Secret Lives of Cats: Study of 900 House Cats Reveals What They Do When They Go Outside

The jig is up, kitties.

For many Americans, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a rare glimpse at the daytime activities of their pets.

For the most part, dogs have proven easy to decipher. (Sorry Fido, but you’re hardly mysterious.) While felines, on the other hand, are anything if not enigmatic. We can’t understand what cats do within the confines of our homes, let alone what they get up to when they prowl the neighborhood.

It’s out of this curiosity that the Cat Tracker project was born. The goal of this massive international study was to find out where pet cats go when they’re outside. And, after six years of using GPS technology to track nearly a thousand cats across four countries, the results are finally in.

So, what do cats do outside? Apparently, not very much.

“I was surprised at how little these cats moved,” the study’s lead author, Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, told National Geographic. “Most of them spent all their time within 100 meters [330 feet] of their yard.”

In fact, more than half the cats stayed within about 2.5 acres. Only seven percent covered more than 25 acres. The record-setter was a young female from the suburbs of Wellington, New Zealand named Penny, who roamed an area greater than three square miles.

Max, a neutered tomcat from southwest England, also stood out. For unknown reasons, he regularly walked the road to the nearest village—a distance of more than a mile—and then turned around and walked back.

But most cats appear happy sticking close to home. The reason? Their needs are met. Also, because most house cats are neutered or spayed, they don’t feel the urge to search for a mate.

“Without the motivations of food and sex, most cats seem content to be homebodies,” Kays explained to National Geographic.

Apparently, cats aren’t that mysterious after all!

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