Why do cats go missing for days at a time?

It’s not unusual for cats to go ‘missing’ from time to time.

Sometimes they may disappear for a few hours, other times you may not see them for a day or two.

It’s important to understand that these vanishing acts are perfectly normal. Felines, by their nature, are adventurous animals.

Their innate curiosity can see them wander away from home as they explore their surroundings, satisfying that predatory instinct.

Cats have an exceptional sense of direction so finding their way back is rarely a problem.

That won’t be of much comfort to a large portion of pet parents however, who will naturally begin to worry if their feline has been away from the house for longer than expected.

You know your cat better than anybody. If you have not seen them for a few days, and that is out of character, conduct a thorough search of the house before making your way around the neighborhood.

Why would a cat seemingly go ‘missing’ for extended time periods?

  • Your cat could be in heat. A cat in heat may leave the house to go off in pursuit of a mate. When your cat is in their heat cycle, try keeping all your windows and doors closed. If you haven’t seen your male cat in a while then it may be that he has picked up the scent of a female cat in heat and is currently scouring the neighborhood looking for her.
  • Hunting & primal behaviour. Hunting is a natural behavior for cats. The fact felines are born with a predatory instinct means that as soon as they sense a bird, a mouse or any other wild prey, the hunt is well and truly on. And it’s this thrill of the chase that can lead to them vanishing for hours at a time.
  • Lost in a new location. Moving home can be a stressful experience for humans, but even more so for cats. The new surroundings, along with a disrupted routine, may cause your feline great anxiety. Furthermore, while out exploring a new neighborhood they could quite easily lose their bearings resulting in them ending up lost.
  • Protecting their territory. Cats are very much seen as being territorial animals. This means that if someone, another cat for instance, is trespassing on their territory (your home), they may leave the comfort of the surroundings in order to warn of the unwelcome visitor, returning only once they’ve made sure they are gone.
  • They have found a new ‘home’. It may be that your cat has found somewhere else they feel safe and secure. Maybe a neighbor has been showering them with attention, or feeding them bowls of mouth-watering food. It could be because there has been major upheaval at home – a new baby, a new pet, even a change of diet. Once you eliminate the stressor you should find your feline spending more time in your company.
  • Your cat is injured or feeling unwell. The great outdoors does bring with it a number of potential dangers for felines including other animals, moving vehicles, even poison. When a cat is injured or sick, they may seek peace and solitude at a familiar location for a few hours. If you suspect you cat has been struck down by injury or illness, you need to find them and take them to a vet as soon as possible.
  • Somebody thought they were a stray. Not a common reason, but one that does occur. If your cat has been spending a lot of time in another part of the neighborhood, someone there might mistake them for a stray and take them to a local animal shelter.

How to ensure your cat does not go missing

Cats are part of the family so we know how terrifying and upsetting it can be when one goes AWOL.

Here are a few steps you can take to prevent them from going missing for days at a time. Consider having your cat microchipped, and have them wear an identification collar that displays your name and number.

This will greatly increase the chances of you and your cat being reunited if they do ever end up lost. These details should be kept up to date at all times.

Cats in heat are prone to wandering off in search of a mate. Likewise, male cats, once they pick up the scent of a cat in heat, can also quickly lose their bearings.

Having your cat spayed or neutered when they are around six months old should stop them from running away regularly.

Another good way of keeping track of your cat is to place a high-quality tracker on them.

A GPS tracking collar will let you know exactly where they are, whatever time, day or night.

Some pet parents want their cat to experience life outdoors, but are scared they’ll end up getting themselves into trouble.

Maybe they’ve been lost before, or they’re injured and would struggle beyond the perimeter of the house.

Buying a catio or another type of cat enclosure means your housebound feline can enjoy a bit of fresh air while remaining safe.

Finally, providing a comfortable and stimulating home for your cat, where there is a reliable routine in place, should ensure they never stray too far away.

In case they do ever go missing, be sure to have a recent photograph of them that you are able to use on flyers or social media.

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