Media Releases 2018

Posted on 19/11/2018 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

The cat’s out of the bag

Phillip Island Nature Parks’ researchers have revealed some of the findings from their recent domestic cat tracking study, and there were a few surprises in store for some unsuspecting owners about the secret lives of their cats.

Results showed pet cats were regularly travelling up to 700 metres from home, crossing busy roads, exploring neighbours’ yards and nearby bushland, and spending more than 6 hours per day away from home.

“One of the aims of the project was to challenge perceptions and build awareness of owners to the behaviour of their pet cats when left unsupervised, allowing them to understand what responsibilities they need to take for their feline best friends,” said Jessica McKelson, Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Conservation Manager.

The project, in collaboration with Bass Coast Shire Council, commenced by fitting a small GPS receiver onto a purpose built harness which the participating cat then carried for a period of two weeks. The GPS uses signals from 30 satellites orbiting the Earth to find the position of an object, and is accurate to within 10 metres.

Mildred, one of the 13 cats participating in the study, lives at Surf Beach, and makes the most of her nine lives as she takes the risk of crossing Phillip Island Road on a regular basis.
Mildred’s owner was astonished to see how often she crossed that busy road, not to mention relieved that Mildred had not been hit by a car.

George lives at Cape Woolamai and is quite an avid wanderer, enjoying exploring the Phillip Island airstrip reserve. While not in the same immediate danger as Mildred crossing the road, George is at risk of severe injuries through fighting with feral cats, which also carries the risk of subsequent infection. Puncture wounds from fights can often go undetected, particularly in cats with long coats like George.

To date researchers have conducted two tracking sessions, with the first completed in August last year, and the second in April this year. These sessions coincided with the migratory habits of the short-tailed shearwaters that were still in the northern hemisphere during the August session, but present on the island during the April session.

“We noted that both George and Mildred appeared to wander further over the April period. While there are no known shearwater rookeries within George and Mildred’s immediate exploration zones, rookeries do occur at ‘The Colonnades’ near the Phillip Island Airstrip, on the southern coast at Surf Beach and throughout the Cape Woolamai natural reserve.”

“In addition to the potential risk posed to wildlife such as shearwaters, free roaming domestic cats also run the risk of being injured while fighting, suffering road trauma, contributing to the feral cat population through unwanted litters, and also catching feral cat borne diseases such as Toxoplasmosis.”
Toxoplasmosis is generally regarded as harmless in adult humans; however people with weakened immune systems and infants whose mothers were infected during pregnancy can develop severe illness from this parasite.

“Reducing the contact between feral and domestic cats will lead to an improvement in the health and wellbeing of our domestic pets as well as the Island’s biodiversity.”

George August 2017
George - August 2017
George April 2018
George - April 2018

Mildred August 2017
Mildred - August 2017

Mildred April 2018
Mildred - April 2018

Please note that on all images, the orange lines denote daytime cat roaming activity and the blue lines denote night-time cat roaming activity. 

#ENDS# 

Media Enquiries:
Roland Pick - Communications Executive
Tel: +613 5951 2825 Mobile: 0418 402 161 Email: rpick@penguins.org.au