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SML > Research People > Alan Wilson

BBC Horizon 'The Secret Life of the Cat'

Broadcast on BBC2, 9.00pm 13 June 2013
Follow-up programme "Little Cat Diaries" broadcast on BBC2, 10.00pm 14 June 2013

BBC Horizon’s ‘The Secret Life of the Cat’ (Thursday, 13th June 2013) adds a new dimension to our understanding of domestic cat behaviour. The programme follows a live study of 50 cats in the village of Shamley Green in Surrey. ┬áThe cats were tracked 24 hours a day using GPS and activity-sensing collars developed at the RVC Structure & Motion Laboratory. The RVC team (Alan Wilson, Jim Usherwood, Kyle Roskilly, John Lowe and Julia Myatt) worked on the programme with Dr Sarah Ellis, a specialist in cat behaviour from the University of Lincoln and Dr John Bradshaw from the University of Bristol, a specialist in human-animal interactions, to interpret the collar data and explain the findings to the cats’ owners.

Nic and TobyAlan Wilson explained why he was keen to take part in the programme: “We know a lot more about the behaviour of some wild cats than we do about pet cats. Tracking the movements of 50 neighbouring cats simultaneously was a fantastic opportunity to find out about their activities, interactions and territorial behaviour.”

The collars were specially-developed miniature versions of the collars Alan uses in his research on wild lions, leopards and cheetahs in Africa.

The challenge was to make the tracking sensors small and light enough to be carried on a quick release cat collar, efficient enough to last for 24 hours on a single small battery and sufficiently robust that they could withstand whatever the cats put them through.

Some cats were also fitted with small cameras to obtain the cat’s eye view of the world.

This experiment sheds new light on just how active cats really are, how far from home cats roam, and how they defend or share their territories.

Find out more about how the Wildlife Tracking Collars work and about Alan Wilson's other research projects:

  • Cover of NatureCARDyAL: Co-operative Aerodynamics and Radio-based DYnamic Animal Localisation
  • Cheetahs: Dynamics and Energetics of Hunting in the Cheetah - lead article in Nature
  • CHEETAH: Bio-inspired Robot
  • LOCATE: Locomotion, hunting and habitat utilisation among large African carnivores and their prey.

Take a look at the RVC Research pages to find out about other exciting research being undertaken at The Royal Veterinary College.

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