Author Topic: Cat Tracker is a project designed to discover the secret life of your cat ...  (Read 1356 times)

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Cat Tracker is a project designed to discover the secret life of your cat ... with GPS!

Initial Cat Tracks Results are in! Learn the secrets of over 6 dozen cats HERE:

Cats are mysterious, dangerous and far more unpredictable than one might expect from an animal that is, theoretically, domesticated. Some of the mysteries of cats relate to where they go and what they do; this is especially true of cats that go outdoors. We open our doors. They leave. Just where they go, we can’t be sure. Or rather we couldn’t be sure, until now. With your help, we’re investigating the movement of domesticated cats across the landscape. We want to know: Where do they go? What are they eating? What do they bring home, microbially speaking?

 Your cat has a secret life…uncover it in 4 easy steps! Here’s how you can participate in Cat Tracker!
Register and sign the Informed Consent form.
 Register Now

Get a Harness!
Make a GPS harness
 Obtain a GPS harness
 (if local to Raleigh/Durham University)
DIY Instructions

Start Tracking!
Set cat loose for 9 days with the GPS harness safely affixed to your cat

Get your Data!
Download and then Upload Data from collar (if DIY),
OR Return harness and GPS unit if local to Raleigh/Durham University
DIY Instructions

About the Project

We want to resolve some of the wild mysteries of house cats, ancient mysteries of the animal with which millions of Americans share their beds, couches and nearly everything else.


We want to know how cats decide where to go. When given a choice of landscapes, what will they do? We want to know how variable that behavior is, and on what it depends. Does it matter if you have a fat cat or a skinny cat? Is a tropical cat different in its meanderings than a subarctic one?

We know surprisingly little about pet cat movements. One study of 11 cats in suburban Albany, NY, found that most cats stick close to home, hanging out in their own or their neighbor’s yard (not even venturing into a nearby nature preserve). This study also revealed that there’s variability in cat movement, with one animal, appropriately named Orion, exploring a large area that included many yards in a neighborhood (over 3 acres!). Note, however, that this study only tracked 11 cats. With your help, we will dramatically expand the number of cats tracked (using GPS collars) to document the individual variability of movement patterns and to try to figure out why some animals travel far while others do not.


We want to learn more about where and what cats are hunting by examining their prey, or really, the remnants of their prey in their feces. Recent research estimates that free-ranging domestic cats (including un-owned and owned cats) in the US kill 1-4 billion birds and 6-22 billion mammals each year. These staggering numbers suggest free-ranging cats may be a major predator with huge conservation consequences for native species.

Information about the spatial extent of cat hunting across the landscape (urban, suburban, rural) will help us better understand the threats that free-ranging, owned cats pose to wildlife.

Microbiome & Health

As your cat wanders the neighborhood, it is interacting with the environment and a whole suite of other organisms, including the animals it eats, things that could eat it (read: coyotes), and the invisible world of microbes. These interactions may shape your cat’s microbiome, and in turn, could affect its health and well-being. By analyzing the microbes in your cat’s feces, we want to understand whether the movements of your cat relate to the health of its microbiome. Does a wandering cat have a sicker (or healthier) gut than a stay-at-home kitty? We will also be on the look out for pathogens that your cat might bring home and could share with you.

  Cat Tracker Frequently Asked Questions     
Will my personal information be displayed online?     
Can my cat participate?     
I have several indoor/outdoor cats. Can they all participate?     
Will this harm my cat?     
I am ready to track my cat! She has worn the harness for two days and the GPS is programmed. Now what?     
The GPS case is tearing, what should I do?     
How can I keep the GPS unit from slipping to my cat’s side?   
Where can I see my cat’s track?


This Site was Opened on January 1st, 2007

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