It's 11 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Indoor-Outdoor Cat Is?
At the top of the frame is a fuzzy, whisker-garnished chin. The image jigs and jogs in a trotting cadence as the videographer moves through the underbrush. The sound of wind and rustling foliage can be heard in the background.
No, it's not a scene from The Blair Witch Project: It's documentary evidence produced by University of Georgia researcher Kerri Ann Loyd.
With the help of National Geographic Remote Imaging, Loyd placed collar-mounted cameras on 60 indoor-outdoor cats in Athens, Georgia. Her goal was to find out what cats really do when they're running around outdoors. And find out she did.
Loyd gathered more than 2,000 hours of footage from her subjects that showed details of their daily lives we caretakers could only have imagined. The cats hung out under cars, stalked chickens, climbed roofs that would have most people's knees knocking, ran into opossums and other night-moving critters, and, of course, caught chipmunks and lizards.
Loyd says that most of the cats captured their prey and played with it for a few minutes, then left the creatures near where they'd caught them.
Well, I guess that's one small favor the roaming cats' caretakers can be thankful for.
Amy Watts' cats, Booker T and Archie, were part of the study. Midnight-black shorthair Booker T led Loyd on an infra-red tour of the storm sewer drains in his neighborhood. Watts confesses that she knew her cat enjoyed hanging out in the storm sewers, but now that she's seen what it looks like down there, she's not quite as amused by his strange ways as she may have been before.
But Watts was even more shocked when she found out about Archie's outdoor life. Apparently her big tabby boy has a whole other family!
"I feel like one of those women on the talk shows: 'My husband has two wives.' My cat has two families," Watts said.
So, why on earth did Loyd want to find out about the secret lives of indoor-outdoor cats? To show cat caretakers what their cats really do outdoors, and just how dangerous the life of a free-roaming cat can be. "We were surprised to see that 85 percent of our sample of 60 cats experienced at least one risk behavior in the course of a week. So that was a pretty high percentage," Loyd said.
Although the news article didn't specify exactly what "risk behaviors" are, I can imagine that they include things like crossing streets, nighttime wildlife encounters, meetings with dogs, and fights with other cats.
Point well taken. It really is safer -- at least here in the U.S. where potentially fatal feline danger is pretty much ubiquitous, no matter where you live -- to be an indoor-only kitty. Video footage is a great tool for getting that point across. Video doesn't come laden with judgmental tsk-tsking or self-righteous flaming from indoor-only cat advocates. It doesn't have to: it speaks for itself. If you watch your beloved kitty having a run-in with a stray dog or almost getting hit by a car, maybe you'll start to realize you stand a much better chance of sharing many happy years with your kitty if you keep him indoors.
Check out the full news story from WXIA-TV News.