Do Cats Come Back Home After They Run Away Or Go Missing


I followed a story recently where a cat owner posted about the sudden disappearance of his cat, and asked fellow readers whether the cat could return back? Several folks had similar experiences, and they told him to stay hopeful.

Two months later we were all thrilled when the cat finally did! 

Do Cats Come Back Home After They Run Away or Go Missing? The reassuring fact is that, yes, they do. Cats have a homing instinct similar to that of pigeons. Sadly, not all cats demonstrate that ability. And sometimes, they get stranded, hurt, or injured, and can’t get back home. 

Read-on to find out why cats go missing, what are the odds of them returning back, how to actively seek them, and what to do to keep them from wandering away.  

Why Do Cats Run Away Or Go Missing

Cats are creatures of habit, and they’re highly territorial. That’s why it’s not in their nature to pack their bags and leave at a whim. 

Here are 10 reasons why a cat that’s usually around, suddenly disappears. 

Why Do Cats Run Away or Go Missing

They Get Curious

The only thing that could overcome a cat’s need to stay put, is its need to explore. These polar opposites are dynamic motivators inside the psyche of almost all feline animals. 

Whenever you open the door, you’d notice your pet cats approaching it, but not really willing to venture outside. If however there’s another cat outside, they’d take a few steps onto the porch. 

The same applies to finding a bird in the tree overlooking the balcony, or a dragonfly on the windowsill. 

Once they succumb to their curiosity, they could easily find themselves out of the house, and might face some trouble in getting back in.     

[Related Article: Do Cats Like The Smell Of Coffee – Is It Harmful To Them]

They Find A New Playmate

The chemistry between cats isn’t very clear. Sometimes they get along famously with a new cat, and at other times they can’t stand the sight of one another! 

Pheromones certainly play a part in this, and when there’s flirtation, the cat would have a strong motive to go out and play with the stranger. Cats could easily wander around, and then fail to find their way back home.  

They Find Opportunity

A house cat is usually kept inside closed quarters. An opened door or window could be a nice opportunity to explore the world. Especially if something catches its attention, or another nice cat is waiting across the street. 

They Find Themselves In A Different House

Moving houses is among the most unsettling experiences a cat could have. Sometimes, they leave the new house, and return to the old house. They seem to believe that they’re going back to their rightful place. 

That’s why it’s always recommended to keep the cat inside the house, and try to acclimatize it to its new surroundings for a few weeks. You can relax the close surveillance system a bit once the cat feels that this new place is also its home.    

They Are Entangled In A Chase

Cats chase after a moving toy, a piece of moving thread, or a laser dot. They’re up for action by instinct. So if they ever see a mouse prowling about, or a little bird, they’d most probably rise up to the occasion, and do the chase.

Outdoor cats are more into that behavior than pet cats, and they clearly have a bigger opportunity for encountering that sort of situation. 

Being entangled in a chase doesn’t happen only when the cat is the one doing the hunt. Sometimes, the cat wanders outside, only to find a large dog at its heels. The frightened cat could go into hiding under a porch nearby, climb up a tree, or run off to a different neighborhood. 

In all these cases, it could take the cat a while to find its way back home. And sometimes, it might need some assistance in being found and retrieved.       

They Join Their Parent’s Community

If an outdoor cat has feral ancestry, the call-of-the-wild might hold a certain pull over it. Especially, if there’s a nearby community of its relatives. 

The chances that this scenario plays out aren’t too high. It’s just a possibility. The other explanations have a higher rate of occurrence.   

They Get Hurt Or Injured

This unfortunate event is among the higher ranking reasons why a cat would go missing. Outdoor cats are more prone to that sort of thing, but house cats aren’t entirely immune. 

The causes of getting hurt include car accidents, bike accidents, getting into a fight with another animal, ingesting a harmful substance, or simply becoming sick. The cat’s immediate instinct is to run and hide.   

They Get Trapped

Outdoor cats are also more prone to get themselves in that predicament. Once they run off from a chasing animal, or go on an exploration, they could be trapped in unwanted places. 

Trees, lampposts, vehicles, old buildings, basements, cracks in house porches, or any other nooks and crannies could be places where a cat gets stuck.  

Do Cats Come Back Home After They Run Away

They Are Randomly Transported Elsewhere

If a cat ventures inside an RV, it could easily be transported to a very different place. 

The same outcome happens when cleaning companies chase out strays from a neighborhood. They could accidentally catch outdoor cats, or even pet cats, and take them to a shelter. 

They Are Intentionally Transported Elsewhere

This is a malicious act that’s unfortunately seen every now and then. Ex-spouses, grumpy neighbors, or delinquents could deliberately take a cat from its owner and release it elsewhere. 

[Related Article: How To Keep Cats Warm In Garage – 9 Useful Tips You Can Use]

Does A Pet Cat Behave Like An Outdoor Cat

There are several personality differences between indoor and outdoor cats. 

Pet cats often have a mellow and timid personality. Few of them are natural alphas that display adventurous behavior. When they go missing, they’re often afraid and wouldn’t venture too far from their home. 

Outdoor cats are bolder, and mostly would be found further away. They also have a higher chance of being hurt or injured. 

How Do Cats Know the Way Back Home

Cats have a ‘homing instinct’, that’s been the subject of scientific research. Cats are sharp observers of their surroundings. They mark their homes with what they see, hear, smell, and sense. 

However, Some studies demonstrated that even if they were drugged and blindfolded, they could still go back home. The theory behind that was that cats possess a magnetic orientation mechanism similar to that of pigeons. 

Does A Pet Cat Behave Like An Outdoor Cat

Do Cats Come Back Home After They Run Away or Go Missing

If you follow missing cat forums, you’ll be optimistic about the rate at which cats eventually get back home. So many happy cat owners would warm your heart with their stories about how their cats returned after weeks or even months of being away. 

Outdoor cats are probably more skilled at that than house pets. But, there’s certainly hope that a cat would turn up. 

Not all cats do, unfortunately. And cat owners should actively seek their missing cats in every possible way.   

How To Find A Lost Cat

There are some rudimentaries you should do as soon as you notice the absence of a cat. 

  • Look around the house, and in nearby places. 
  • Check the ‘higher ground’ like trees, roofs, and lampposts. 
  • Check the hiding places near and around the house.
  • Ask the nearby cat shelters.
  • Write a post on social media and try to get it circulating. 
  • Notify the ‘missing cat’ forums.
  • Print a ‘lost cat’ poster, and make it visible to as many people as possible. 
  • If your cat has a microchip, inform the vets in your area.

How To Keep A Cat From Wandering Away

The first thing you might think of is to keep your cat happy. This is a lovely sentiment, but it’s not why a cat would stay. 

As you might’ve noticed in the 10 reasons stated above, cat abuse is not on the list. Cats mostly venture out when they’re curious, involved in a chase, or when they want to mate. Minimize the chances of their escape by keeping the doors locked and their balcony stays under your sights. 

Neutering or spaying also minimizes the flirtatious adventures, which is one of the prime reasons cats escape from home. 

The last point is to watch over your cat as you move from place to place. Cats take a while to realize that this is their new home.

Sarah Jones

Sarah is a passionate pet lover who owns several pets on her own. She loves to share her experience doing part-time writing to impart some useful tips with other pet owners.

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