Friday, 3 April 2015

Does Magellan have a routine?

One of the big conclusions drawn from series like Secret Life of Cats is that cats in urban areas share territory without big confrontations through time division multiplexing.  Which means that cats will share the same territory, but not be in it at the same time.

Other studies show that households with multiple unrelated cats develop habits to co-share territory.

All my cats are unrelated, while Corsair and Jumble got along fairly well, Magellan was always the loner.  Jumble was the dominant cat in the house, since his death, Magellan and Corsair have been uneasy around each other. Magellan would like to be dominant cat, but Corsair isn't a fan of that idea.

Also neither cat is happy with the new kitten. Magellan has asserted his dominance over the kitten, Corsair has not. Bento thinks Corsair should play fight with him.  Corsair doesn't like this, but for some reason doesn't slap the kitten down, which just encourages Bento to keep playing.  Corsair's waving tail is far to tempting and must be attacked.

Since the arrival of the kitten, Corsair and Magellan have been heading out in the morning and not spending as much time at home.  I expect this to change when the kitten starts roaming more, but for now Bento seems happy to chase crickets in the back yard.

So, lets go back to our original premise, does Magellan have a routine and where is he spending his time if not at home? Looking at the data it appears that Magellan does have a routine. The following animated gif shows data from a time period of a 2.5 weeks. It shows where he is at hourly intervals.
At 4am the GPS is on the charger, at 7am he is let outside, he starts his morning roving all over his territory, I guess just to check its all there.  Magellan doesn't like to use the litter tray, instead waiting to be let out and happy to spray around the garden, marking his scent. His territory seems limited to the houses either side of us and three houses to the east over the back fence.  Remember, Corsair's second home is to the west, over the street.

Between 9am-1pm he tends to stay north of our property. Around 2pm he heads east.  At 3pm, the school kids get let out and he comes home, or at least closer to our house. Sometime between 6 and 7pm he comes home, gets dinner and gets locked inside, after which he tends to perch on the front window sill watching the street. A review of google earth shows that the properties to the north east contain either bungalows or sheds in the back yards, so I wonder how much of his time is spent on roof tops. It's also worth noting that the neighbours to the south got a dog a few months ago and I suspect this has dramatically reduced the time spent in the neighbours yard.

So it does appear that he is avoiding both the kitten and Corsair, although the G-Paws unit has now been attached to Corsair and we will see if her habits have changed since the kittens arrival.

Magellan isn't avoiding all the neighbourhood cats however, I've taken him to the vet twice this year with an abcess on his head from cat fighting.

The New GPS's

I mentioned a few posts ago that we had purchased two new GPS units.

The first GPS is a Mr Lee's Cat Track 1. This is much like our original GPS, however its an upgraded version.  Nigel spent quite a bit of time swearing at the computer trying to figure out how to download .gpx files. If you use this device as advertised, it returns data that looks like this

We however have been extracting the raw data and analysing it in QGIS.

In order to test the new GPS for accuracy, we strapped it to a bike and rode around the block, which returned surprisingly accurate data, leading us to believe that HDOP wasn't a great estimate of accuracy afterall.  Although its also worth noting that precision is dependant on the number of satellites the GPS can access to triangulate the position.  A bike riding down an open road is going to get easier exposure to satellites than a cat skulking around under houses, sheds and through the undergrowth.

So we've filtered by the number of satellites rather than HDOP on this occasion to determine accuracy.  As discussed in the previous post, Bento, the newest kitten, isn't travelling far from the house at all.

The second GPS we purchased is a G-Paws Track, this unit is smaller than the Mr Lee unit and easier to extract the data from. There is an option to log into the G-Paws website and simply upload the data into a webpage. However, you can also simply plug it into your computer and it shows up as a flash drive with .gpx files on it. 

The downside is that the .gpx data is less verbose than the Mr Lee unit, it doesn't contain any HDOP/VDOP data or number of satellites used data.  However, the upside is that it appears much more accurate than the the Mr Lee unit.  Its also a smaller unit, so despite the slightly higher price tag, it seems the better GPS.

Here is a photo of Corsair being unco-operative and modelling the GPS.

The map below shows Magellan's wandering for the last couple of weeks. This data is unfiltered.

This data shows that Magellan is travelling no more than about 70m from the house.  This is is a bit different than results gained from the Mr Lee Unit.  This earlier post shows Magellan travelling upto 150m from the house and spending more time on the other side of the street, this time he is sticking to our side of the street. Its worth noting that there is a years worth of time between the data collection, and Magellan has broken his leg in that time, although he does appear to have made a full recovery.

I'm going to break Magellan's wandering down in more detail in my next post.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Where does my new kitten go?

Firstly - some advertising: If you live in South Australia and would like to know where your cat goes - think about applying to be part of this project This is project run by the University of South Australia in collaboration with Your Wildlife in the US who are also running a cat tracking program - if my US based readers would like to play, follow the Your Wildlife link. 

So new kitten Bento is about 21 weeks old.  He was adopted from the Second Chance Animal Rescue by us in late December.  He was kept inside until he received his full set of vaccinates for both F3 and FIV.  Well, when I say kept inside, I mean occasionally allowed out to play in the back yard in a supervised fashion.  We are also attempting to leash train him, its working so far. Bento is an extremely social kitten, he seems to have no fear and will play with everyone, even small children. Here he is with our friend Nikki playing in the backyard at a BBQ we had in January

Of course, keeping him locked in didn't stop him from trying to escape to the exciting world of outdoors.

So the big day came, fully vaccinated kitten was strapped to his GPS harness and the cat flap was unlocked.  It took numpty kitten nearly a week to figure out how to use the cat flap.... Maybe not the brightest little kitten.

Anyway - by the age of 20 weeks he has figured out how to use the cat flap and spend the last week with access to the outside world while we are at work.  Bento is an extremely social kitten and clearly misses us when we are not home judging by the attention he demands when we are home.  It's also obvious that when we are home he tends to stay inside. 

The GPS data for the first week also tells us that he hasn't left the property yet, or if he has, it is only as far as the neighbours over the road. It also continues to tell us how inaccurate the GPS unit is.  We've looked at the data, we have filtered the data for both HDOP (horizontal dilution of precision) and also for number of satellites. Even doing this, there are some outlying points on the map that can't be accurate.  We'd already figured out by looking at the overnight data from Corsair when she was locked inside, that once the bad data is filtered out, the unit still has a margin of error of about 50m.  If we assume the same margin of error.  We can infer that Bento hasn't left our property yet.

We are playing a bit more with the data and I promise the next post will have maps, I've compensated for the lack of maps with more kitten photos. Everyone likes kitten photos!

It will be fascinating to track how that changes as he gets older, bigger and braver.

After all while one can hunt leaves and crickets in the garden, when inside a kitten can mess up a basket of clean laundry.

Get pats and sleep in laps.

And 'help' write blog posts...

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Reviving Map My Cat!

So Corsair broke the GPS and we stopped collecting data for awhile, given we'd answered our primary question of does Corsair have a different home.

But we have recently aquired two new GPS's and a new kitten - so its time to revive the experiment.

Unfortunately we lost our beloved Jumble cat to cancer at the end of last year.  He is very missed.

However, a lovely new tiny black kitten made his way into our hearts and lives, his name is Bento, he is a black domestic short hair who is currently about 20 weeks old.

We also recently watched the BBC documentary, the Secret Life of Cats, where GPS trackers were put on 50 cats in a village and their movement tracked and analysed.  We were interested to note that the conclusions largely matched the conclusions that we had made with our sample of three cats.

The information we didn't have, was do the cats share space outside or go there separate ways.  So we have purchased two new GPS trackers with the goal of answering a couple of questions.

One has been placed on Magellan. Magellan is not impressed with the new kitten so has been staying away more often.  Where is he going?

We also intent to put the new unit on Corsair and time match the data from both cats.

The second has been placed on Bento. With the goal of finding out how far does the new kitten wander while he is young and still learning the outside world.

Here is a photo of Bento testing his GPS harness.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Jumble, Corsair and Magellan... Oh My!

So, I've left this idle for a while, its probably about time I got back to it.

We've got some data collected from all three cats and today we are going to compare the data.

This data has been utilised to produce heat maps to show where the cats spend most of their time. These maps utilise all the data we have collected from the cats over a period of months, divided by cat.  Each cat was equipped with the GPS for an equivilent amount of time to gather the data. All data has been corrected for HDOP and the innacurate points have been filtered  out.

Jumble's data was collected over a period between 18th April and 10th of May 2013.
Magellan's data was collected between the 10th and 18th of April 2013.
Corsair's data was collected over a period between  22nd April and 8th August 2013. So yes, we do have more data for Corsair than the other cats.

This data was collected over late autumn and winter.  We are now working on collecting data over summer. It will be interesting to note whether there is a seasonal difference.

Jumble is the oldest of the cats. He is a 14 year old, desexed male cat.  He has some health problems. For the last couple of years he has had a recurrent problem with pancreatitis - an inflamation of the belly. When it flares up he gets sick, but we can treat the issue with cortizone. As with most older cats, he is a bit fat, he doesn't move as fast as he used to and he also obviously has some pain as he doesn't leap as high or as confidently as he used to. Jumble spends most of his time asleep on our property. He doesn't wander as far as the younger cats. When I'm home I notice that he spends most of his time asleep either on our bed, our couches, his box, in the back yard. The data gathered suggests that this is his pattern when we are not home as well. Jumble always comes when called, so he is probably never far away. Mapping shows that he never travels more than 120 metres from our home and rarely goes more than 50m from our home.

Magellan is a 3 year old, desexed male cat. Magellan was hit by a car when he was younger but physically appears to have made a full recovery. He certainly still gets on the roof and jumps heights the other cats don't. He is a fairly standoffish cat, not a very friendly and sociable cat. Sometimes he will deign to sit on my desk and watch me type, but rarely comes up for pats or snuggles. He is even more anti-social when friends come visiting and runs from strangers. He appears to be our most active of cats, always the first out the cat flap when it is unlocked in the morning. He is the cat that defends the back yard from the incursions of other cats and he is our little explorer kitty. The data says that Magellan travels further than Jumble but not as far as Corsair. Magellan spends by far and away most of his time on our property. He travels up to 150 metres from our house, but rarely travels outside of our immediate neighbours. He does travel to the neighbours over the road, as does Corsair, but spends less time over the road than she does.

Now Corsair is a three year old female, desexed cat. She is friendly and sociable and loves hugs. She will approach anyone, friend or stranger for pats. She invites random stray cats inside and shows them the food bowl. I've never seen her chase any cat out of the back yard.  She roams further than any of the other cats, up to 200m in every direction from our house. Our house however does remain the focal point of her activities. Its interesting that house B (See Does Corsair have a second home?) is also a focal point of her activities, but she still spends at least twice as much time at our house as she does at house B. Why does Corsair wander further than the other cats? Is it her sex? Is it the search for food to fill her fatty belly? Is it her inate socialness that makes her seek out company when we are not home? These are questions the data won't tell us.

I've overlaid all three cat's data on each other, just to provide a visual representation of how far they travel compared to each other.

As you can see its Jumble being the most homebody, followed by Magellan and Corsair as the biggest explorer of them all.  Breaking down the data into smaller and larger time periods doesn't seem to change the result.

Why do you think Corsair travels so far compared to the other cats? 

Is she in search of adventure? 

Is she is search of food to fill her fatty belly?

Or is she simply searching for hugs and attention?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Where is Corsair?

Corsair is a troublesome kitten. She likes to pick flowers and leave them on our floor, she likes to get into things she shouldn't. Just the other day she managed to get locked in our car. She had obviously jumped in while Nigel was unloading groceries and then when I got in the car two hours later, she was curled up sleeping in the back seat, not at all fussed about being trapped in the car.

But I am worried about Corsair today, she hasn't come home since Saturday morning and so we worry.

Now cats are cats, she will most likely saunter in completely unconcerned right when we have given up hope of seeing her again, or more likely at 3am, wet and hungry and demanding food and hugs.

She has a collar with a phone number tag on, and she is microchipped, so I like to think that if something happened we would get a call.

Also - we have all this handy GPS data, months worth now (yes, I know its ages since I made a post).  So we know how far she is traveling and where she is hanging out.  We know she isn't going more than about 200m in any direction, so we are concentrating our search efforts within that radius.

It's also been suggested that we do a letterbox drop, asking people to check their garages for trapped cats. Rather than spamming the entire neighbourhood, we will look at the data and just leave notes in the letterboxes of properties that we can see she is going into or near.

Technology - ain't it grand.

Personally - I just want her to come home safe and sound.

Edit: After three nights away Corsair came home. Unfortunately she wasn't wearing the GPS when she disapeared so we dont know where she went.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Does Jumble really sleep all day?

Does Jumble really sleep all day?

Jumble is our 13 year old cat.

He has been with me since I adopted him as a tiny kitten. A friend who is a vet was told to euthanaise Jumble as a kitten as he was considered to feral to be rehomable. Vet friend knew I was in the market for a ginger kitty, she introduced me to Jumble. The non ginger feral biting kitten who couldn't be rehomed, immediately curled up in my lap and started purring. It was love at first sight, and very little has changed since. Jumble's favourite place is still curled up in my lap, or curled up in our bed, or sitting on top of the laptop or knitting that he percieves is taking up his rightful lap space.

For the last couple of weeks the GPS blogger has been attached to Jumble.  We've got a couple of weeks worth of data from each cat now and so far all we have really determined is that GPS loggers have a fairly big margin of error. We have also established that Corsair roams a little bit further than Magellan and may have a second home. None of the cats roam more than about 150m from our house.

Now, observed data tells us that Jumble spends most of his time sleeping. On the couch, on the bed, in the hammock, outside in the sun in the backyard. And this time of year, once we come home from work, he follows us inside and sits expectantly on the heater vent looking at us until we turn on the heating. Then once someone sits down he will select a lap, usually walking over everyone else in the process. He is secure in his role as dominant cat in the household.

So where is he going when we are not home?

The answer is, not far at all. These maps show two weeks worth of data. If we look at just the green dots, those that are considered to be the most accurate data, it appears he is travelling no further than 50m from our property on average. The focus of his activity is our home.

He spends vastly more time in our property compared to anywhere else. The yellow properties represent 1 to 15 points recorded. The red properties shows between 223 and 1296 points recorded, the only two red properties are our immediate neighbours to the north and south. Our property shows over 1200 points recorded. Jumble has no other home and is perfectly content living in his home with his humans and 'helping' code.

We also looked at the time stamps on Jumble's data, does he do anything particular at certain times of the day? Are there noticable patterns, like there are with Corsair's data?

This map really shows us two things.
One - the GPS logger is innacurate, because Jumble sleeps on our bed all night, or he has a secret cat door to the outside world.
Two - Jumble does most of his roaming in the middle of the day and in the early afternoon. When his humans are home, Jumble likes to be home too.

It's getting on towards winter, the days are getting shorter, the weather colder and we've noticed all three cats have a tendancy to be home when we get home from work. This is not the case in summer when it doesn't get dark til later. Cats like houses with heating. Its also possible that the Do Not Feed tags that were attached a couple of months ago are working, as they are also coming home hungry... 

So internet - what questions would you like answered next?
Its probably about time we did some comparable statistical analysis on our data sets...

Or maybe I should just post more cat photos :)