Odds Are, Your Beloved Cat Won't Stray Far From Home When She Goes Outdoors, New Study Suggests

Researchers from Norwegian University of Life Sciences tracked the journeys of 100 cats in East Norway with GPS technology.

Tabby cat sits on a windowsill
Photo: Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty

If you're a pet parent to a cat, you might wonder what your feline is up to at any given moment—especially if you have a cat that spends time outdoors. Your mind can finally be at rest, thanks to a new study published in Scientific Reports. Researchers out of Norwegian University of Life Sciences found that the majority of cats that venture outdoors like to stay close to home. The team uncovered this by tracking the journeys of 100 cats in East Norway with GPS technology. "The goal was to map the movements of an entire population of pet cats within the same area," said Richard Bischof, a professor at NMBU, in a press release.

The cats featured in the study all lived in small neighborhoods, and the researchers found that the average feline only traveled 164 feet outside of their home 79 percent of the time. In total, the average cat went up to 1,155 feet (less than a quarter of a mile) maximum outside of their house. "Some individuals traveled relatively far, sometimes several kilometers, but those were the exceptions," Bishof said.

"As far as we know, no one has ever tracked that many cats in one small area. This made it possible for us to show what a domestic cat population looks like in time and space," noted Bischof. "We tend to think of animal populations as a collection of individuals or a single number. Instead, I prefer to see them as surfaces that envelop and interact with the landscape."

The team mentioned that future research will be helpful to find out more about "catscapes" (the area that all cats use in a living environment) and how felines interact with their landscape. "An interesting topic for further studies is of course the effects on local wildlife," said Torbjørn Haugaasen, a project manager and professor. "We did not have the opportunity to include it in this project period, but in the future we would like to take a closer look at that as well." For now, pet parents are excited about the opportunity to learn more about their own cats' behaviors. "People are obviously very curious about what their cat does when it is out and about. Interest has been really high," added Haugaasen.

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