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What Do Cats Do When They Leave the House? The Answer May Surprise You

Do you ever wonder what your cat gets up to when you’re not around?

Sure, they’re a lovely bundle of fluff when you’re there to supervise, but what about when they’re left to their own devices out in the real world?

You may be thinking “What happens beyond the cat flap, stays beyond the cat flap,” but that’s not necessarily the case.

Just ask any owner who has been gifted with a “present” (half eaten mouse, bird, etc.) by a beloved pet, and they’ll tell you that cats love to bring their work home with them. Still, compared to dogs, with their waggly tails and readable expressions, felines are mysterious creatures, and you can never really know what’s going on in their heads.

So, what does your furbaby do when they leave the house? Whether they’re fearlessly prowling the streets, or just relaxing in your garden, a cat’s adventures are more exciting than you think.

They engage in risky behaviour

In 2012, Animal Research Kerri Ann Lloyd from the University of Georgia, conducted an experiment in which she attached “cat cams” to unsuspecting moggies.

What she found was not good news for cat owners who assume they’re feline friends are always safe when out and about on their own.

It turns out when free to roam, cats are prone to engaging in risky behaviour, such as climbing on roofs and sneaking through sewers. They also interact with wild animals, which puts them at risk of rabies if they aren’t vaccinated.

They go farther than you think

Lloyd isn’t the only animal researcher to try and figure out what cats get up to on their daily excursions. In 2009, scientists at the University of Illinois attached cameras to over 40 free-roaming cats. Some had owners, whereas others were strays.

The researchers tracked the cats for two years, and between them they trekked 6,286 acres in that time. Although the majority of outdoor pets stay within two acres of their home, some of the owners were shocked to realise their puss had travelled so far. Or as Jeff Horn, who led the study, put it: "That's a lot of backyards."

Still, they’re real homebodies

Although some cats wander far and wide, the majority stay close to home and never go further than a few houses down. Domesticated cats seem to prefer spending their time napping, rather than going on grand adventures.

They’re not the sophisticated killers you think they are

According to a 2012 article in Nature Communications, wandering felines kill up to 4 billion birds a year in the US. However, domesticated cats are not as wily and vicious as their feral counterparts. In fact, homegrown puss cats only spend 3% of their time hunting and causing general mayhem to wildlife, in comparison to 14% for stray cats.

They might actually miss you

We may miss our cats when we’re away, but most people assume as long as there is food in their bowl and litter in the tray while we’re gone, their cats are happy. However, Dr Elizabeth Stelow, chief of animal behaviour services at the University of California, says there are clear signs that our furry friends miss us as much as we do them.

Still, they don’t reveal their true feelings in the way humans expect them too. Some cats handle separation anxiety by peeing in weird places or trashing the house, perhaps in revenge for us leaving them behind. This is probably why they always come home when they’re done exploring the neighbourhood, even though they’d never admit it. Although, cat food probably also has something to do with it…

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