Cats are curious creatures. As territorial animals, they like to know what is happening on their turf – and beyond. This can sometimes lead to a cat disappearing for days at a time.
There are many reasons why your cat may wander off for a few days. This guide will help you to demystify the reasons for your cat’s adventures in the wilds.
Why Do Cats Disappear for Days on End?
Cats often enjoy a wander, but it’s understandable to worry if they don’t return for days. Dome of the reasons for a prolonged absence could include:
- Your cat got lost. Cats learn their own territory very well. If they end upon strange turf, however, they may get lost. It’s possible that your cat was scared by another animal or loud noise and bolted. Maybe they chased a mouse or bird, caught up in the excitement of the moment. Either way, your cat may find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Try sprinkling some of their litter outside, along with other familiar scents, to guide them home.
- They dozed off somewhere, and got trapped. This is a common problem during the winter. A cat may be out wandering and seek shelter from a sudden rainfall or snowstorm. As a result, cats sometimes get locked in sheds or garages. Cats are notorious for sleeping under cars.
- Your cat needs some alone time. Some changes to your home can be substantial, such as a senior cat dealing with a new kitten. This can be overwhelming. In such cases, they may want to hide out somewhere else and gather their thoughts. Don’t try to force your cat to come home, or stay put. Felines can be very stubborn, and it could damage your relationship.
- Your cat is in heat. Cats that have not been spayed or neutered may spend prolonged periods of time seeking mates. We will discuss this in more detail elsewhere.
- Somebody else is feeding them. Some neighbors invite cats into their home, and feed them. If your cat prefers this alternative food, they are likely to stay around the other house. A cat is considered to belong to a human owner listed on a microchip. This leaves you with the option of legal recourse if your cat could be regarded as stolen. However, it is far better to come to a civil arrangement with the individual in question.
The fact is, cats sometimes have their own things to be getting on with too. Remember, these animals are very independent. If your cat always comes home eventually, try not to worry too much. However, you should always ensure that your cat can be identified while they wander.
How Far Do Cats Roam from Their House?
How far from home a cat wanders depends from case to case. Some felines have a very firm idea of what they consider their territory, and stay there. Other cats may want to claim more territory for themselves. Predatory cats may be distracted by chasing prey, and end up far from home.
A study in the Journal of Wildlife Management suggests that cats will stay within 200 meters of home. If your cat happens to go any further, the chances are they didn’t intend to. They could have been chasing a bird or a mouse. They may have been frightened by another neighborhood cat, and bolted. This could result in them becoming lost, and ending up further and further from home.
It is important that you get your pet cat microchipped. This tracking device means that, if a stranger finds your cat, a vet can identify them. It will set your mind at rest knowing that your cat is only a phone call away. You could also attach a collar to your cat’s neck with contact information.
Do Neutered Cats Wander?
Neutering, or a lack thereof, definitely has an impact on how much your cat will roam. A cat that has not been spayed or neutered will wander further than one that has.
The reason for this is the same as most cat behaviors – animal instinct. Cats that have not been fixed will come into heat. This could last as long as ten days, and it could happen every few weeks.
During this season, female cats that are not spayed will wail and caterwaul to attract males. A male cat that has not been neutered will look to answer that call. They’ll wander around looking for females to mate with, possibly fighting each other for the privilege.
Not only is this rather unromantic, but it also poses problems for the female cat’s owners. A litter of kittens needs to be fed and nurtured, which can be costly and time-consuming.
They will need a variety of vaccinations and treatments from a vet, after all. It may be advisable to spay female cats before letting them wander to avoid this. Likewise, if you have a male cat, it may be neighborly to have them neutered. This will prevent unwanted feline pregnancies, and prevent your cat from wandering too far.
How to Stop Cats Wandering
As mentioned, spaying and neutering is arguably the most impactful way of minimizing wandering. However, there are numerous other methods of keeping your cat at home.
- Establish a routine. Cats may not wear wristwatches, but they have internal body clocks. If they are confident they will always be fed at 7 pm, they’ll return home at 6.30.
- Minimize stress. If something has changed in your home, your cat may be finding it stressful. This could mean the arrival of a new houseguest or child, or just furniture being rearranged. Ensure your cat is comfortable in the house, with plenty of hiding places for some alone time.
- Let them be themselves. Cats are independent creatures, and don’t like having other ideals forced upon them. If your cat doesn’t like being handled, respect this. Constantly touching a cat that hates it will drive them away for a break.
- Make a fuss. Cats can turn from purring pets to angry animals in moments, but they will love attention. Ensure that your cat feels like part of the family. This means making a fuss of them on occasion – but only when they ask.
- Make your house their home. Perhaps most important of all, ensure that your cat has all their needs met at the time. That means the best possible food. That means treats on demand. That means comfy beds. That means scratching posts to climb. That means lots of toys – ideally updated regularly, so they do not become boring.
Sadly, if you won’t indulge these wishes for your cat, somebody else might. If you consider your cat to be part of the family, treat them appropriately. Given no reason to wander off, you’ll find that your pet stays very close.
Why Do Cats Go Missing When They Die?
It’s not something that we like to think about, but cats do have a finite lifespan. Sooner or later, our feline companions will find that their time is up. If we’re lucky, this will happen peacefully, at home, at a fine old age.
One thing that many cat owners have discovered, however, is that dying cats seek solitude. This is because these independent animals fear vulnerability. A sick or dying cat in the wild would be easy pickings for predators. Even domesticated housecats tend to withdraw as they age, hiding from their humans when they know the end is near.
All you can do as a cat owner at this challenging time is make them as comfortable as they will let you. This includes comforting, familiar smells such as blankets and clothing, and grooming wherever possible. An older, dying cat will struggle to keep themselves as clean as they would like.
Losing a pet is always an extremely trying time. Even more, if we don’t get the chance to say goodbye because the cat was hiding. As difficult as it may be, we need to respect our cat’s wishes during these times. Felines live their entire lives governed by instinct, and will not change with their final breaths.
A cat wandering off is a perfectly natural part of their nature. One of the reasons that we love these animals is their fearless and investigative nature. It suits all concerned to keep a lid on this wandering, though.
Neighbors may not like cats sniffing around their yard, and other animals may not be friendly. Also, a cat that develops a thirst for wandering may become reluctant to stay home.
Give your cat a happy and structured home, and ensure they are easily identifiable if they stray. This should be enough to make sure that your pet never ventures too far.
If they do start traveling far and wide, look into why – and how to stop it. The bravery and spirit of adventure bestowed upon cats is both a blessing and a curse. Those of us that love our cats are rarely comfortable unless we know they are home.