CSU student tracking killer kitties

FORT COLLINS — There’s no doubt about it: Kitties can be killers.

And now a CSU student is studying where cats go when they roam about neighborhoods alone. Ashley Gramza has attached GPS trackers to several dozen cats in the Boulder area and is monitoring their daily movements. She’s also tracking how many animals the cats kill and bring home.

The tally in the first four months: 25 small mammals and 11 birds.

“My main goal is to better inform cat owners of the risks their cats may incur and impose on the landscape,” Gramza said. “We know that cats wreak havoc on island ecosystems.”

A separate study by University of Georgia researchers using cameras and released this summer found that cats brought home only about 25 percent of the animals they killed, finding they ate about 30 percent of their kills and left 49 percent of their kills where they died.

Gramza’s study is slightly different than the UGA one — that one used 60 cats wearing cameras. In her study, the cats wear tiny transmitters providing an exact map of their movements. Gramza plans to use the data she collects to help cat owners decide whether they should follow laws like the one in Fort Collins requiring cats to be leashed whenever they’re outside.

The Larimer Humane Society, which is charged with enforcing the city’s cat-leash law, says cat owners who let their cats out unleashed face a $100 fine, the same faced by dog owners. The agency says it’s safer for cats and the community to keep kitties either inside or on a leash.

In the last year, the society’s animal-control officers issued 390 citations for at-large domestic animals in Fort Collins, both dogs and cats. In that same period, 1,547 stray cats were brought into the society’s shelter by both officers and the public. The society doesn’t break out cat vs. dog tickets, said spokeswoman Stephanie Ashley.

Ashley said the society believes domestic cats should be leashed or kept inside, regardless of the local laws.

“It protects the animal and protects other animals. It minimizes the chance they’ll come into contact with other wildlife and minimizes their chances of getting lost,” she said. “They’re hunters by nature.”

Gramza’s research aims to answer just how far cats wander in their nocturnal hunts. So far, she said, the cats in the study don’t go much more than a few blocks away from home.

“They’re not wandering that far. They’re definitely sticking close to home,” she said. “My goal is to learn what the risks might be, and inform cat owners with as much information as possible to minimize these risks, if there are any.”


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