatcamera.com.