If you’ve been caring for cats over a significant period of time, you will know that one of the biggest tragedies in the whole process, second to the passing of a pet, is when your pet goes missing. The uncertainty of what might become of them, along with the many dangers that we perceive of the outside world, a missing cat is often a very scary thought. However, looking into the matter deeply, we would come to realize that contrary to popular belief, a lot of cats run away due to a host of circumstances rather than just simply going missing.
Understanding cat psychology can be quite difficult. Your cat might go MIA and on initial viewing, the circumstances of it might be very confusing. After all, a lot of cats and kittens that were with you right after birth also seem to run away after a significant period of being with you. The actual truth is that while the circumstances of it might always seem off, the fact of the matter is that cats will almost never leave their immediate habitat willingly unless some external force has caused them to migrate to a different territory and afterward, for a host of different reasons, might be unable to make its way back home so let’s explore what both sets of factors might be that cause something like this to happen.
A host of factors might cause your cat to go away a bit too far from home or even outright leave. One of these common factors might be changing houses. Because cats are territorial by nature, their natural instinct will be to return to the habitat that they previously claimed as their own home, regardless of their connection to the owners of their new home. Can’t beat natural instinct, now can you?!
Often, cats that spend much of their time indoors with little exposure to the outside world might get dragged outside by the sight of a mouse or a squirrel. Cats, being the predators they are, will be tempted to give chase and if the chase drags out too far away from home, the conclusion of the chase will lead to the cat being in unfamiliar territories. Cats that are very timid and in unfamiliar surroundings are likely to be very frightened and as survival instincts kick in, they might choose not to go back home and instead, survival instincts will kick in and the cat will do whatever it takes to preserve its own life, going so far as to reject even the advances of its owner out of fear that calls to attract it out are actually going to endanger it.
Finally, getting injured or getting sick whilst being in unfamiliar conditions could also lead to survival instincts kicking in and the cat deprioritizing going back to familiar territories in favor of doing whatever it takes to maximize the likelihood of survival. This will include going into hiding for a period of time and staying away from external contact with living things.
Now, are these factors enough to keep your cat from going back home? Not necessarily. As I said, cats are very territorial creatures and despite their territorial nature sometimes causing them to be pursuing potential foes, it also led to them developing certain instincts that let them find their way back easier. One of these is an ability similar to that of pigeons called the homing ability.
The homing ability is the instinct of a cat to find its way back home. According to some scientific research, cats can detect magnetic radiations from the Earth and use the orientation of the magnetic fields acting on it as a guide to the direction it should be going to go back home. Science!
Unlike humans, cats also retain a lot of their memory. Using their heightened sensory capabilities to take in information from its surroundings, cats can use their sharp memory to remember exact details about their territory. So after a successful venture out, they can revert to their sharp memory collection and retrieval and use it to find their way back home.
However, that ability depends a lot on their ability to navigate their surroundings safely and confidently. Smaller, timid cats are likely to be overcome by fear more than their desire to return to familiar surroundings and as such, the fear is likely to take over as the guidance mechanism for survival, the poor little things! If your cat isn’t the dominant and outgoing type, it is vital that you keep it monitored and well protected to make sure it never gets lost, to begin with. It might be closer to you in proximity than you realize but the fear of the environment will mean that despite knowing its way back, it might opt against it.
Also, the unfortunate truth is that the world out there is wild and cats that you keep at home are to a degree, protected from it and therefore, are not adapted to the harsh reality of nature. Therefore, there is a good chance that if your cat has never had the taste of the wild before and you’ve kept it under your protection throughout the duration of its life, it’s not going to last long out there, even with all its built-in instincts for survival.
So sadly, it’s highly likely that your little friend probably isn’t still lost and most likely, has given away to the force of Mother Nature, like most of the animals that exist out in the wild. And we all like to hope for the best and in most cases, I would do the same too. But most domestic cats that go missing don’t end up coming back and it’s likely that yours won’t either. But don’t give up the search as long as you think sufficient time hasn’t passed.
This isn’t meant to be a sad piece but rather, it’s meant to highlight the importance of keeping your pets safe and monitored. If fate has it in store for you, then your cat is going to go missing and you can’t do anything about it but more often than not, due diligence and caution can keep you and your pet together for the duration of its lifetime.