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Guelph researchers enlisting feline volunteers for ‘catcam’ study

University of Guelph researchers want to know what cats do when they are outside.
University of Guelph researchers want to know what cats do when they are outside. University of Guelph

Researchers at the University of Guelph want to know what cats get up to when they are outside and they are recruiting some feline volunteers for their “catcam” study.

It will see cats outfitted with lightweight cameras that offer “a true cat-eye view of the world,” the university said.

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Elizabeth Gow and Ryan Norris in the department of integrative biology are behind the study along with graduate student Marlee Pyott.

The team is looking for cat owners who want to contribute to science as well as learn a little about their cats’ lives outside of the home.

Volunteer cat parents will be asked to attach a collar supplied by the university fitted with a specially designed camera each time their cat is sent outdoors.

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“This is a great way for owners to learn just how their cats fare in the outdoors,” said Gow, an animal behaviourist and ornithologist. “We think some might be surprised to find what their cats really get up to.”

Researchers are also interested in learning about which birds and other creatures cats hunt.

Previous studies have relied on owners’ reports of what their cats bring home or on fecal matter, but neither provides a full picture of what they hunt, the university said.

“We really want better estimates of how much wildlife cats take – and what kind of wildlife. We know it’s a lot and we tend to assume it’s just mice and birds, but perhaps it’s also butterflies, moths, amphibians – we’d like a better estimate of those,” said Norris, an ecologist who studies migratory birds and pollinators.

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The team is looking for as many cats as possible around Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge to participate for five weeks at a time throughout different seasons of the year.

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Cats need to be older than 12 months and comfortable wearing a collar. Owners will be trained virtually on how to use the custom-built catcams.

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“The volunteer pet owners will be given a highlight reel of their cat’s behaviour at the end of the study. They will also be given the results from their cat’s personality test and entered into a draw for one of three $50 gift cards from Ren’s Pets,” said Gow.

More information on how to participate can be found online.

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