If your cat has ever gone missing, you understand the terror and stress that comes with not knowing where your pet is. It’s natural to question how they got out and whether cats can find their way home independently.
If you’re wondering if cats have these impulses, here are some answers.
Cats can return home after wandering or becoming lost for days, weeks, months, or even years. According to the Lost Pet Research initiative, Cats travelled 50-80 miles in 2.5 years, 38 miles in 6 months, 30 miles in 10 days, and 20 miles in 21 days.
So, do cat owners have to be concerned about their pets becoming separated from them?
It turns out that there are more doubts than answers when it comes to cats’ ostensibly natural sense of direction. Here’s what every cat owner should know.
How Far Can Cats Travel When Lost?
Most cats travel between 40 and 200 metres (131 and 656 feet) when they are lost, according to Dr John Bradshaw of Bristol University’s School of Veterinary Science and author of Cat Sense.
The sex of your cat is one of the most important elements in determining how far it wanders from home.
Male cats travel farther from home than female cats, and it’s not uncommon to observe them as much as 1,500 feet out (almost a quarter-mile), with many cats going even further. On the other hand, female cats prefer to stay closer to home and rarely see beyond 750 feet (18 miles).
Similarly, the territory of male cats is generally bigger than that of female cats. Males are usually in charge of protecting and watching over 153 acres, while females are usually just concerned with 42 acres.
This region should be spherical in theory. However, it is seldom the case, and it will be significantly impacted by other factors like food and mating partners.
Their range will extend further down a river, for example, if tiny rodents are common. They may also avoid wide-open spaces, such as a paved parking lot.
Another factor that influences how far a cat goes is food availability. As previously said, some environments, such as rivers and streams, may be home to many tiny creatures such as rats and moles.
Cats can easily feed on snakes, birds, and even certain fish, and their abundance means the cat won’t have to travel far to obtain its next meal.
If you have a cat, you know how much they like lounging about, and instead of going far from home, they will most likely choose a nice perch to lie on after a satisfying meal.
If the cat lives in a city or another place where food is limited, it may have to go further away from home to receive the nourishment it needs.
Male cats typically need to travel a long distance to locate a mate, but female cats stay there and wait for males to come to her. Males will frequently struggle for the privilege to mate, and the loser may be forced to go even further.
Some cats may cover more than 150 acres, most likely due to their quest for a partner.
How Far Away Can A Cat Find Its Way Home?
A cat can find its way home at a distance of about 5-10 miles.
Some animal behaviour specialists conducted trials to see if a cat can find its way home and, if so, how they do it as part of their research on lost cat behaviour.
Professor Frances Herrick wrote “The Homing Powers of the Cat” in the 1920s, based on his observations of a mother cat returning to her kittens after being separated. The study’s goal was to see how far a cat might go before returning home to its family. Even at distances of one to four miles, the mother successfully returned to her litter seven times.
In the 1950s, German researchers conducted the study by placing cats in a vast maze with many exits. According to the study, cats emerged through the exits that were closest to their homes.
Based on scientific data, we may conclude that cats indeed have a method of finding their way home, either through their sense of smell or through far more complex systems such as magnetic geolocation, as some researchers suggest.
Felines, territorial creatures, have homing instincts built into their DNA. Cats are known to use urine spraying or bunting scent glands to “mark” their territories, which helps them develop olfactory signals that assist them when they’re displaced in new terrain.
How Do Cats Find Their Way Home?
Cats find their way home with the help of their strong sense of smell.
Both their family and vets are perplexed by a cat’s ability to find their way home. A frequent myth is that all missing cats will eventually find their way home, which is true in most cases.
However, sometimes a cat’s keen sense of smell is insufficient to aid navigation, and your cat may become disoriented. Cats may face challenges that prevent them from returning home, in addition to the possibility of being harmed or even killed.
Many animals employ pheromones, which are chemical signals that act outside the body to communicate or mark their territory. They also offer a relaxing and comforting quality.
They’re found in glands around the cheeks and chin of cats, so they’re marking their territory when they rub their faces on furniture. The brand you as a member of their social group if they rub their faces on you.
The cat would have distributed pheromones over their area by peeing, clawing, and rubbing their faces, which would eventually direct them home. A cat’s keen sense of smell is crucial for survival and plays a key part in its homing instinct.
The Jacobson’s organ on the roof of a cat’s mouth allows it to detect pheromones. If your cat makes a strange disgusted-looking grimace, called the flehmen reaction, it’s attempting to smell and taste the surrounding pheromones.
How Do Cats Find Their Way Home Over Long Distances?
Cats find their way home over long distances with the help of a strong sense of smell and acute hearing.
Cats have up to 80 million smell receptors in their noses, but humans only have approximately five million. Their sense of smell is extraordinarily acute, and they may be able to use scent markers to find their way home.
It’s a cat’s method of marking their territory when they brush against surfaces or pee in a certain location. They leave their distinct fragrance by spraying urine or using the bunting scent glands beneath their chins.
When a cat is thrown into an unknown environment, it will use its sense of smell to hunt for scent markers left by other cats or by himself. A cat’s nose may take up hints and define territorial limits as he looks for his owner.
How Far Can Cats Smell Their Home?
Cats can smell their home from a couple of miles.
Some of them can, and there have been cases where cats have succeeded. Cats’ senses are far more acute than people realize, and some animal behaviourists believe fiercely territorial felines possess exceptional homing instincts.
If your cat has gone missing, you should make every effort to locate him. Report your missing cat as soon as possible, seek all available assistance, and take all necessary efforts to reclaim him.
Your cat is either waiting to be rescued or trying desperately to make his way back to you.
Can Indoor Cats Find Their Way Home?
Yes, an indoor cat can find its way back home. Place their litter box outside, and the aroma will entice them to return.
Indoor cats seem to have a type of homing sense that has directed cats to travel hundreds of kilometres back to their home in some circumstances. The majority of indoor-only cats do not venture far.
A fearful indoor/outdoor cat may not trust their inner compass, become confused, and become lost, but an adventurous, indoor/outdoor cat is more inclined to roam.
Cats have a particular skill called a homing instinct that helps them find their way back home, which is as incredible as it sounds.
Although we don’t know for sure how it works, research suggests that cats can utilize the earth’s geomagnetic fields to identify their homes, possibly in combination with smell signals.
Can Kittens Find Their Way Home If Lost?
Kittens can often find their way home because they have a seemingly amazing homing instinct.
Kittens have a schedule that they follow. We recommend releasing your kitten out with supervised access to the outside once it is roughly 4 months old, neutered, has gotten all of its immunizations, and is well established in your home.
Before sending your kitten outside, make sure he is comfortable in the house since stepping outside might be daunting at first.
Contact your local veterinarian if your new cat or kitten looks restless and is often sitting or waiting at the back door, pacing, scratching, or pawing at the door area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do lost cats usually find their way home?
Cats will normally stay within a three-to-four-house radius of where they went out as long as they can locate a spot to hide. They search for the first safe and dry area to hide and then stay there for as long as it is safe and dry.
What percentage of lost cats finds their way home?
Eighty-five per cent of the lost cats were found; the rate of lost dogs and cats was nearly identical – 14 per cent for dogs and 15% for cats; and Cat guardians were less likely to discover their cats, with just 74% of lost cats being found.
How far do cats roam when lost?
For missing outdoor-access cats, the median distance travelled (how far the cats walked) was 315 metres (344 yards). This is around a 17-house radius from where their owner lives.
Compared to cats that go out regularly, cats that have stayed indoors for most of their lives may have less refined homing abilities. Even if your cat understands how to return home, the outdoors is full of hazards that might easily prevent him from doing so.
Road accidents, violent wild creatures, and individuals who may wish to hurt him are among the dangers he faces.