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My House Cat Escaped, Will It Come Back?

If your cat has escaped you may be worried about and wondering if it will return home to you…

Will my house cat come back after it escaped?

Usually, yes, but where it can get complicated is with rescue cats or cats obtained when they are a little older. Cats seem to imprint on their ‘home’ location, so when you bring home a cat it is important to make sure that they stay inside for a few weeks before you let them go outside.

Kittens should stay inside for no less than 5 months and older kitties should have a minimum of 2 up to 4 weeks inside, though 6 weeks is even better – this gives the cat time to ‘learn’ their new location, so that if they get lost outside, they can find their way home.

Failing to do this can result in your kitty getting lost, or with older cats they may try to find their previous home, so you will want to be patient and let your cat adjust to their new home before letting them explore the world outside.

Why has my house cat escaped?

A black and white cat outdoors in the bushes.

A black and white cat outdoors in the bushes.

If you’ve just brought your kitty home, everything is new and the odds are that they are very frightened. While you wouldn’t think it, with how ‘mysterious’ cats can seem, they are very much creatures of habit. Any changes to their environment can lead to stress and older cats often remember their former home and may seek it out!

You want to make sure that when you find your cat you keep them inside for no less than 6 weeks if they have already escaped once. It may be a good idea to keep them in a particular area where they cannot ‘make a run for’ the door when you go to work.

It takes a while, but your cat will adjust, and once they know where home is then you can worry less about letting them go outside if it’s safe and they wish to.

How can I prevent my house cat from escaping in the future?

First off, if you haven’t spayed or neutered your cat, now is a good time to consider this. Spaying or neutering your cat can calm aggressive and territorial behaviors, and it’s also good for their health – with reduced chances of certain cancers being among the benefits.

Aside from this, spray repellents such as citrus oils smell good to humans, but not so great to cats, and spraying around the door may help to keep them a day. Unfortunately, the best option is going to be simply distracting your cat before you leave every day.

Tossing a rubber ball, for instance, for your kitty to chase can work, just don’t do it only once – give them a little playtime before you leave and this may placate your cat so that they allow you to go without running for the door.

Do house cats like being indoors?

Some do and some don’t. Many cats are perfectly happy spending all of their time indoors, mostly those cats that have been raised inside since they were kittens. Older cats that have spent a little time outside, however, tend to still want to go out.

If you want to allow your cat outside but you are worried, you could invest in a GPS collar as a compromise. This will let you track your cat real-time so that you can look for them if they do not come home.

Is it cruel to keep a house cat in all the time?

No, it is not necessarily cruel to keep a cat in the house all of the time – ultimately it depends on the cat. Some cats LIKE being inside and would become very uncomfortable if you took them out. Cats are creatures of habit, so they adjust very quickly to what they consider to be the ‘norm’.

If you can provide toys to keep your cat occupied and comfy spots around the house or apartment, most cats will be perfectly happy living inside.

So, give your cat plenty of things to do and see what happens. If they still want to go outside, just make sure that they spend 4 to 6 weeks at home so that they know how to find home if they get too far away!

What can happen to an escaped house cat?

The world outside can be cruel and the biggest danger to escaped house cats is generally automobiles. A frightened cat is already on edge and they don’t understand the dangers, so if you live close to a highly trafficked area it is best to keep your kitty indoors.

Stray dogs and cats are another danger, and even animals such as possums or raccoons can hurt your cat while they are outside. You could consider investing in a GPS collar and if you will be allowing your cat to go outside, consider installing a microchip pet door.

These are pet doors that only open when your kitty gets close, as a microchip in their collar will lock and unlock the door. This gives your cat a way to let themselves in and it can be a godsend if they have attracted the attention of an outside animal and need to run to safety!

Can an indoor cat find its way back home?

Yes, indoor cats can find their way home, but you need to make sure that they are home for up to a month and a half so that they can ‘imprint’ their location. Believe it or not, tests done as far back as 1954 involved putting cats in large mazes to see if they could find their ‘home’ location.

Most of the cats did exactly that.

Cats seem to have a homing instinct that is quite effective, enough so that you really need to keep rescue and other older cats indoors for at least 6 weeks to make sure that they don’t try to find their own home.

Cats can get lost, just like we do, but that instinct is very strong once they have learned where ‘home’ is. How strong? Well, in the UK, one kitty named ‘Molly’ found her way home from 200 miles away!

So, keep your indoor cat inside for up to 6 weeks so that they can learn where home is – that way if they get lost, there’s a good chance that they can find their way back.

How can I attract my cats back home?

A gray cat staring while standing outdoors.

A gray cat staring while standing outdoors.

The best thing to do, aside from the active searching that you’ll already be doing, is to leave food, water, and even the litter box outside for your cat. Sometimes when they get out, they don’t go far, but these animals are excellent at hiding – one of the perks of being a sneaky predator.

Once your cat calms down, they’ll realize that they are hungry, and try to find their way home. With a little luck, your cat will eat their fill and start meowing on the porch to be let inside.

Aside from this, be sure to show your neighbors pictures and share your number, telling them to call you and to not try approaching your cat. Put up some notices around the neighborhood, as well, and with a little luck you’ll find your kitty soon so that you can take them back to their home.

How long can cats survive missing?

Usually, your cat should come home within 24 hours, up to 10 days of leaving. That said, cats are efficient hunters and they have excellent survival instincts. Some have survived being away from home for years!

If your cat hasn’t been spayed or neutered, then they might be out looking for a mate. Keep searching outside in your free time and be sure to post lots of flyers around and show the neighbors pictures of your cat. With any luck, you’ll get a call, or your kitty will come back on their own.

Just give it time and hope for the best – cats are efficient little predators, so the odds of survival are actually quite high.

Can cats smell their way home?

Actually, yes, cats can smell their way home. Cats have many scent glands all over their body, in places such as their faces and paws, and your kitty is leaving an ‘olfactory trail of breadcrumbs’ as they go that can easily help them to find their way home.

As long as your cat has been spayed or neutered, they shouldn’t go far, but if they haven’t then it may be a while before your cat comes back – they’ll try to find a mate from miles away if they catch their scent!

That said, they do leave a scent trail that can help them find their way back once their ‘mission’ has been accomplished.

Lindsey Browlingdon