The Secret Life of the American Tortoiseshell

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The Secret Life of the American Tortoiseshell

In many ways having cats is similar to raising teenagers. They are the reason that we can’t own nice things (RIP leather couch, house plants and shoelaces). We give them all of our love, and in return they sometimes acknowledge us. They insist on their independence while depending on us for food and shelter.

And like teens, we may think we know what goes on when our cats leave the house, but once we send them into the world they could be up to anything. Cat Tracker — the newest project from Your Wild Life — uses GPS technology to remove some of the mystery surrounding the secret lives of pet cats. Just like the family friend that spots a “studying” teenager at the movies instead of the library, we’re giving owners the real story.

Meet Banjo (above), one of our earliest participants. Her owner estimated that Banjo stuck close to home, but she also had a sneaky suspicion that Banjo might be spending time in other people’s homes. By participating in Cat Tracker, Banjo’s owner was hoping to shed some light on her whereabouts.

Following the Cat Tracker Instructions, the curious owner outfitted Banjo with a lightweight GPS unit attached to a harness and tracked her kitty for one week. She then uploaded the GPS data to the Cat Tracker website where we took a close look at Banjo’s whereabouts.

Turns out Banjo stayed very, very close to home, hardly venturing beyond her block. Perhaps Banjo is more of a mild homebody than a wild adventurer. However, Banjo’s track also confirmed her owner’s suspicions: Banjo seems to be spending her “outdoor” time hanging out with the neighbors. Maybe loyalty really is for the dogs.

Banjo track

Would you like to know more about your cat’s secret life? We sure do! Working in partnership with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, we’re aiming to collect movement data from as many indoor/outdoor cats as possible. Why are we so interested?

  • Previous studies to track cat movement have relied on a relatively small number of subjects living in the same communities. We would like to recruit hundreds of cats from diverse areas. Perhaps cats from different climates and human environments are strikingly similar or dissimilar in their movement.
  • It’s just plain cool! Unlike our other pets (ahem, dogs), indoor/outdoor cats tend to go wherever they want without any supervision. The appeal of snooping on our mysterious companions cannot be denied.

Check out tracks from some of our earliest participants like Banjo on the new Cat Tracker website. There, you can also find instructions for enrolling your kitty in the study.

We look forward to revealing the secret life of your cat!

Shelby Anderson at microscopeShelby Anderson is a post-baccalaureate student at NC State. This fall she will begin medical school at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. Her grey tabbies, Lazer and Tiesto, provide her with furry inspiration for cat related science.


By |2016-11-22T13:47:06-05:00May 6th, 2014|

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  1. Avatar
    D July 14, 2014 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    For 26 years, we had offspring of my first cat, Fluffy. Fluffy was a milk drinker and all of her offspring were as well. No interest in water. Six years after the last of her kittens passed away, I was adopted by a kitten who climbed into my car in a parking lot. He was a staunch water drinker (no milk), but would only eat/drink from ceramic and/or glass bowls. After he was killed by a car, we did not have another cat until 2010. She had been declawed and then dumped on a friend’s farm. She is a water drinker, not a milk drinker. For the first year, we allowed her to run free (and every night, I would comb the neighborhood to locate her and get her inside before I went to bed, but that’s another story). During that time, she would drink water from downspouts and puddles, but would not drink the tap water. I began serving “bottled water”, and she developed specific taste in bottled water. After much trial-and-error, we realized that she prefers a particular brand (which happens to have been tested by a water engineer and has the least contaminants of the bottled still waters), and she prefers it be served cold, from the largest available container, into ceramic or glass bowls. It seems to us that she is averse to chemical smells. She’ll drink water from 20- and 32-ounce bottles, but prefers the water from the gallon container. She isn’t interested in milk (although she likes puddings), but the other day we wondered about the lactose theory, and tried whipping cream. She tasted it, but then walked away and didn’t return.

  2. […] are already some humorous tales emerging. Banjo the cat, for example, never seemed to wander too far from the house when he was let outside. However, the GPS data […]

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