Kitty Cams Reveal House Cats to Be Rapacious Killing Machines

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University of Georgia

You’ve watched plenty of videos of cats, now get ready to watch videos taken by cats. Kitty Cams is a joint project between National Geographic and the University of Georgia aimed at finding out what exactly our cats are doing when they’re outside.

Sixty cats in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia were outfitted with lightweight, weatherproof cameras, each equipped with an LED light and a radio-tracking device, just in case the cat shed the break-away collar the camera was attached to.

Researchers then removed the memory cards and, presumably, made their interns watch the footage. Thankfully they put some of it online; it’s weirdly captivating, including a tense encounter with a dog, a brief journey into a crawlspace and some good ol’ cat-to-cat bonding.

Oh, also they kill things — mainly birds, lizards, voles, chipmunks, frogs and snakes. After reviewing an average of 37 hours of footage per cat, researchers found that 30% of the roaming house cats were successful in killing prey.

Unlike my cat, who specializes mainly in sleeping for 23 hours a day, the killer cats were productive hunters, bringing down an average of 2.1 animals every week.

It turns out that house cats, like their burger-stuffed owners, aren’t really concerned about wasting food. They only ate what they killed 30% of the time; 49% of the time they just left their prey to rot where it died and the rest of the time they brought it home.

That means that if your cat brings you home a tasty vole, chances are there are a lot more victims out there that you aren’t seeing. “So what?” you say. “Why should I care that cats are killing rodents? Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?”

Yes, but all of those hunting cats add up to a lot of dead animals — including birds, who made up 12% of the kills. Obviously, the American Bird Conservancy wasn’t too happy about this:

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

So how can you protect your local wildlife? Well you can keep Fluffy inside and feed her bird-free cat chow or you could outfit her with this adorably ridiculous cat bib. The Kitty Cams also captured cats risking their own lives, with 45% of the cats deciding to cross roads and 20% figuring that entering a storm drain seemed like a good idea.

All in all, this was valuable research, which leads me to one conclusion: we need to attach cameras to all of our pets. What does your dog do all day when you’re at work? Your hamster — is it actually using that wheel you bought it? Also, what’s your turtle up to? The Internet deserves to know.

[via TreeHugger]