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Researchers stuck cameras on 16 cats to see what cats even do all day

Cats on camera because science. cat-wow
© Science Magazine - YouTube

Academics at the University of Derby who pinned tiny cameras on a unit of pet cats to see what they do all day have released their intellectual cat video on YouTube for public appraisal.

By G. John Cole

Published on the 04/06/2019, 16:00, Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:46

Dr Maren Huck was inspired to test the effectiveness of strapping cameras to cats for science after spying on her own cat with a small internet-bought device.

Huck teamed up with animal behaviourist Samantha Watson of Manchester Metropolitan University and sixteen test kitties to record their secret lives over four years (sixteen cat years). What they saw might surprise human viewers. But more likely they will find it strangely calming.

Cam cats

The project started predictably with potential test cats scrapping and carrying out minor acts of intergenerational violence before they were sent off into the wild:

“We started with 21 cats,” Huck told Science Magazine, “but only 16 tolerated the cameras. The others either started racing around or tried to scratch them off. 

“One mother cat was like this, and when we put the camera on her son, she began hitting him. So we didn’t use either cat.”

But soon the researchers were able to release the cats into their daily lives and watch as their unlikely behaviour unfolded.

They boop (each other). They poop. They dig. They hunt (a little). They don’t do an awful lot else.

Huck claims the creatures are shown not to be as lazy as humans imagine: “they became superalert. They scanned their surroundings, sometimes for a half-hour or more on end.”

However, it sort of seems like they’re just sitting around watching the world go by (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – behaviour that most humans would indeed categorize such behaviour as ‘lazy.’

Cats don't even fight much when all that 'scanning' and 'superalertness' reveals an intruder:

“[E]ven though cats are highly territorial,” Huck continues, “they didn’t always fight with other cats they encountered. Often, they just sat a couple of metres away from each other for up to a half an hour.”

Although the video footage released on YouTube is of the outdoors world, the research revealed that, while indoors, cats like to follow their owners around and be in the same room as them.

Do cats poop in the woods?

Interested readers and cat-lovers will no doubt want to read the scientists’ in-depth academic paper on the experiment after they’ve watched the cat video.

It is also worth comparing Huck’s findings with the reflections of French Marxist philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre, whose three volume Critique of Everyday Life asks difficult questions about the little cultural habits that make up the fabric of our day but which are inextricably bound-up in the subtle, nefarious influence of state and corporate powers.

In conclusion: no big surprise here, cats spend their days glaring at each other.