Kitchener-Waterloo

Outdoor cat volunteers needed for camera collar study at University of Guelph

Researchers at the University of Guelph are looking for a few cat volunteers to take part in a five-week study that takes a closer look at outdoor cat behaviour.

Research will help with conservation efforts and educate outdoor cat owners

Researchers in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph want to know more about what outdoor cats get up to and where they go when left outside. (The Cat Camera Project)

Researchers in the department of Integrated Biology at the University of Guelph are looking for volunteers to take part in a new study on outdoor cat behaviour. 

Cat owners in the areas of Guelph and Waterloo region can sign up to take part in the five-week study.

Elizabeth Gow, an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph, said the cats will be equipped with a collar that has a small camera and tracking device attached to it, which will help researchers see what cats are doing and where they are going.

"You can think of it like as if we were to put a GoPro on your chest and we would see everything you do in your daily activity and that's kind of what we're doing with these cats," she said.

"We're seeing everything they do, so are they hunting animals? What type of animals are they hunting? Are they crossing roads? Are they going up into people's car engines?"

Gow said the camera — which they call the Catcam — is about the size and weight of an extra large egg. If it falls off, the embedded tracker will help her team find the lost collar.

The research team is looking for volunteer pet owners with cats that:

  • Are over a year old.
  • Are comfortable wearing a collar.
  • Have unsupervised outdoor access.
  • Live within 50 kilometers of the City of Guelph.

 Owners will be tasked with making sure the Catcam is on and recording before they let their cats out.

This small camera is what researchers will be using to see and track where cats go when they're outdoors. The Catcam is attached to a snap-off collar provided to owners by the research team. (The Cat Camera Project)

Research to help conservation efforts and educate owners

Gow said their findings could help with conservation efforts in the future.

"In Canada alone, we're concerned with their impact on bird and small mammal population. In Canada [outdoor cats] kill anywhere from 150 to 350 million birds a year," she said.

She adds they hope the findings could also help cat owners better understand some of the risk their cat face when they are outdoors. 

"Whether it's helping owners decide when they should put their cats outside if they choose to or how they may be able to create enriching environments in their house that can provide some of the same benefits as putting your cat outside in terms of engagement and exercise."

Owners who participate in the five-week study will be tasked with making sure the Catcam is on and recording before they let their cats out. A tracking device is built into the camera to keep tabs on where the cat is going and to find the collar if it comes off. (The Cat Camera Project)

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