CHAMPAIGN, Ill., May 26 (UPI) -- Indoor cats allowed outdoors travel much farther than their owners may think, and this can put the pets at greater risk of disease, U.S. researchers say.
Jeff Horn, a former graduate student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and colleagues used radio telemetry and a tracking device to capture movements, haunts and habits of 42 owned house cats and un-owned feral cats.
The un-owned feral cats had larger territories than the house cats, but both had larger territories than expected. One of the male feral cats had a home range of 1,351 acres, while the pet cats had a mean home range of about 5 acres.
"Still, some of the cat owners were very surprised to learn that their cats were going that far," Horn says in a statement. "That's a lot of back yards."
However, the overlap of feral and pet cat territories increases the risk of disease to house cats and potentially to their owners because the house cats can catch diseases from the feral cats and wildlife.
Study co-author Nohra Mateus-Pinilla of the Illinois Natural History Survey at Illinois says Toxoplasma gondii, rabies, cat scratch fever, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus are all a concern to pet owners whose cats encounter other cats and wildlife outdoors.
The two-year study also confirmed cats spend an inordinate amount of time sleeping. Pet cats are asleep or in low activity 97 percent of their day, and the feral cats were highly active 14 percent of the time because they had to spend more time hunting.