KittyCam is a project put together by University of Georgia and the National Geographic Society's Crittercam, the same technology used for tracking wildlife as diverse as elephant seals and sea turtles. This time, instead of wild animals the technology was applied to our domestic cats -- the lap-sized lions that hunt untold numbers of birds.
The Kitty Cam is a light, waterproof camera fitted with LED lights to record activity at any hour of day or night, and also sport a radio-tracking device for finding lost cameras as they're mounted on break-away collars for the cats' safety.
The project states, "Kitty Cams research examined the nature of outdoor activities of owned cats by monitoring pets outfitted with "Kitty Cam" video cameras. Kitty Cams allow recording of a cat-eye view without disrupting behavior. We used Kitty Cams to investigate the activities of urban free-roaming cats in Athens, Georgia from Nov. 2010 -Oct. 2011, with goals for wildlife conservation and for improving the health and well-being of pet cats."
The results of the study showed that of the 60 cats wearing the cameras, 30% captured and killed prey with an average of one kill for every 17 hours spent outside, or 2.1 kills per week. The study also showed that cats bring home less than one quarter of their kills, so owners aren't fully aware of just what kind of slaughter is going on in their own yards. It takes a little bit of high tech spy gear to reveal how murderous our fluffly little bags of purr really are.
American Bird Conservancy feels the news is fairly dire. “If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, the only organization exclusively conserving birds throughout the Americas.
Further, a study by University of Nebraska found that feral cats are responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds worldwide.
And now that cats have been caught on camera, there's a little more room to make a fuss about keeping cats inside more often.
“I think it will be impossible to deny the ongoing slaughter of wildlife by outdoor cats given the videotape documentation and the scientific credibility that this study brings,” said Michael Hutchins, Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society, the leading organization for wildlife professionals in the United States. “There is a huge environmental price that we are paying every single day that we turn our backs on our native wildlife in favor of protecting non-native predatory cats at all cost while ignoring the inconvenient truth about the mortality they inflict.”
The technology reavealed that not every outdoor cat feels the call to hunt. A minority of the cats studied went after wildlife. But even so, the numbers of lost wildlife are worrying. It certainly is an inspiring study for outdoor cat owners to rig up their feline friend with a spycam, so that they can see just what kind of hunter it is and it maybe it should spend a little more time inside, especially if they live in an area with small, tasty-looking endangered species.
You can watch several select videos of cats' activity, like fighting off an opossum, making a new cat friend, and birdwatching.