Farewell, Macavity. The age when cats could lead secret lives among the gardens, allotments and flower boxes of middle England is over. Intent on solving one of the last mysteries on the planet – what cats do when we can’t see them – a team of experts (and television producers) fitted 50 felines with GPS tagging devices to monitor their movements around the quaint Surrey village of Shamley Green.
The results of the Horizon documentary The Secret Life of the Cat revealed that, yes, cats do spend a lot of time in other people’s houses, eating food that wasn’t intended for them. The buzz surrounding the show obviously inspired a number of cat owners to start snooping – sales figures show that G-PAWS GPS Data Recorder pre-orders are up 350 per cent on last week and it is the fastest pre-selling pet supplies product on Amazon.co.uk. And if the flourishing pet-tracking industry is anything to go by, it seems that many of us are harbouring real suspicions of our pets’ activities.
One such company, Pawtrax, has sold around 600 GPS tracking devices for cats and dogs since setting up shop three years ago. The devices fit around the collar and work in real time using a mobile SIM card. Simply text your pet, as it were, and receive a reply with a link to a map showing you where it is.
“The main reason [people buy Pawtrax] is many owners have a cat that disappear for a long time and they want to know where it’s been,” says Pawtrax owner Peter Callaway. “There was one cat that kept coming back smelling of ladies’ perfume and they used our device to track it down to a neighbour’s house.”
Lee Martin, a picture editor at The Independent, bought a Retrieva tracking device for his German Shorthaired Pointer, Dieter, after hearing about a spike in pet thefts in his area, but ended up using it when the dog went missing of its own accord.
“I got this phone call at work from our dog walker, saying they couldn’t get Dieter back on his lead,” says Martin. “So I got the tracker up on my computer screen and saw him run off into an estate. He kept changing directions and I spent the next 20 minutes directing our dog walker to find him. It was like something out of an episode of 24. Without the GPS we never could have found him.”
As for those who want to shoot a pet’s-eye view documentary of their own, Sony Japan has recently released a dog harness you can clip its High Definition action cameras to.
Although don’t be disappointed when you end with up several hours of footage focused on the rear ends of other peoples’ pooches.
Horizon: The Secret Life of The Cat airs on Thursday 13 June at 9pm on BBC TwoReuse content