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.