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Why Does My Cat Keep Leaving The House?

If your cat keeps leaving the house you may be wondering why and what you can do about it…

Why does my cat keep leaving the house? 

While your cat has toys and meals on a regular schedule at home, they are also very territorial and curious. Your cat might want to make sure that other cats aren’t coming into their territory or they might want to explore at night. Don’t forget that they might also want to look for a mate! 

So, now you know. But, could they be keen to hunt? Are indoor cats even happy staying in? What can I do to prevent it from leaving me? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Could a cat try to leave because of boredom or hunting?

A cat outdoors next to a tree staring.

A cat outdoors next to a tree staring.

Cats are predators to the core, and while they might love their cat food, they’re still genetically wired to seek out and hunt their own prey. A final possibility is also that your cat may simply be bored – if this is the case, a few new toys might help to minimize their attempts to leave but there are no guarantees. Some cats simply love being outside!

Are indoor cats happy inside?

It really depends on the cat. A cat that has spent most of its life indoors might have no inclination whatsoever to go outside, or the opposite might be the case. The same goes with homeless cats that you rescue.

Some are used to hunting on their own and will always want to go outside when they can, while others have had bad experiences outside and want no part of it. The best answer for this question would probably be ‘Indoor cats CAN be happy outside, but not all of them will be.’

How can I prevent my cat from trying to leave the house?

There are a few things that you can try. Distracting your cat whenever you go to open the door is one option and you can do this with a handy laser pointer. Get them to chase it as far away from the door as possible so that you can quickly get out – you’ll just have to be careful coming back in because they might be waiting!

There are also ‘spray barrier’ products that you may purchase and you can spray these on the door in order to give your cat a bad-scent association with the exit. Finally, some cat owners consider spaying or neutering their cat, if they have not already.

Some say this tends to calm cats quite a bit and they also say it may be less inclined to always ‘make a run for it’ when you open the door.

How can I stop my cat from leaving my house?

Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot that you can do, beyond making sure that guests and roommates know to keep a close eye on the door. There are distractions you can use, of course, like throwing a rubber ball and going out when the cat is chasing it, and there are ‘spray barriers’ which you can use to spray the door to keep the cat away.

Ultimately the best option is to give your cat some more toys to keep them occupied and hope that they lose interest in going outside.

How can I get my cat back in if it leaves the house?

The best thing that you can do is to go looking for your cat, calling out to them so that they can hear your voice and come to you. You should bring along some treats if you have them and move slowly – sometimes when a cat gets outside, they get overwhelmed and frightened, so your cat might just be in a bush nearby scared and uncertain what to do.

If you are unable to find your cat right away, be sure to put out a food bowl and water. Cats are usually pretty good at finding their way home and this way you might catch them on the porch or even hear them – most cats when they find their way back, will let you know that they are there and that they want back inside.

Do cats come back home after they run away?

More often than not, yes. Cats are very good at finding their way home and after a bit of time hunting, tussling with other cats, and possibly looking for a mate your cat will get hungry or simply miss you and the comforts of home and they will come back to you.

That said, it is good to go out looking for them, because cats sometimes get frightened and there are very real dangers for them, such as cars or being picked up by animal control. Be sure to check local shelters regularly to make sure that your cat hasn’t been picked up and try to find them outside if you can.

Do cats remember where they live?

An orange cat outdoors.

An orange cat outdoors.

While we don’t fully understand it, cats seem to have a ‘homing instinct’, and there are lots of stories out there about owners who have moved to a new home, only to have their cat get outside accidentally, which they then found waiting at their old address!

Science doesn’t have an explanation for this, but it’s quite uncanny. However they do it, cats definitely seem to know where they live to the point that they can locate it from many miles away.

Do cats get stressed when you leave them for work?

Cats are creatures of habit but they are also quite social, so your cat probably doesn’t like it much when you leave the house to go to work. Some even develop separation anxiety, become distressed, and often ‘acting out’ because they feel abandoned when you are leaving them.

More commonly, however, your cat will learn your daily routine and will adjust to it, perhaps even greeting you at the door when you return. They are more likely to be stressed when you go ‘off schedule’ and leave them to visit your friends.

Despite appearances, a cat’s day is a very scheduled and routine thing, and they really dislike it when something doesn’t go according to schedule. If your cat shows signs of being depressed, such as eating less or even acting out by going potty somewhere besides the litter box, then it may well have a case of separation anxiety.

Your vet can help you by means of medications in some cases or by referring you to an animal behavioral specialist to help your cat to learn to function more independently.  

Why does my tomcat keep leaving & returning?

Tomcats love to hunt, explore and are fiercely protective of their home territory. As such, your cat is either practicing its hunting skills, making sure other cats don’t come into the yard, and might even be keeping an eye out for a mate.

Cats are predators, at their core, and they have a natural instinct for this type of behavior – even if your cat is normally an indoor cat. If this behavior is a problem, you might consider having your cat spayed or neutered. This can help to calm such behaviors down to a more manageable level and your cat may even lose interest in ‘patrolling the yard’.

How can I prevent my adult tomcat from leaving home?

 The best thing to do is to distract your cat from the door. Use a laser pointer, a rubber ball, or you can even wait to feed them until you are just about to leave so that they are too occupied to bolt through when you open the door.

As mentioned earlier, for male cats, neutering has been considered an option by other cat owners, as this is believed to calm down territorial cats, but there are no guarantees – cats want what they want and yours may still want to go outside. At that point, it boils down to distraction and making sure that everyone knows to keep a close eye out whenever the door is opened so your cat cannot escape.

Lindsey Browlingdon