Researchers (and some cat-owners) wanted to know: What do feral and free-roaming house cats do when they're out of sight? A two-year study offers a first look at the daily lives of these feline paupers and princes, whose territories overlap on the urban, suburban, rural and agricultural edges of many towns.
…As expected, in most cases the un-owned cats had larger territories than the pet cats and were more active throughout the year. But the size of some of the feral cats' home ranges surprised even the researchers. One of the feral cats, a mixed breed male, had a home range of 547 hectares (1,351 acres), the largest range of those tracked. Like most of the feral cats, this lone ranger was seen in both urban and rural sites, from residential and campus lawns to agricultural fields, forests and a restored prairie. “That particular male cat was not getting food from humans, to my knowledge, but somehow it survived out there amidst coyotes and foxes,” Horn said. “It crossed every street in the area where it was trapped. (It navigated) stoplights, parking lots. We found it denning under a softball field during a game.” The owned cats had significantly smaller territories and tended to stay close to home. The mean home range for pet cats in the study was less than two hectares (4.9 acres).