Although researchers have gained some insight into understanding how lost animals can find their way back home, a cat’s ability to do so remains a mystery.
My non-scientific guess is that cats are determined to not let other creatures such as birds, bees, fish and dogs get the upper hand on them, as well as to get back to their safe and warm bed.
A Cat’s Curiosity Is Hard to Keep Down
Indoor cats are sometimes anxious to explore the world outside. Cat owners often allow their pets this opportunity, letting them stay outside all day, knowing they will be ready to comes indoors again as night falls. The more exposure your kitty has to life outside the house, the more familiar she will become with that area.
In the wild, cats are forced to hunt for food, often traveling long distances to find it. If they don’t find their way back to their home ground, their chance of survival grows slim. It’s a predator-eat-prey world out there, and misplaced cats often strut the line between hunter and hunted. Coyotes, wolves and even bears find cats a tasty treat. On the other hand, cats do their fair share of damage: it’s estimated that cats are responsible for killing 3.7 million birds annually!
Here’s a video describing a study by the University of Georgia to find out what cats do when they’re not sleeping (usually in a pool of sunlight) in your home:
Regardless of the dangers he may encounter on the outside, once a cat becomes familiar with the land around him, he can scout out different routes to take him from one location to another.
The Extraordinary Senses of Cats
Felines are terrific observers of their surroundings; they also use their senses of hearing and smell to make mental maps of expeditions they take.
It has also been suggested that cats use magnetic fields or the sun’s position as a compass of sorts to create memorable routes through the outside, though this theory has yet to be confirmed.
When Your Cat Decides to Take an Unannounced Vacation
If your indoor cat accidentally gets out of the house, he will most likely follow paths he may have previously taken, but curiosity may tempt him to venture into the great unknown.
If you discover he is missing, don’t be alarmed. Check the immediate area. If frightened, he may have curled up in a neighbor’s shrubbery. Listen for a shrill howling sound, which he may send out if he feels intimidated. Parked vehicles also make the perfect hideout, so be sure to check under them when searching for your kitty.
If there is still no sign of your cat the next morning, alert your neighbors that he’s missing and post flyers around your neighborhood. Chances are that he will combine his instincts and senses, retrace his steps and return home safely, unaware of the stress he has put you through.
Finding Home Is Never Impossible
For better or for worse, spending a life indoors does not disengage the survival tactics with which cats are born. Felines seem to live by the motto “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and have a high rate of “landing on their feet” when faced with adversity.
As you ponder if cats have internal GPS within their furry bodies, let me share this cat’s story: A Persian kitty named Howie was left with relatives who lived 1,000 miles away from his home while his owners went on vacation. When the owners arrived to pick Howie up on their way back home, they were saddened to learn that Howie had run away. Feeling that there was no way their indoor cat could survive in the elements of nature, the family feared the worst.
Imagine their surprise one year later when Howie suddenly appeared — a little ragged and worn-looking — but safely back home from his mysterious travels, where he belonged.