Citizen Scientists Used GPS Trackers to Map Cats' Outdoor Adventures

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Ever wonder where your kitty goes at night? According to one team of Australian citizen scientists, the answer is “far, far away.” To educate people on their pets’ wandering habits, members of agricultural support group Central Tablelands Local Land Services strapped GPS trackers onto more than a dozen cats and observed their traveling routes. They wound up with a series of fascinating maps, which Mashable Australia recently published.

The main takeaway? Fluffy might be a lazy house cat by day, but come evening he’s a restless roamer. During the experiment, cats roved such long distances that the researchers thought there might be problems with the GPS data. Some ventured into the more wild bushland areas, while others scoped out neighboring houses or hung around places like local schools (scavenging in the dumpster, perhaps?). One cat even traveled nearly two miles away from home, ABC Australia reports.

The project started in March, and originally involved around 25 cats. By May, only around 14 felines were still standing, mostly because GPS trackers would fall off, or cats refused to wear them. The kitties were tracked from one to 10 days, depending on their owners’ wishes.

Thanks to the experiment, some surprised pet owners have started limiting how often their cats go out, reports ABC Australia. They’re worried about their pets contracting diseases, getting into fights with other cats, or getting hurt in traffic. Another concern is that their wandering cats might harm the environment, senior land officer Peter Evans told Mashable.

"Cats are given a pretty bad rap. In terms of the damage they do to biodiversity, to native fauna and flora," Evans said. "You always get the comment from owners that their cat doesn't roam ... but we thought it was a great visual to show owners where cats go when they don't know where they are, because generally a lot of cats are unrestrained."

The Central Tablelands LLS hopes to extend its cat tracking project to other local governments, and also plans to collaborate with the University of Australia, which completed its own feline mapping experiment. Check out some of their most recent cat maps below, or visit Mashable to see more photos.