Cats roaming: size of ‘hundreds’ of football fields
A PECULIAR feline tracking program operating in the Tweed has caught pet cats roaming areas comparable in size to hundreds of football fields in just one month.
In particular, a white cat from Round Mountain dubbed "Snowy" covered a total of 1167 hectares, which equates to 800 football fields joined together, reports Tweed Shire Council.
The council has been using 16 heat-in-motion remote cameras scattered across the region as part of a new Cats on Camera program.
Data compiled by Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers shows more than 161 pet cat attacks on wildlife were reported by the Tweed community last year alone, but most cat attacks are never seen or reported.
Cats on Camera has been launched to produce evidence to convince cat owners to keep their pets indoors, both for their own protection and that of vulnerable native birds and animals.
The cameras used in the program were already tracking native and feral animals in bushland.
The council's Natural Resource Management unit co-ordinator Jane Lofthouse said the unusual community education program was introduced because "many residents expressed an interest in finding out where their cats went when they were outside".
Mapping of pet cats shows an estimated range using camera records at different locations over a month, combined with known information about roaming pet cat behaviour.
Ms Lofthouse said the cameras were set up in bushland areas of high conservation value, next to urban development.
She was unable to estimate how many cats were caught on camera, but said the council noted "lots of cats at different times and locations".
"There are probably many more cats not recorded on cameras. This was just a sample over a month," she said.
South Australia ran a similar cat tracing program last year, inspiring the Tweed model.
But it went a step further and owners volunteered their pets to wear GPS collars.
Cats on Camera is part of a bigger, three-year project called Love Cats Love Wildlife, funded by the NSW Environmental Trust with a grant totalling $91,714.
The council updates its website with mapping from the program.