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Why Do Some Cats Leave and Never Return?

Why Do Some Cats Leave and Never Return?

Even though you love your cat they may sometimes like to run away. They can be gone for several days or disappeared entirely. We often trust that our cats will return home but what happens when they don’t.  In this blog we will talk about why cats run away and whether lost cats can find their way back home.

 Your home is too stressful for them

Cats are creatures of habit and they are easily stressed.  If your home is chaotic your cat may decide to take off in search of calmer waters.  Cats can become stressed by a great number of things, such as welcoming a new pet or family member, arguing with your spouse or even loud noises like vacuum cleaners. Even smaller changes such as moving or home renovations, having a dinner party or a new cat in the neighbourhood can spook your cat and cause them to seek refuge elsewhere.  Yelling or punishing your cat is another cause of stress, this is why you should never shout at your kitty. A cat who feels unsafe at home is more likely to run away at the first opportunity to look for a new home.

They are searching for a mate 

A cat’s reproductive drive is a powerful thing. If you don’t spay your cat then they’ll be overcome by a powerful urge to roam and look for a mate every time their cycle comes along.  It’s not just females that are vulnerable either; even an unneutered male catches a whiff of a female in heat they’ll do just about anything to track them down.  Your cat could bolt out the door the second that you open it, chew through screens or spend hours casing the joint in hopes of finding a weakness in your home. If those urges carry them far enough away from the neighbourhood that they’re familiar with they could struggle to find their way back home. Again neutering or spaying a cat will significantly reduce a cat’s urge to escape in search of a mate.

 They don’t feel well 

If your cat  suddenly starts running away from you and it’s out of character this could indicate that it is not feeling well. When cats are ill they prefer to go somewhere concealed, quiet and isolated to recover on their own without any disturbances and they may decide that the most peaceful spot for them is not in your home.  Keep in mind that in the wild a sick cat instinctively understands that they are weak and more vulnerable to predators; they isolate themselves to keep their sickness a secret protecting them from local predators.  Likewise, if your cat is on the verge of dying they may wander off in search of solitude and not be able to make it home again. While many people neglect to do this you should take your cat in for regular vet visits to make sure they’re in good shape. 

They want to claim more territory

Cats have an insatiable thirst for acquiring new territory.  Once your cat has become completely comfortable inside your home environment they may desire to expand their kingdom. That means venturing out beyond the limits of your house. That’s especially true if there are other outdoor cats in your neighbourhood. If your cat sees these other cats encroaching on their territory they may feel the need to get out there and show those cats whose boss. It is suggested that male cats are likely to have much larger territories than females.  Neutering helps lower your cat’s desire to go out and conquer new lands reducing the chance of getting lost.

They want to hunt

Cats are known for their strong hunting instincts. They love to hunt and chase prey animals.  Your cat may be distracted while chasing a rodent or they may be lured to explore further afield before they know they’re lost and far from home. GPS trackers have shown that younger cats are more likely to roam long distances to search for prey.  The urge to hunt is deeply ingrained in your feline and you won’t be able to turn it off, but you can redirect their energy by actively playing with them, offering them plenty of stimuli like toys and even getting a second pet.  If they have enough of a challenge your cat won’t be tempted to hunt outside.

They’re cheating on you

If you have an outdoor cat that leaves at the same time every day or one that will disappear for days at a time before coming back there’s a good chance that they have another family somewhere nearby. Other friendly humans may have taken a liking to your cat and begun feeding them or even letting them inside their house regularly.  Maybe they have tastier treats or show them more affection than you do. It’s very common for cats to make friends with other people in the area.  Consider putting a collar with ID on your pet so it’s clear to other people that they have an owner.  

Something has spooked your cat

Cats are super sensitive little animals. When they get frightened one of their strongest instincts will be to get away from whatever scaring them. Many outdoor cats have been run off by a neighbour’s dog. If there has been a thunderstorm or some fireworks nearby your cat may suddenly get a way to protect themselves.  This is why you should never tease your cat.  Scaring your pets with cucumbers or other objects could cause your kitty to run away for safety.  Remember what’s amusing to you is not always fun for your cat one of the basic needs a cat has is to feel safe and secure in your home. 

They’re feeling neglected

If you leave your cat alone at home for long periods of time or don’t give them as much attention and affection as they need, they could go searching for love elsewhere. While your cat’s independent nature may tempt you into thinking that they don’t need you, studies have proven otherwise. A lonely cat is prepared to run off at the first opportunity likewise if you fail to provide your cat with enough food,  proper care or anything else they need to survive and live a good life they may run away from home. It doesn’t take much to meet your cat’s needs for attention, so try to carve out a few minutes every day to play with them and give them a few scratches.  It’s good for them and It’s good for you too. 

They are curious

Cats also run away because they are curious animals who love to explore the world.  Maybe your cat likes chasing insects or butterflies, maybe they got distracted by a neighbour’s kid or a bird. If there is something enticing nearby your cat is likely to roam away from home. In big cities cats have been known to gang up and back alleys. Your feline friend may be drawn to the idea of having lots of new friends. On a similar note don’t forget that cats fight other cats they have been known to damage limbs,  blind other cats and rip off ears. Your kitty may be simply too injured to get home. 

Can cats find their way home

Cats have great intelligence and acutely developed senses but there is no guarantee they will always be able to find their way back home.  Some will be able to get their bearings from their environment but others may escape to the point where they lose these bearings and put their safety at risk. Assuming your pet will come back on their own, is wrong and potentially dangerous. When they are lost some cats find their way back home because they leave all factory traces along the way, they rub their head,  scratch trees and pee to diffuse their pheromones and leave a trace for them to find later. Some evidence supports the idea that cats are even able to use the Earth’s geomagnetic fields to locate their homes.  However,  some cats may keep moving in the wrong direction and not being able to make it home again. As we explained there are many reasons why your cat may have disappeared and there are many circumstances where they return sometimes weeks and even months later. All cats have a homing instinct whether they are indoor outdoor or stray cats however much like people having a sense of direction some cats may have stronger instincts than others and be able to follow the trail home more effectively. If your cat is lost the first thing you should do is look for it in the immediate area. You can also publicise them on social media,  put out flyers check with shelters and speak to your local vet. If your cat has a microchip then a vet can scan them and call you using your up-to-date information. 

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