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From Botswanan big cats to Surrey house cats

Scientists who designed GPS tracking collars to study hunting cheetahs in Botswana have miniaturised them to track 50 domestic cats in a Surrey village for a BBC programme. The BBC also deployed cat-cams which were turned on by the collar's activity sensor when the cat was moving. 'The Secret Life of The Cat' is broadcast on BBC Two Horizon on Thursday June 13th 2013 at 21:00.

In a first study of its kind the wanderings of our feline friends were recorded, revealing how far they roamed and what they got up to once they leave their owners behind. The team were concerned that cats were known to pop through the cat-flaps of neighbouring houses to steal food so they used the GPS to tell when the cats were indoors and switched off the cat-cams.

Professor Alan Wilson, from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London and his team are currently studying the cheetah in research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Their innovative tracking collars, which use GPS and motion sensors, have recorded hunting cheetahs at a top speed of 58mph as well as the first data on the animal's acceleration and manoeuvres. The results are published in the journal, 'Nature' on Thursday June 13th 2013.

Professor Wilson said: "If we understand an animal's speed and manoeuvrability we will be able to see how managing habitats will have an impact on predators and hunting."

Back in the UK the team used their expertise to design the technology for the study on domestic cats for BBC Two's Horizon programme. They designed the protocol, programmed the collars, and analysed the data of the domestic puss.

Professor Wilson said; "Our motivation for getting involved in the programme is to showcase scientific research methods to the public and demonstrate science is cool. It's an excellent large-scale deployment opportunity for our tracking collars and the analysis tools used for our studies on wild animals. Ironically we knew more about cheetahs than domestic cats, until this study."


Contact: EPSRC Press Office
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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