How Far Can Cats Travel When Lost?

Finger pointing to an open map in car
Finger pointing to an open map in car

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 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 Response.com 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.

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

2 comments

  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

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