Limitations In Finding The Way
You may be reading this having lost a cat in the past, or even recently. Anecdotally, I also know of various occasions when cats have become lost and have not returned home, and a trip to any cat shelter will also confirm that this is extremely common. So why does this happen so often, if cats possess such excellent homing abilities? The answer is complicated, but it boils down to homing abilities having certain limitations as well.
Perhaps the most obvious limitation of a cats homing abilities is that it cannot compensate for various external factors. If a cat becomes lost, it may initially set off to go in the right direction, but run into obstacles. For instance, somebody could see the cat and let it into their home, the cat could become distracted or enticed in another direction, or the cat could be hit by a car, or attacked by another animal.
As previously stated, the most famous studies on the subject established that cats were good at returning home from distances of up to a few miles from home. However, this ability declines the further the cat roams. Therefore, if a cat is having to contend with longer distances, its ability will usually be significantly impaired. Of course, long distances increase the chances of the cat running into other obstacles along the way too.
Cat Sense Of Direction: Are Cats Really Able To Find Their Way Back Home
Feral cats seem to have a very good sense of direction, but is this true for pet cats? Luckily, there are some precautions you can immediately take to prevent your cat from getting lost. Discover them!
Cat sense of direction is a fascinating topic. Thats why news headlines often report incredible stories about cats who were able to find their way home years after they got lost. Just relying on the power of their senses, cats seem very good at getting their bearings. Although this may be true for feral cats, things are different for pet cats. Luckily, if you own a pet cat, there are some precautions you can immediately take to prevent your cat from getting lost.
Cats Short Term Memory
Studies have shown that not a lot of animals have short-term memory. In one study, 25 species were studied and the average short-term memory span was only 27 seconds. A dog has a memory span of two minutes.
Cats use associative memory to store away information that helps them survive. This means that they remember places where they are provided with food and shelter. These associative memories are what regulate a catâs behavior. For example, a cat will run into the kitchen whenever they hear the sound of a can being opened, even if their owner is simply opening a can of beans.
This associative memory is likely how your cat remembers you. Even though your cat may not remember specific interactions with you, it will come to associate you with food, shelter, and love. The fact that you provide the three things it needs to survive makes you quite unforgettable to your cat.
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How To Make An Indoor Cat Happy
In many cases, a cat that has gone missing has likely not been neutered. Keeping a neutered or spayed cat home will be easier and might prevent your cat from going after others in heat.
Brushing your cat and treating fleas is still very important even when your cat is not going outside. It is also important to give your indoor cat what they will find outside for their physical and mental wellbeing, such as:
- Catnip to satisfy their need for nature. Catnip is also known to aid digestion and promote regurgitation of hairballs once ingested. A godsend when you know that cats swallow quite a bit of hair during grooming.
- A clean and accessible litter.
- Toys as well as playtimethat mimics hunting. Even domesticated, cats still have a hunting instinct. Toys can vary from mice, pillows, and feathery toys.
- A cat tree will allow your cat to get higher from the ground. They can also sharpen their claws on it, without damaging your furniture.
- Hiding places where they can feel safe and not get disturbed.
- Reduced food portions. Since your cat will not be exercising outside, it is important to watch what they eat.
Whether it has gone hunting, mating, or is lost, it is essential to not waste any time once you have realised your cat has gone missing. You should contact and notify local groups as well as wardens and neighbours. If your cat comes back, you will only have to notify everyone of its return. If it does not, you can maximise your chances of getting your cat back.
Why Do Cats Disappear
The Lostpetresearch.com project also revealed that most lost cat homing incidents occur when a pet was accidentally transported away from its environment, e.g. crawled into a car at 22% 19% disappeared while away from home , 8% were lost due to intention , 5% were last in transit .
A noticeable 29% of homing incidences occurred when an owner moved and a cat returned to their old home .
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Top 10 Tips For Finding Lost Cats
Of the many cats Ive known over the years, Ive lost four. Two never returned. I know the heartbreak of looking for and missing a beloved cat. My cat Coco went missing many years ago in Toronto. I canvassed the neighborhood, put up posters and felt her presence nearby. I kept looking and calling but she was stuck up a tree, so high up I couldnt see her and she refused to make a sound. Finally, after being in stranded up a tree for two days and two nights, someone called me from the flyer who said hed seen her. A neighbor found the longest ladder Id ever seen and since the fire department didnt rescue cats, I put my fear of heights on hold and climbed up. With one hand on the ladder, I dangled Coco by the scruff of her neck from my outstretched arm to avoid being shredded and climbed down. A small crowd had gathered and cheered. Coco was rescued safely.
Cats seem to have a sort of homing instinct which in some cases have guided cats to travel hundreds of miles back to their home. Most indoor-only cats tend not to travel far. While an adventurous indoor/outdoor cat is more likely to roam, a scared cat may not trust their inner compass, get confused and get lost. Once a cat has wandered out of their comfort zone anything can happen to scare them further: Barking dogs, wildlife, loud traffic noise, teasing school kids, the list is endless.
Top 10 Tips For Finding Lost Cats
8) Visit all your local shelters even if say they dont have a cat of your description.
Can Cats Find Their Way Home
It seems like every week, news headlines highlight some amazing story about a cat that got lost in an airport or another busy place. The cat often miraculously finds its way back home, even if it takes months or even years.
The reality is that most lost cats never make it home. The reasons may be many, and the outcomes can be tragic however, the bottom line is that an indoor-only lifestyle is best and safest for your feline, with you making sure that your cat should never become one of the lost victims.
Its true that cats possess extraordinary sensory perception. Jeff Horn, a former graduate student in the University of Illinois department of natural resources and environmental sciences, and his colleagues recently studied outdoor cats. They determined that one feral cat had a home range of 1,351 acres. Conversely, the mean home range for pet cats in the study was less than 4.9 acres.
To handle any of these distances, cats put their incredible senses to work. Consider the following:
Smell Humans have approximately 5 million scent-receptive nerve endings in the nose. Impressive, right? But not when you consider that the average cat possesses 19 million of these scent receptors. Using scent alone, your cat can probably smell its way out of many situations.
Hearing Cats can hear sounds that are two octaves higher than what humans can detect. Cats may then perceive ambient sounds that can help them orient themselves.
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Introducing Your Cat To The Outside
It’s likely that your cat will want to go out and explore the garden and beyond. Our tips help ensure your cat can explore the outside safely when you let them out for the first time and make their way home again too.
Its best to make sure your cat is settled indoors and comfortable around you before starting to introduce your cat to the outside or letting them outside for the first time.
Some cats will immediately start wanting to go outside regularly, but some less-confident cats, kittens, or cats who might not have been outside before may want to build up the amount of time they spend outside.
Its important to let your cat explore outside in their own time. We wouldnt recommend using a harness, and you shouldnt pick your cat up and carry them outside. Both of these situations could potentially cause your cat stress and may result in them associating this negative feeling with going or being outside.
Important Steps To Prevent And Reunite Missing Cats
There are some steps for all cat owners to take that will help in case your cat does get lost.
First of all, ensure your cat has some kind of identification such as a microchip, tattoo, or collar with tag. In a 2014 study, only 67% of veterinary clinics recommended microchips for all cats compared to 86% who recommended them to all dogs , so ask your vet about a microchip if your cat doesnt already have one.
A collar is a visible way of showing that a cat belongs to someone, but will not enable people to contact you unless it has an identification tag. Some people dont like to use collars because they think their cat wont like it, or its not safe . Be sure to get a breakaway collar that will release if it gets stuck to something so your cat does not become trapped. It is easier to teach cats to wear a collar if you start when they are kittens, but adult cats can be taught to accept them .
In some places, tattoos in the right ear are used as an identification strategy. They identify the vet clinic that did the tattoo, the year in which it was done, and the animal. Once the clinic is contacted, it is then possible to contact the owner of a cat. Tattoos can become hard to read or illegible over time.
Permanent identification requires you to update the microchip registry any time you move house or change telephone number. If there is a central pet registry in your area be sure to register your cat and keep the information up to date.
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When To Let Your Cat Outside
If you have a new cat, or have moved to a new home, it is important not to let your cat out until they have adjusted to their new environment. This gives them a chance to spread their scent and find their own way home, and usually takes three to four weeks.
When you let your cat out for the first time, let them out before meal time that way, theyre more likely to want to return to eat.
Will My Other Cat Look For My Missing Cat
Some people wonder if their other cats will look for and maybe help them find the missing cat in their family. Eva Morchairs shared a success story like this on Quora:
Tofu didnât come home after being let outside to play. I stayed up all night worrying about her. Come morning, still no sign of her. I had another cat, Fifi, that wanted to go outside and play. Before I let her go outside I picked her up and held her face up to mine and made eye contact with her and asked her to go and find Tofu. I told her to go find her and bring her home. I gave her a small kiss on the nose and I opened the back door for her and let her go play. About twenty minutes later my mom called out to me Fifi and Tofu were both sitting on the steps outside my back door.
So, it seems like its worth a shot. You could try asking your other cats to help you find the missing one. But of course, this may not work, as the companion cats may not be willing to explore unfamiliar places in search of the lost one, in favor of their familiar territory.
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Owner Behaviors That Create Problems
Cat owners often behave in ways that actually inhibit their chances of finding their lost cat. They develop tunnel vision and fail to find their cat because they focus on wrong theories. They experience grief avoidance and quickly give up their search effort. They feel helpless and alone, often discouraged by others who rebuke them and tell them it was just a cat and youll never find your cat. But one of the biggest problems is that cat owners typically focus their search efforts by posting lost cat flyers and by searching the cages at the local shelter. Although these techniques are important and should not be overlooked, the primary technique to recover a missing cat should be to obtain permission from all neighbors to enter their yards and conduct an aggressive, physical search for the missing cat . Simply asking a neighbor to look for the lost cat is not sufficient! Neighbors are not going to crawl around on their bellies under their decks or houses to search for someone elses lost cat!
Ways To Find Your Lost Cat
If you’re the owner of an indoor-outdoor cat, you may be faced with a situation in which your kitty is suddenly missing. Even indoor-only cats may slip out the door unexpectedly. However, chances are your cat did go too far. Cats are very territorial . In fact, they will defend their territory at all costs. If driven out of their own territory by another alpha cat who is larger and more aggressive, cats will often seek safety indoors before running away. It’s more likely a cat has been unwillingly removed from the area, injured, or killed.
In order to find your cat, consider the possible reasons for his absence. This is the time to set aside emotions and evaluate the possibilities, with an appropriate action for each.
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Many Lost Or Relocated Cats Are Able To Find Their Way Home Again Even Over Vast Distances Using Their Homing Instincts
Feline behavior is often mysterious, misunderstood, and even miraculous. One of the most intriguing characteristics of cats is their ability to find their way home across vast distances. These homing instincts are well studied in many other animal species, including birds, bees and fish. But how lost or relocated cats find their way home remains a mystery.
Scientists have learned that migratory birds like geese use visual cues such as rocks and landscapes, as well as the orientation of the sun, moon and stars, to find their way. Salmon, meanwhile, use scent cues to return to their home waters thousands of miles away. Still other animals use magnetic cells in their brains to orient them to true north. Exactly how cats do it, however, remains a mystery. To date, all we have on this topic are anecdotal stories and two old and obscure studies:
1. The oldest of the studies, conducted by Francis H. Herrick in 1922, tested the homing instincts of a female cat who was motivated to return home because she had kittens there. She successfully made her way home seven times from seven different locations ranging from one to three miles away.
2. A 1954 study conducted by H. Precht and E. Lindenlaub in Germany involved taking cats to the center of a circular maze with six equally-spaced exits 60% of the time, the cats chose the exit nearest the direction their homes were in, when the homes were in a range of 3.1 miles.
Search For Your Cat At Specific Times Of The Day
Because cats are nocturnal, they are more likely to be active and walking around during the night and early morning. Cats particularly like this time of day because it is quiet, and feels safer to them because of the absence of cars. While the latter is good news to worried owners, the darkness can certainly hinder your search. We walked around our yard with flashlights and paid particular attention to the rustling of bushes in case Luna could be seen hiding among them.
Start At The House Work Outward
OK, assuming you didnt see your cat jet out the door, Albrechts first tip is to make absolutely sure your lost cat isnt still in the house. Once, a family contacted her, convinced a bobcat had killed their missing cat. After a few days, the family opted to adopt a new kitten. The homecoming of the mewing kitten triggered a noise from the houses chimneywhere the first cat was stuck.
Once youve searched inside, start searching around the outside of your house, under decks and porches, and in other smaller places where a cat could hide. If you own an indoor cat, its very likely they will be somewhere near your house, Albrecht says. If that search doesnt yield results, head over to your neighbors. But, she says, dont just ask whether theyve seen the cat, ask to search around their house like you did at your home. It might mean getting a bit dirty on your hands and knees, using flashlights to peer into dark places. Its up to you, not your neighbor.
They’re just not going to care that much to do that, so you need to do that, Albrecht says.
A 2017 study on missing cats measured how far away from home 477 cats were found. The median distance was about 50 meters from home. For indoor cats, the median distance was 39 meters128 feetaway.
Cats with access to the outdoorsones who might roam around the neighborhood freelywere often found farther away. Their median distance was measured at 300 meters, more than three football fields away, according to the study.