To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: KittyCam
From: David Adams <>
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2012 09:19:09 +1000
Whew, I'm glad someone else threw this rock in the pond...I wasn't
sure that I wanted to start it. Here's a link to the study's public
home page:

This is a science project based on real field data - not just a set of
guesses. Such studies are never the final word, but at least they're
bringing some real data to some questions that are often addressed
only with passion and opinion.

The study looks to be a PhD project and then some that involved 60
cats in one area of which 55 provided good enough data for analysis.
They had an average of 37 hours of footage per cat spread over various
seasons. So, a pretty decent slice of real-world behavior caught on
film. It must have required an enormous amount of work to do all of
this. Just imagine the hours spent teaching the cats to use the
cameras alone ;-) The site includes a 200MB video of a presentation on
the project given by Kerrie Anne T. Loyd, about her dissertation. (The
project.) She comes across quite credibly and seems very comfortable
talking about the quality of their numbers and what they mean.

The project doesn't seem to be anti-cat per se. They look to be
bringing some science to the controversy and they're reaching out to
pet owners with research showing that letting cats roam about loose is
*dangerous to cats*. So, wildlife-lovers want cats contained because
they kill local wildlife and cat owners should want cats controlled to
keep their pets safe. So, the implications are relevant both to
wildlife welfare and cat welfare.

It wouldn't make sense to make precise and absolute numeric
predications about cat behavior from a data set of only 55 cats.
Still, you can make some pretty reasonable assertions about cat
behavior from that data. In fact, a lot of the study findings seem
pretty common-sensical, at least to someone that hasn't been
hypnotized by cats. (Full disclaimer: I'm a total dog person. Dogs are
natural-born hunters and ours stays on a lead or in a controlled area
all of the time.)

A few of the findings:

Cats Love to Hunt
Love it. It's what they do. Millions of years of evolution have honed
these pure carnivores into incredibly efficient hunters. A few
thousand years of hanging around humans hasn't ended that. The project
witnessed 44% of the cats stalking and 30% capturing prey. Given the
number of free-roaming cats in the world, those are terrifying

Cats Are Loyal
Four of the cats had two families. Bet the cats never told...just have
been a shock to family #2 when Mr. Winkles showed up with a camera
around its neck...

Cats Like Risk
Cats are much bigger risk takers than their owners know, including
cross roads (45%), eating and drinking mysterious things (25%),
getting into tight and potentially dangerous spaces (20%), and so on.
All-in-all, 85% of the cats were seen doing something on their list of
risks. Not a shocker but younger and male correlates with higher risk.

People Have no Idea What Their Cats Do
People really haven't the faintest clue what their kitties are up to.
At all. How could they?

* See "Cats are Loyal" (cough-cough)

* See "Cats Like Risk"

* I can't find it now but when I first looked at the materials I saw
or heard that only a minority fraction of the cats that caught prey
brought any evidence of it back to the house. The number I remember is
25% of the cats that caught prey - so that would be 7.5% of the cats.
If someone else spots the right numbers, I'd like to know.

How would such a study play out here in Australia? I'd guess it would
be quite similar regarding behaviors. (Wildlife biologists say that
the template for feline behaviors is pretty limited across feline
species. Big cats. Little cats. They're all cats. Leaving out lions
with their unique social structure and various other obvious
differences amongst cats in breeding behaviors and habitat preferences
or requirements.) The numbers and types of prey killed would depend on
where you did it. The prey availability is wildly different here than
in the US - but feral cats manage to survive in, what, every
Australian landscape? So, they're presumably eating something.

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