It’s a question that’s tormented cat owners for centuries: what does Mittens do all day while we’re away at work?
We now have at least a whisker of an answer, thanks to an experiment conducted by ecologist Kerrie Anne Loyd, who recently received her doctorate from the University of Georgia, and National Geographic researchers.
At National Geographic, scientists wanted to learn more about how cats are affecting native wildlife like birds and rodents.
For about a week, 60 cat owners in the suburbs of Athens, Ga., strapped Crittercams, aka “kitty cams,” around their cats’ necks before putting the cats outside each morning. The pet owners downloaded the video footage at night, after the cats had returned home, and recharged the cameras overnight.
According to the New York Times, the most surprising thing researchers found is that the majority of the house cats weren’t hunters. Only 44 percent of the cats stalked, chased or killed other animals during the day.
The prey was also surprising. Reptiles were No. 1 on the list, while birds were a minority. Earlier studies had missed this because they looked only at what the cats dragged home. Because of the kitty cams, researchers could see that the cats usually ate the reptiles, or killed them and left them at the scene.
Videos also showed cats eating insects such as walking sticks and earthworms, as well as roadkill. Other activities included climbing into storm drains and drinking sewer water.
Four of the cats were discovered to be two-timing their owners, getting food and petting at other homes.
The bottom line for cat lovers: keep them indoors, in a stimulating environment, safe from traffic, disease, and other predators, advises the Humane Society of the United States.
You’ll be saving the lives of the critters cats prey on, as well.