- New technology allows us to get a glimpse into our cats secret lives
- 'Cat cams' are the new way to track and monitor a cats behaviour
- Can offer peace of mind that your beloved pet can be located if they ever go missing
Our cats seem to have a life of their own. While they are happy being fed and pampered, most outdoor cats slip out during the day or while we are sleeping to have a mini adventure of their own.
But what do they get up to when they are out and about and how far do they go exploring in the dead of night?
We can now, thanks to new technology developed over the last few years, get more than just a glimpse into their lives. Welcome to the world of 'pet GPS'.
As a interesting Horizon documentary appropriately entitled The Secret Life of Cats revealed recently, tagging your cats with GPS trackers – and what are referred to as 'cat cams' – can offer up a whole new insight into what your feline friends get up to and where they go when we're not looking.
And, more often than not, some of their activities were not all that surprising in terms of what you'd expect in cats – they were preoccupied in hunting (the rawer the food, the better it is), they'd fight a lot with other cats and, without a care in the world, they'd take a lot of (literal) cat naps.
That documentary was the result of a major new research project between the BBC's Horizon team and the Royal Veterinary College. The impetus behind the scheme was simple enough – despite cats representing a huge part of people's lives, owners have never really known what they get up to.
"We were particularly surprised by how small the ranges of most of the cats were, and how few of them went into the surrounding countryside," Alan Wilson, a professor specialising in animal movement and a vet at the Structure & Motion Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College, wrote in an article for the broadcaster in the summer of 2013.
"They tended to remain within the confines of the village and roamed in those areas. One theory is that their roaming is dictated by the hunt for food - something more easily done in the village. For example, we saw cats going into houses other than their own."
As for revelations, the team were rather intrigued to find how much variation there appears to be in activity patterns in cats. Fundamentally, a cat will adapt to temperature, the weather and feeding times. Interestingly, cats seemed to "timeshare", professor Wilson noted, whereby they avoided certain areas to stay away from their fellow felines to protect themselves from possible conflict.
While GPS and cameras offer fascinating insights into cat behaviour – the pictures provide you with 'visual data', which in itself can provide you with exciting details that GPS cannot – they also deliver other benefits to owners, both of cats and dogs.
While pet insurance is a necessity for every pet owner, using GPS on your pet acts as a tracker so that you know where your pet is when not in your company, enabling you to locate them easily should they go missing, offering additional peace of mind for every pet parent.
One of the key features in most GPS pet tracker systems, which are small enough to embed in a collar (therefore non-obtrusive), is the ability to define a safety zone. This means should your pet leave this designated virtual area, you will be immediately noted. As such, you close the proximity in time of realising that your cat or dog is missing. As such, there is more of a chance you can be reunited.
Needless to say, GPS technology is an exciting development for all stakeholders. For example, pet owners can feel safe in the knowledge that their pet is safe and enjoy the comedy of the imagery that is presented back to them courtesy of pet cams, scholars can find out more about animal behaviour. And, given that the technology is still in its infancy, the possibilities are endless.