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The secret life of the domestic cats revealed by Surrey felines

PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 June 2013 | UPDATED: 09:09 14 June 2013

Rosie wearing a CatCam (Photo: Alex Ranken/BBC)

Rosie wearing a CatCam (Photo: Alex Ranken/BBC)


Fifty cats in the village of Shamley Green were put under 24-hour surveillance using GPS collars and specially designed cat-cams providing a moggie-eyes view of the world for the latest experiment by BBC Horizon.

Dr John Bradshaw, Dr Sarah Ellis, Professor Alan Wilson in the Cat HQ in Shamley Green (Photo: Pasquale Tropea / Alex Ranken/BBC)Dr John Bradshaw, Dr Sarah Ellis, Professor Alan Wilson in the Cat HQ in Shamley Green (Photo: Pasquale Tropea / Alex Ranken/BBC)

The BBC Two show, which airs at 9pm tonight, teamed up with the UK’s leading cat scientists in a bid to discover what are pets really get up to when they leave home.

“In many ways, scientists know more about the roaming behaviour of big cats in Africa than they do about our own pets which is why Horizon was so excited to work with the Royal Veterinary College on this ambitious experiment,” says Horizon producer Helen Sage.

Using miniaturised lion GPS collars, scientists from the Royal Veterinary College were able to track the cats’ secret journeys day and night, to find out exactly where they go and what they get up to.

As well as the satellite view, the specially adapted cat-cams, strapped beneath their chins, gave a fascinating view from the animal’s perspective.

The findings revealed that some of the cats in the village had complex time-sharing systems which helped them avoid confrontation; they spent more time in each other’s houses than any of the owners were aware of and for some their roaming territories were much wider. Another surprise was that during the week of the experiment the cats seemed to be hunting less than expected, preferring to spend more time in each other’s houses eating other cats’ food.

Cat behaviour expert Dr John Bradshaw believes that cat behaviour may be changing or evolving. The cats are no longer kept to hunt rodents and so choose to find easier pickings elsewhere.

“Cats are still evolving and probably will still evolve into the future. They are becoming much more pet-like animals and will lose some of the wild instincts because many of those things don’t actually serve them very well in the 21st century,” he explains.

• BBC Horizon: The Secret Life of Cats screens on BBC Two on Thursday June 13 at 9pm. Horizon spin-off, Little Cat Diaries, goes out on Friday June 14 at 10pm on BBC Two.

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