Cats are not known for their loyalty, at least compared to dogs, however there are some amazing stories of cats returning home to their humans over tens, hundreds and even thousands of miles. These stories clearly show that at least some cats are very loyal to their humans. Some people believe that cats have a “homing” sense like pigeons, migratory birds, sea turtles, bees and salmon. So if your cat is lost, there is hope. Also remember that unlike dogs, cats are perfectly capable of living in the wild without your help.
If your cat has disappeared and you are looking for immediate answers, skip to the bold questions below for immediate practical advice. However, when you are done reading these, be sure to read the rest of the article because it will provide context, hope, and some amazing stories.
One cat named “Sooty” returned to its old home, when its family moved 100 miles away to their new home. This behavior of returning to a previous home appears common among cats. So if you have moved recently, it is a good idea to check and see if your cat has returned to your old home.
This is nothing compared to the story of “Pooh”. Pooh was a two year old tomcat loved by his family, but unfortunately the family’s two year old daughter was allergic to animal fur. The family gave Pooh to a friend when they moved from Long Island to Georgia. Several months later the family moved to South Carolina. Despite this Pooh showed up at his family’s new home about a year later. This is a journey of over 700 miles that included crossing many rivers, busy roads, and mountains. The fact that Pooh had never been to the family’s new home makes this story all that more incredible. Pooh clearly shows that some cats are incredibly loyal to their humans.
Mehmet Tunc grew up in Turkey but worked in Germany. In 1981 he took his family to Turkey on holiday, including his cat Minosch. While in Turkey, Minosch decided to disappear. The family was heartbroken, spoiling their holiday. Unable to find Minosh, they returned to Germany with heavy hearts. One day the mother heard some scratching on the door. She opened the door and their was Minosch looking a little ragged. Minosch had traveled 1485 miles in 61 days according to the family, crossing international borders, mountains, rivers and busy roads to get back home.
Silky is another story of a cat who found his new home that he had never seen. Silky was traveling with the father and his sixteen year old son of his human family about 200 miles north of Brisbane (Australia) when he dissappeared in the summer of 1977. Two months later the family moved to a Melbourne suburb, sure they would never see their cat again. Then about a year later Silky shows up at their new house, not looking so silky and smelling. This was a trip of over 1400 miles to a house that Silky had never visited before, probably having used up eight of her nine lives.
The record for the longest reunited trip goes to Sugar a two year old part Persian. Unfortunately, Sugar had a hip deformity that made her uncomfortable on long car rides. The family decide to give Sugar to a friend when they moved from California (USA) to Oklahoma. Sugar decided she did not like her new home and disappeared two weeks later. Fourteen months later she showed up at the families new home in Gage Oklahoma. This meant that she had two cross two mountain ranges, deserts and interstate highways all with a bad hip. She traveled 100 miles a month for a total of 1500 miles as the crow flies. How Sugar was able to do this no one can explain, but imagine the stories she could tell if only we could communicate with cats.
I do not have any personal stories of my cats performing such feats. Do you? If so please share. I did have a calico and a black barn cat that I had to leave with my sister when I moved. I could not take them with me when I had to move for work. After a year I returned to my sister’s house. She had a number of other cats. I wondered if my cats would even recognize me. I showed up and asked my sister where they were. She said they were outside somewhere, so I went out onto the deck and called their names. Nothing.
I was not worried, they would show up sometime I thought. Then I remembered that I used to call out “turkey treats” to get them to come home at night. I would give them these treats that supposedly tasted like turkey. I never tried out the treats to find out lol. The black barn cat came running as fast as she could. She certainly remembered the treats and seemed fairly affectionate to me although somewhat confused.
The calico was a little more coy sauntering up, but she kept her distance for ten to fifteen minutes when she saw I did not have any “turkey treats”. Both cats warmed up to me on the ride to my new house and lived out long happy lives in their new home.
Another time, the black barn cat went missing for several days. She was a hunter and it was not unusual for her to stay out a night, but when one night became three, I decided to check out the local shelter. The animal officer lead me to a large room with cats all over in stacked cages. All the cats started mewing when I came into the room. I looked around, but there lots of black cats all mewing and calling the cat’s name accomplished nothing. Then I decided to call out “turkey treats”, a tradition that had not continued at the new house. All the cats went quiet except one.
There are numerous stories of cats that have been reunited with their owners because of their owners implanted them with RFID chips such as these:
Manruta Pet ID Microchips for Small Dogs and Cats 1.4X8 MM Size 134.2Khz ISO 11784/5 FDX-B Standard 5 Pack per Lot
If you only need a single RFID chip this kit might be a choice.
Do Cats Have a Homing Instinct?
A homing instinct is explained in biology as the innate ability of some animals to return to their home after being released. It is clear from the stories above that some cats seem to have this ability. Several animals are thought to have the homing instinct including homing pigeons, which have been used for years to send messages over long distances. Homing pigeons have been instrumental in delivering messages in war time, but there are also stories of pigeons used by merchants to know what happened in a distant market that will shortly affect prices in their home.
There have been a couple of scientific studies of cat’s “homing instinct”. According to the Lost Pet website there have been two scientific studies on cats’ homing instinct. One all the way back in 1922 and another in 1954. In the 1922 study a cat with kittens was taken out from 1.0 to 16.5 miles from her home and released eight times. The cat was transported inside a gunny sack and then placed under a wooden box. The box was opened remotely and the cat observed. Since the cat had kittens she was highly motivated to return home.
The mother cat returned seven of the eight times taking up to three days to get home. In the final test, where she was taken 16.5 miles away the mother cat never returned.
In the 1954 study cats were placed in a maze with four exits. When the cats were placed in the maze most were able to find the exit that was closest to the direction of their home. However, if the cats were transported more than three miles, their ability to select the correct exit decreased. These studies did not reveal how cats’ homing instinct works. In fact, the homing instinct of all homing animals is poorly understood.
Will my cat come back home?
As the stories above show, cats have an amazing ability to find their home, which should give you hope. If you have not moved recently, then your cat almost certainly knows how to find its way home. Male cats that have not been neutered routinely take multi-day trips. Many people jump to the conclusion that their cat has been killed by a fox or a coyote, however as I pointed on in my article on Cat Houses it is unlikely that either of these animals would kill your cat. A more likely culprit is a Bobcat.
If your cat has not returned home for several nights be sure to check your local animal shelter. As I explained above I found my black barn cat there. In her case a neighbor had trapped her because he thought she was disturbing the birds he was trying to attract.
Another point to remember is that most cats actually have several homes, as this article, Is Your Cat Two-Timing You, points out. So if you cat has gone missing, you may want to check with your neighbors.
According to this article, Lost Pet Statistics, about 15% of cats go missing sometime during their lifetime. About half of them are found with a month and 20% within three days. The most common place the cats were found was at a neighbor’s house and most cats returned home on their own.
If your cat goes missing, stay calm as most cats return home within several days on their own. Also remember that your cat is perfectly capable of living on its own in the wild. According to some experts frantically calling for you cat is more likely to drive them away than get them to come home. Some experts suggest just hanging out on your porch having a conversation with a friend or your spouse and often your cat will just wander up. This is much more effective than calling out your cats name frantically. Another suggested technique is to leave your garage door open a crack and putting your cat’s food bowl in the garage.
Do cats come back home after they run away?
Yes, around 75% of cats return home after they run away. Some cats have even found their humans when they have moved tens, hundreds or even thousands of miles away. We have no idea how cats are able to do this.
If you have moved recently, it is a good idea to check if your cat has moved back to your old house. This is very common behavior and for this reason veterinarians suggest that you keep your cat indoors for a week or longer when you move.
How to get a cat to come home at night
If you have a male cat that has not been neutered, then it will be very difficult to get him to come home every night. Treats can be a very effective way to get your cats to return home at night. Calling out your name for these treats, instead of your cat’s name is the best way to habituate your cat to coming home at night.
How do cats know how to get home?
The short answer is that we don’t know. As the stories above point out not only can some cats find their home that is hundreds of miles away, they can also locate their family that has moved to a new location.
In researching this issue, I found that the “homing instinct” is not very well understood. There have been a lot of hypothesis, including just following visual cues. There seems to be some evidence that salmon follow scent clues. Some people have hypothesized that cats and birds with the homing instinct can sense magnetic fields. This is called magnetoreception although exactly how they do this seems to be poorly understood. In addition, celestial orientation has been proposed or some combination of these may be used by animals with a homing instinct.
Why do female cats run away from home?
Female cats are less likely to run away from home than male cats and both are less likely to run away if neutered. Most likely your cat did not run away from home, it just has another home or two also, as the article, Is Your Cat Two-Timing You, points out. You should first check with you neighbors to see if your cat is “two-timing you”. If you have moved recently, then your cat may have returned to your old home.
Can indoor cats find their way home?
As the stories above show cats have a keen homing instinct. This may be blunted somewhat for an indoor cat from lack of use, but it still exists. It is unlikely that your indoor cat will go far if she is let outdoors for the first time. In fact, studies of cats have found that most of the time do not travel far from home. Usually, they do not go more than 50 yards and find a nice place to take a nap in the sun.
While cats are capable of traveling long distances, they are designed for short bursts of speed. Cats are stalkers and only move fast for short distances to catch their prey. Dogs on the other hand are designed to run at a moderate pace for long distances. As a result, most cats will only travel long distances if absolutely necessary.
How do I get my cat to come home?
If you cat goes out regularly and you want to train it to come home when you call, then you should use treats to get them to come home. Instead of calling out your cats name, which will probably cause them to not come home, call out the name of the treat and shake the box of treats. This will habituate them to come when they hear you calling the treat and shaking the box.
If your cat has been missing for awhile, then just sitting outside in the evening and having a normal conversation has been shown to be effective. Frantically, calling their name will likely drive them away. Also leaving a garage door cracked with some food is often effective. Another technique is to leave some your clothing with their scent near a door. Unless you have moved recently your cat is probably not far away. Most cats eventually return home.
Cat ran away from new home
Cats are territorial animals and when you move them to a new home it is not their territory. As a result, many cats return to their old territory (your old house). You should check out if they have returned to their old home, even if it is a long distance away as the stories above show.
This is why most veterinarians suggest keeping your cat indoors for a week or two when you move to your new home. But do not lose hope, as the stories above prove cats will go to extraordinary lengths to be reunited with their humans.