Do Cats Always Come Back?

Anyone that has lost a pet knows the worry and heartbreak that comes with the thought they may not ever come back. Cat lovers sometimes spend days in that worry mode because cats can be gone for several days before they return. 

Is it true that cats will always return? Most of the time, a cat will return home. There are times when a cat never comes back. Cats that run off when they’re sick, roam across streets, or explore in the woods run a high risk of dying before they can return home. However, cats have geographical skills that help most find their way home. 

The article below explains why cats typically do come back and what you can do to find yours if it’s lost. 

The Runaway

Cats leave home for several reasons. The first is they are curious and sometimes run after something that strikes their fancy. Cats have a strong hunting instinct and areas where there are birds and mice may attract them.  

Our boy Coco 2

At times, cats may be so into their hunting they neglect to come home right away.

Felines that aren’t spayed or neutered will wander off in search of mating. It’s just instinct. They may be defending their territory and chasing something out of the area. 

A disruption in the home could lead to a cat running away. A cat sees things like a new person, a new pet, and renovation as major events and they may run off to escape the madness. 

Some cats who move either with their family or are rehomed try to return to their original home.

Sometimes a sick cat will hide somewhere to be alone and some cats sense a neighbor has food that appears tasty. 

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Hide and Seek

It is frustrating to look for a cat because you must look everywhere. They don’t often come when they are called like a dog would but wait for you to find them. Cats can be high in a tree, afraid to come down. They can be under a car, which is dangerous or trapped in someone’s garage. 

The best way to find a cat is to know its favorite spots. Cats are routine-driven and will visit their favorite areas. Those places may direct you to your cat. Look in wooded areas where they may hunt or at a favorite neighbor’s house where they leave food out for animals. 

You may need to knock on a few doors too. Ask if they’ve seen him and even ask to look in garages if neighbors came or left about the time your cat went missing. 

If your cat is in a new home, check with neighbors in the old neighborhood and ask them to alert you if your cat shows up there. Cats have been known to travel 50 to 80 miles to return home. It could take them more than two years for such a distance.

Put out your cat’s food and water by your door. That will give your cat some motivation to come home.

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A Cat’s Home Instinct

Cats have three ways of finding a home. First, it memorizes a type of map for home. Second, they use scent to guide them. Third, scientists believe cats use geomagnetic fields like a compass to find their way home. No one is sure how this works but experiments suggest there is something to the theory. 

Felines who run off to hunt, to mate, or out of curiosity come home when they are done, are tired and hungry. That can be one night or several nights. The worrisome part is predators or fear of the cat being trapped.

Some cats, especially the nervous types, get lost because their anxiety messes up their compass. Calling your cat may help direct them home. 

Flyers, posting on social media pages, and talking to neighbors will all help find your cat. 

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Preventive measures

You can do some things to prevent your cat from running off.

  • The main preventive measure is to spay or neuter them.
  • Keeping a rehomed cat inside for at least two weeks will help them adjust to new surroundings.
  • Kenneling them when there is a lot of disturbance, like guests or construction, will keep them from running off.
  • Teach your cat to come when called.
  • Get your cat microchipped. You can’t track him if he’s lost but a vet or shelter can run a chip scan if someone brings him in. You can also put a tracking device on his collar that is associated with your phone. That way you’ll always know where your cat is.
  • Make your home a cool place for a cat. Have a clean litter box, a nice bed, toys, food, and water. Cats can figure out they have it good and won’t leave.

Read: Is My Bengal Cat Depressed?

FAQs

How long can a cat go missing?

Cats can go missing for 24 hours. That is especially true if they love the great outdoors. Some cats have been away from home for up to 10 days at a time before they come home. 

What percentage of cats running off come back?

Numbers are hard to compare because the only hard numbers are those who reclaim their animals at a shelter. Those numbers are low with only 2 to 4 percent of cat owners reclaiming their pets. 

However, cats are 13 times more like to be returned to their home some other way besides through a shelter.

Where do cats go when they run off?

Cats usually don’t go far when they wander off. Usually, they are within three to four houses of home. Their first instinct is to hide. Those with past escapes will always run in the same direction and hide in the same place. 

Do cats remember where they live?

Cats remember the routes they take and have good long-term memories. They have a way of remembering where they live but it isn’t the same way we do. Their memory is by scent and an internal mapping that humans still don’t understand. 

How do you lure a cat back home?

Find the strongest smelling canned cat food you can and put it in his dish just outside the door. You may put his litter box and bedding there too. The smell should help him find his way back.

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