Six reasons why cats run away from home

Cat lazing on a bench outside
(Image credit: Getty)

Sadly, lost cats are fairly common, it’s all too often you stroll past missing cat posters attached to a streetlight or bus stop. Behind this poster will be a very upset and worried owner waiting for some good news or the sound of their catflap opening.

When a cat goes missing out of the blue, many people assume it’s because a window or door has been left open when it shouldn't have, or they overthink whether or not they spent enough time bonding with their cats. If you’re wondering; is your cat sad and that’s why they’ve not returned home, quit while you’re ahead.

There are actually various reasons why a cat may slip out of your home and not return and it’s often not the owner's fault. After all, cats are predators with hunting blood running underneath their fur. As great as the best interactive cat toys can be these days, there is only so much stimulation they can offer your kitty before they might get distracted. But there are other factors that can cause cats to run away and these aren’t always obvious to humans from the surface. So keep reading to find out more reasons why cats go missing… 

1) Reproductive instinct/in heat 

Identifying whether or not your female kitty is in heat isn’t always very clear. Many people have to ask whether or not cats have periods, this is because, unlike humans, female cats don’t tend to bleed while in heat. If your female cat hasn’t been spayed (the surgical removal of a female cat's ovaries and uterus) then they are much more likely to wander out and about searching for someone to mate with. The longer this takes, the further from home your cat is likely to end up and this can lead to them getting lost.

It’s important to note that male cats aren’t exempt from wanting to mate with fellow cats. Although they don’t go through a heat cycle, the experts at BondVet say that if unneutered, they will reach reproductive maturity and display certain behaviors such as attempting to leave the house to find a mate 

2) Befriended by other humans 

To put it frankly, your cat could be cheating on you with other humans. Cats are very curious and are prone to entering strangers' homes attracted by new scents, sights, and sounds. Some people won’t be too welcoming of a nosy cat sniffing around their home but, of course, others are going to find your moggy just as cute as you do and will welcome a visit from your cat. Your cat may pay regular visits if there is food or another form of treats regularly on offer here as well. 

3) Hunting instinct 

Despite the fact you share a home with a domesticated cat and spoil it with some of the best cat treats, you shouldn’t be surprised if they disappear for a while and return back with a ‘gift’ in the form of a small dead animal such as a mouse or bird. Domesticated cats share an ancestral lineage with wild cats, who are known for their hunting. Depending on how far a cat’s hunting may take them, they may lose their bearings and not find their way home. 

4) Pregnant cat 

You might think that a pregnant cat will become more reliant on you as their owner while they carry their kittens and prepare for the birth. This is partly true, the Central Texas Veterinary Speciality and Emergency Hospital state that pregnant cats do tend to grow more loving and crave affection from you more, “However, some may become uncharacteristically irritable.” So don’t take it too personally if your moggy prefers time to herself while pregnant but just be wary that this could be a reason why your feline pet has run off. 

Cat strolling along a wall

(Image credit: Getty)

5) Stress 

Kittens and cats are creatures of habit, perhaps you are too, and this is why you got a cat to coexist with. Just like us humans, cats can feel all sorts of feelings when changes in our life are happening, such as moving or welcoming new members into the family like a baby or new puppy. If you’ve recently redecorated your house, had a baby, or even just switched up your routine, cats will sense this, and sometimes running away will be their coping mechanism. 

6) Sickness 

Your cat could just be getting old and frailer, making him or her take themselves somewhere quieter away from any disturbances. The same if your cat is sick and you didn’t know, they may have taken themselves off to seek a secluded place to rest in. Or your cat may have been injured or become ill while out exploring and they haven’t been strong enough to travel back home to you. 

The thought of losing a cat is naturally a very concerning one, after all, they do become family. You may be left questioning, can cats find their way home? We can bring you some comfort on this matter and answer other concerning queries you may have such as why is my cat crying? 

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.