Finger pointing to an open map in car

How Far Can Cats Travel When Lost?

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Cats are known for their independence but when they don’t come home it can be a distressing experience for the owner. It’s not uncommon for a domestic cat to wander off.  Most are pretty self-sufficient and will just lose track of time or distance traveled.

When they arrive back on our doorstep, they’re often indifferent to our immense relief; they don’t know how stressful these little excursions are for the human waiting at home.

Even just the chance of this happening is enough for some owners to keep their cats indoors. We wanted to find out how far a cat can travel when lost to see what kind of search area an owner might need to consider if they’re worried about a missing cat.

Cat traveling on a train in a carrier

How Far Can a Cat Travel in a Day?

It’s not always the most helpful answer but the truth is that it can vary greatly.

It will depend on the cat’s personality to some extent but also on several external factors. For example, a cat could be shut in the back of a van and driven miles away from its territory. The gender of the cat plays a role, too.  Male cats wander further than females – 1500 feet compared to 750. It will also depend on whether they’ve been spayed or neutered.  Tomcats, in particular, may leave their territory to mate.

The relationship with other cats in the neighborhood may mean a cat is more likely to roam further away or stay closer to home. It’s important to remember that even though we think our cat is lost, they might feel otherwise and may just be taking their time and walking their territory as usual. With that in mind, it’s helpful to look at an average of how far cats can travel when they’re lost.

According to Dr John Bradshaw of the School of Veterinary Science at Bristol University and author of Cat Sense, most cats roam between 40 and 200 metres (131 and 656 feet) from the home.  One exception to this is farm cats who will cover a much larger area.

So, if your cat is missing, it may not be as far away from your house as you think.

Missing Animal writes that an outdoor cat has a radius of around 17-houses from where it lives.  As there’s no exact measurement available (given so much is based on individual cats), it is, at least, a useful measurement for when you’re searching for a lost cat as it gives you an immediate area to canvas and search. Intrestingly, indoor cats were likely to be much closer within a 2-2.5 house radius.

But this is assuming that a cat is wandering around its territory.  The same way that you might clock up 5-miles just by walking around a mall or a theme park.

If a cat feels a need to move away from its territory, it can walk around 5-10 miles each day.  This would account for how cats have been found long distances from their home.  It may be that they’re trying to return somewhere they’ve been displaced from or that they’re entirely disorientated and walking in search of food.

It’s one reason that veterinarians recommend keeping a cat inside for at least 2 weeks after moving to a new home.  Cats do seem to have a homing instinct and there’s a great deal of anecdotal and documented evidence of pets attempting to return to old territories. We’ve written a post on how to move with an indoor cat as well as one about moving house with an outdoor cat if you’d like more advice.

Cats can memorize their way home and they’re blessed with an excellent sense of smell but if they’ve been scared or chased off their territory, they can quickly become lost.

How Far Could a Cat travel in 2-days?

A cat can travel between 10 and 20 miles in 2-days.

We hope this post has given you a better idea of how far can cats travel when lost. If you’re worried about a missing cat, there’s help available on Pet Hub.  If you’ve found this page useful, why not check out some of our other stuff.

Buying an outdoor cat shelter

Is your cat meowing a lot after the cattery?

How to travel with a cat in the car

38 thoughts on “How Far Can Cats Travel When Lost?”

  1. This was a very helpful article. I have been looking for my cat for almost 7 weeks. I’ve posted 250 flyers, printed 1000 postcards going door to door, posted on multiple social media pages, put an ad in the paper and have walked 150+ miles with no solid leads. As I talk to neighbors sometimes they know my cat is missing and sometimes not. With this article and the possibility of him traveling far might explain why we have not found him but I am never giving up until my Flynn is home! Thank you for your research I hope it helps me extend my search.

    1. Hi Claudia, so sorry to hear that Flynn is missing 🙁 I know some people who hang their cats blankets outside or even put used kitty litter in their yard in the hope the cat will pick up the smell. Wishing you all the best in your search and hope that he’s home soon xx

      1. Cats DO NOT navigate by smell. If you are going to give advice- at least know what you are talking about!!! Litter does not attract the lost cat- only other territorial cats and predators and the blanket would do the same as it has the cat’s marks on it.

    2. Hi Claudia, I too, lost a cat that was new to my home on Oct 19. I’m still looking and have done everything you have done. I will pray for your cat and mine to make it back to us.

      1. Hi i am in same situation, please add my two cats Khushi and Nimi, to your prayer list, im out searching now. MERRYLANDS NSW AUSTRALIA. Thank you.

      2. Our male, neutered cat went missing for 28 days. We also just moved to a new place and he got lost after 2 months in our new place. We thought we’d never see him again. He came home so thin and so hungry.

    3. Don’t give up! My boy was gone 14 months. He turned up starving , underweight, and ill. But we got him healthy again. I thought I would never see him again. What a surprise!

    4. I have been talking to a few animal communicators. I’m not sure the success of this yet. I have spent some money. It is nice knowing someone is feeding him, but also upsetting to be told they won’t let him out. This is more difficult for me than the death of a pet. The not knowing is the worst.

      1. Hi, my male neutered cat is missing. I’ve had him 11 years. It was the 2 of us the first 7 yrs. He’s very skittish with anyone but me. He’s my baby. He hasn’t ever liked my husband. He’s jealous. He has never had much to do with him. My husband talks loud… etc… jack has always been skittish with everyone. Disappears when company would come over and come out once they leave. He wanted in the garage to go to the litterbox in the back of the garage. My husband saw the garage door open and made a sudden move to close it. It scared jack and he ran. And this is the 3rd night he’s been gone. He’s always been an indoor cat. Has never been outdoors at night. Now it’s been 3…😥 I have put his litterbox outside in the garage, food out, and have actually left the door cracked so he could get in. It’s cold outside and I know he’s scared and hungry. I don’t know what to do. He’s very territorial and hated other cats even in our yard. He wouldn’t rest until they were gone. I am so scared… what else can I do?

      2. Professional Cat Recovery Experts like myself have never see any cat found by any information from a “communicator” and many times it just a distraction from what needs to be done- searching with flyers in hand, signs and feeding and filming.

    5. Thank you, I have found this article very helpful, as my daughters old cat has suddenly gone missing…she has been in her new house 18months. Her cat has been missing 2days…

  2. I’m very sorry to read of your losses. I too have lost my beautiful 12 year old cat Zoe on Nov 6…She is an indoor kitty and we have absolutely no idea how she got out. It was like she vanished. We have an open field area across from our home and we have had 2 sightings of her in the last 6 weeks. My husbands has put out cameras and we go daily to look for her. We put food out which we have filmed the other 2 cats in the area enjoying. We did a huge search the first 72 hours she was missing, did flyers, went door to door. I am just heartbroken as is everyone who loved her. We will continue to look everyday… and I do believe in miracles

  3. Hi
    I brought my cat to a new a new environment. When I released him in thgarden he smelt around for a few minutes and he then jumped the fence. He hasn’t came back yet and it has been nearly two days. His original home is around 1500 metres away. I’m afraid that he is trying to found his old home . Do you have any tips on what i should do.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Nasib, sorry to hear that your cat has got away. Often cats will come home even if it takes a few days but there are a few things you can do. If you have anything that smells of the cat like bedding, towels, etc then put those outside so the cat can smell them. It’s even better if you have cat litter (although, you may not still have that). Leaving food outside can help and calling when it’s getting dark might help as that’s when cats are most active and it may hear your voice. I’d get in touch with the new owners of your old house, too, and ask them to get in contact if they see your cat around. It might be useful to call for your cat in your old neighbourhood, too. It seems likely that that’s where the cat has returned to. Posting flyers etc in the neighbourhood might help as will letting any local cat rescues and vets know, too. It’s got to be such a tough time for you but don’t give up hope. Cats can disappear for weeks and then just walk in when they feel like it. Wishing you all the best and that your cat is home soon xx

    2. a true story that happened , my neighbours cat traveled about 10 miles for 5 months to get back home, that was a miracle that he arrived safe , because the trip is dangerous , cars wild animals, they find him waiting in front of the door like he is saying i m here im back. i don t think it s about smelling , because he was moved by car the first time, thats kind of sixth sense, or some magnetic orientation.

      1. You are absoluely right that it has NOTHING to do with smell and everything to do with Magnetoreception…. Cats have the same “homing” abilities as birds, bees, sea turtles etc using the magnetic fields. If they choose to return- and live thru it- they certain could. That was proven in the 1920s by a study done – at the time they did not understand Magnetoreception but knew that it was NOT smell, hearing or sight… as the cat was bagged, boxed and even put under anesthesia..

  4. I have a cat that is VERY skittish. He disappeared out the front door of my apartment on the 7th. This is extraordinarily disheartening to think that he could be miles from home by now. My whole town is on the lookout for him! The thing is, I don’t know how far he’s gone or where to look (territory, not specifics). The 200 meter distance is mostly woods (that the owner has told me I cannot search) and beyond that it’s a few hundred homes and then more woods. I’m really worried, and I’m mad at myself because I didn’t get a GPS tracker on him before he left. I go out and look as often as I can, but if I go shining a flashlight around town at 2 AM the police are going to make me go home. I’ve got his info up everywhere, but I’m worried that the sensationalism effect is wearing down. I’m still checking the shelter websites daily, and my wife visits every Friday. I’ve trapped four cats now, all of them similar looking to him, but of course it’s not him. I even contacted a tracker, but they said that with the torrential rain we’ve been having that a trail would be “nearly impossible to find”. I don’t want to stop looking but at this point most people’s advice has either run out or is contradictory to others’ advice. How do you search for a cat that doesn’t want to be found?!

    1. Hi Dustin, so sorry to hear your cat is missing 🙁 You must be absolutely out of your mind with worry. It sounds as if you’re doing everything right. Sometimes, it just takes time for them to come home. Have you tried putting things outside that smell like him? He may be able to pick up his scent and find his way back. There are plenty of cats who come how after weeks and months of being missing which won’t help you now but don’t give up hope. Wishing you all the best x

      1. My Cat went missing from a Temporary house. In a mountain Forest.
        There is some homes here too.
        I have moved up the hill from that place.
        I’m playing all his music.
        And singing as he knows my voice and our songs.
        2 weeks.
        He is a Cat that normally wonders off for 6 days. And finds his way home.
        But now. He doesn’t know his home.
        I have other cats. I’m hoping he will see them. And follow.
        Please help. Advise me

  5. Kathleen E Leibacher

    As crazy as it may sound, I think one of my cats has returned after almost 3 years. I befriended 3 kittens almost 4 years ago. Mother cat lost interest, I suppose. All 3 had different personalities. “Gracie” was bigger than the other kittens but VERY timid, and kind of spooked at everything around her sisters. They seemed to bully her a lot, and made it even worse. One day she was gone. I had given up hope of ever finding her, and was certain that she had been hit by a car.
    About a week ago, a female cat showed up at my doorstep. She had changed somewhat
    in appearance (if it is indeed her) but keep in mind, that she wasn’t full grown when I lost her. SHe came up to me willingly. VERY friendly, I thought. She came into my home and started walking around and looking as if she was looking to see if anything had “changed”. She seemed to know her way around, in some odd sort of way. Very peculiar, I thought. Her personality, when I interacted with her, seemed very familiar to me, too. She rolled on her belly, as if she was wanting to play, like she did when she was a kitten. Her interaction with the other two cats, seemed the same as when she was younger, and went missing. She jumped out of a bathroom window on the night she left, and several years later, when she came into the house, she went right to the window and meowed and turned away from it, like she was frightened of it, or something. Really odd. I’ll never be certain, but I swear, it’s Gracie, coming back home. Whole thing is just too odd. Someone must have taken her in, because she has a collar on. She appears to be abandoned because every night she comes here to be fed and wants to come in for a little while. I would never say that cats won’t return home, even if they’ve been gone for a few years. I really do believe that it’s Gracie. If it isn’t, she’s found a home, anyway.

    1. Could definitely be your cat- Cats usually only go as far as they need to to your kitty could have been close all along. I’ve found over 3000 cats and none of them went more than 1/2 mile on their own power except a few lost away from home that were close to home or recently moved and returned within 2 miles.

      1. we moved about 20 miles from our family home and just a few hours after being at our new house my indoor/outdoor cat got out. he has been gone for 3 weeks. we have looked all over for him and nothing. what should i do

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  10. My cat Stubby did not run away from home. I was boarding him at a commercial kennel while I was on a week’s vacation. Four days into the vacation, he tore the window screen and escaped. I can’t imagine why a professional kennel entrusted with the care of precious pets would allow an open window in the cat room. Stubby had been a stray with a recognizable three-inch tail when I found him and fed him 2 years ago. He became a loving indoor-outdoor cat on my rural property and was in my bedroom every night. The kennel from which he escaped is 8 miles away. I went door-to-door with 50 flyers in the radius of the kennel. I posted flyers at the local vets, police department, and humane society. Friends have posted him on facebook. Stubby has been missing for 10 days. I wonder if he will know how to come home.

  11. I brought my cat to the vet today to get a tick removed and when the receptionist gave him back to me i guess he didnt lock the cage properly and my cat escaped as soon as i walked out the door. I live in a business city (Toronto) he is a 1 1/2 year old male and is outside all the time. He escaped 3 km (1.8 miles) From home, what are the chances of him returning?

  12. Let us not give up hope. Josie has been gone for 2 weeks. I hope someone has taken her in because weather is changing. Her contact info is on the other side of the collar. All pets are special💖

  13. Cats DO NOT navigate by smell. If you are going to give advice- at least know what you are talking about!!! Litter does not attract the lost cat- only other territorial cats and predators and the blanket would do the same as it has the cat’s marks on it. Documented studies of cat travels show they only cover 2.5 -3 mile per night and only when absolutely necessary to get back to kittens etc Otherwise they may just as easily settle in and establish a new territory.. Telling people their cats be more than a mile from home on their own power is detrimental to them finding their cat

  14. I have an indoor cat that comes outside with me sometimes on a harness..and sometimes free…but I am always watching. I waver between letting her be alone and not watch but then I am afraid when I read about people that have “lost” their cats. I want to believe that letting her be indoors and then out when she wishes during the day would be so good for her..but then I become scared. No one seems to have a good answer and she is so small (8lbs) that a tracker is too big for her to wear.

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