Exposed: the secret life of Mudgee cats

Mudgee cat, Mason, was tracked wandering up to two kilometres away from his home base.

Mudgee cat, Mason, was tracked wandering up to two kilometres away from his home base.

The secret lives of Mudgee’s wandering cats have been exposed as part of a Domestic Cat Tracking project organised by Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

During the project GPS motion sensing devices were attached to 12 domestic cats in and around the CBD to track their every movement for up to 10 days.

The citizen science project funded through the Commonwealth’s National Landcare Program was designed to educate cat owners and promote awareness of the surprisingly large distances domestic cats can roam if given free access to the outdoors.

Land Services Officer Julie Reynolds says the results shocked some owners.

"People will tell you their cat just lays around the house, that it doesn't go anywhere, however the tracking data has shown many cats are far more active than their owners realised,” Julie said. "Most of the cats regularly roamed up to two blocks from their homes and many wandered half a kilometre away on a daily basis.”

Mudgee cat, Mason, was recorded wandering up to two kilometres away from his home base, and stayed out for several days.

“We wanted to track Mason because he would disappear for a few days at a time,” said Mason’s owner, Margaret Hoffman.

Mason’s family assumed he was off visiting his girlfriend at a neighbour’s house.

“We desexed him because we thought it would stop him wandering but he still disappears and when he comes home he sleeps for two days. Now we know why,” Michael said.

Local Land Services is urging cat owners to restrict the movement of their pets to the house, backyard, or a cat enclosure. Researchers estimate pet cats kill approximately 61 million birds every year, with cats likely to significantly increase the extinction risk faced by some Australian bird species.

“Keeping your cat in at night can halve the number of wildlife killed by your pet. Other options include putting a bell on the collar and desexing to reduce roaming, and more importantly to stop unwanted kittens being born,” Julie said.

“We’re hoping this research will encourage more cat owners to keep their pets from roaming and reduce their impact on native wildlife.”