Study compares ranges of feral, house cats

Feral cats are more active and have a much larger range that pet cats, according to a new study.

Scientists used radio telemetry and collar-mounted activity sensors to track populations of owned cats and feral cats in a large area of central Illinois over two years. The average range of a pet cat was about five acres.

"Some of the cat owners were very surprised to learn that their cats were going that far," said Jeff Horn, lead author of the study in a University of Illinois news release. "That’s a lot of backyards."

That was nothing compared to the largest home range of one feral cat, though. The mixed breed male had a home range of more than 1,300 acres.

Pet cats were asleep or in low activity 97 percent of the time, the study found. That is compared with feral cats, who were in a level of high activity 14 percent of the time.

The study, "Home range, habitat use, and activity patterns of free-roaming domestic cats," was conducted by the University of Illinois and published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.