Cat tracking in the Mountains

GPS: A cat from the University of South Australia tracking program with the GPS unit on its collar. Cats in the study had a median roaming range of 1.04 hectares, or the size of eight Olympic swimming pools.

GPS: A cat from the University of South Australia tracking program with the GPS unit on its collar. Cats in the study had a median roaming range of 1.04 hectares, or the size of eight Olympic swimming pools.

Greens councillor, Brent Hoare, and Western Sydney University ecology academic Ricky Spencer are hoping to bring cat tracking to the Mountains.

Cat tracking involves attaching to a cat’s collar a small GPS which then records the animal’s movements.

Associate Professor Spencer said conducting the study in the Mountains would provide a valuable insight into how domestic cats behave in close proximity to native bush.

“The Blue Mountains is the perfect area because it’s just a bunch of villages that really back on to the natural wilderness.”

He said previous studies, notably one in Adelaide done by the University of South Australia, had looked at cats in the urban environment, not near bushland.

“If we understand what our pet cats are doing we can look at really informing us about planning – where we should build and how we potentially put regulations on cats,” he said.

“I suspect there will be a lot of people who will be shocked to find where their cats go.”

The South Australian study found cats wandered from 0.07 hectares up to 31 ha. The median range was 1.04ha, equivalent to eight Olympic pools or half the Adelaide oval.

I suspect there will be a lot of people who will be shocked to find where their cats go - Dr Ricky Spencer

WIRES CEO, Leanne Taylor, said domestic pets posed a potential threat to wildlife because of their natural hunting instincts.

“In regard to cats, it’s difficult to estimate the impact on wildlife of those kept as domestic pets, so any knowledge we can gain on their behaviour through non-invasive means is helpful in formulating effective policy.”

She said “the most commonsense approach to responsible pet ownership” is to keep a cat or dog inside or confined to a secure space, at least at night when native animals are most active.

Cr Hoare, who will introduce a notice of motion about the project at the next council meeting, said it was a “citizen science project” that could provide important data.

He said after the information is collated, researchers can identify an individual cat’s personality – whether it tends to roam widely or is more of a homebody.

If a cat was particularly prone to roaming, its owner could ensure it was better restrained. Results could also test theories about the relationship between a cat’s diet and its predator tendencies.

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