Source: News24 (Extract)
Posted: March 15, 2023

GPS devices attached to pet cats in Cape Town show they walk up to 18km a day and spend a lot of time in Table Mountain National Park.

The range of cats in summer averages 3ha – the size of more than four soccer fields – but in winter it shrinks to less than 1ha. This is almost certainly because of the wet, cold winter weather in Cape Town, say scientists who previously reported that pet cats in the Mother City kill about 27.5 million animals annually.

Each of the city’s 300 000 pet cats kills between 59 and 123 animals a year, and the researchers say this “massive toll” means there should be a 600m buffer zone on Cape Town’s urban edge.

They say homeowners should be banned from having cats within this zone unless the pets are restricted to purpose-built outdoor patios, known as “catios”.

“Keeping cats indoors, particularly in summer, limiting their roaming with catios and adding bells and bright ruffs on collars can also reduce predation on native prey,” they say in peer-reviewed journal Animals.

The GPS-tracking study, the first involving pet cats in Africa, used miniature 22g devices attached to cat collars in a soft leather pouch. Fourteen cats studied in summer were tracked for up to 10 days and nine cats were tracked for seven days in winter.

Half of the cats were classified as “urban” because their homes were surrounded by houses and roads and at least 150m from natural areas. The others were “urban edge” pets that could see, hear and easily access the national park.

In summer, the cats covered an average of 11.8km a day, about twice their winter distance, with an urban male cat setting a record of 18.1km.

The average distance from home was 528m in summer and 184m in winter, with the maximum of 849m recorded by an urban edge female. Urban edge cats’ average was 588m from home, which was the basis for the suggestion of a 600m buffer zone.

“Given that cats exact a massive toll on native animals, mitigation measures to protect biodiversity in protected areas are essential,” say the six scientists.

The team is led by Robert Simmons from the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Justin O’Riain from UCT’s Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa, and Colleen Seymour from the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s Kirstenbosch Research Centre.

Their earlier study used 32g KittyCams, which proved that 90% of cats’ hunting takes place at night and less than 20% of prey are taken home.

“In other words, it’s not surprising that most cat owners have no idea of the impact that their animals have on wildlife,” says Simmons.