Cats roam between 130 to 650 feet from their houses. One exception to this are farm cats who will cover a much larger area.
Cats are inclined to wander off now and then, but what exactly compels them to do this, and how can you, as a cat owner, make sure that they are safe? In this article, we will answer these questions and more.
How far do cats roam from their houses?
The distance your cat roams from home can vary. It depends on a variety of factors, such as the number of cats there are in the neighborhood, your cat’s relationship with each cat, and your own cat’s nature.
A cautious cat has a small roaming range and may only venture 30 feet from their cat flap. The average roaming distance is 130 to 650 feet from home.
Farm cats are the real adventurers, traveling up to a mile away to hunt, with males sometimes roaming three times further. An unneutered or unspayed cat also roams farther than a desexed cat because they may leave their territory to find a mate.
Indoor cats usually only go a very short distance from the house if they ever get out.
A cat that feels a need to move away from its territory can walk around five to ten miles each day. This would account for cats that have been found long distances from their homes. The cat may be trying to return somewhere it has been displaced from or is disorientated and searching for food.
Why do cats roam?
Unneutered and unspayed cats like to roam.
Male cats that have not been neutered may wander off for days at a time, especially if they catch the scent of a female cat in heat. They will travel miles and miles to act on their animal instinct. If the female cat in heat is an indoor cat, the wandering male can spend up to a week just waiting for a chance. So it could take the cat a long time to return home.
Frustrated, unspayed females also travel far from home to look for a male if given the opportunity.
Distracted cats may wander.
Cats are more likely to roam during the summer months when the weather is great and they feel inclined to spend more time outdoors chasing small animals and insects.
Cats have lightning reflexes and if they are suddenly startled, they run as fast as they can away from whatever it was that frightened them.
If the cat is caught unaware, it might run frantically to an unfamiliar place and end up lost. This can be dangerous, especially if it ends up on a busy road.
Your cat may wander if it finds a more favorable environment.
Cats are sensitive to changes in their home environment, so they may decide to move on if they find a place which caters more favorably to their needs.
If a new pet or baby is introduced to the household, your cat may think that they are better off living in the quiet house of the old lady who has fed them in the past.
Can cats find their way home from miles away?
It depends on the cat. An outdoor cat can roam for miles and still make its way home, while an indoor cat who just happened to get out of the house accidentally may be too scared to trust its inner compass, get confused, and end up lost.
On average, a cat that is more than a third of a mile away from home will likely be in unfamiliar territory, which may affect its ability to determine which way to go to return.
How do I keep my roaming cat safe?
If your cat likes to roam, here are things you can do to help keep it safe:
1. Be sure your cat is neutered or spayed.
Mating drive is a powerful trigger for roaming behavior and can cause a cat to venture outside its familiar territory. Neutering/spaying will also help prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduces the likelihood of fights with other unneutered cats.
2. Make sure your cat has all that it needs.
Always provide your cat with food and water so it does not feel the need to wander off to search for it.
3. Microchip your cat.
Chip your cat so that it can be tracked if it gets lost and is found by a stranger. If your cat is not chipped, make sure it has a collar with a tag containing your contact information as well as your vet’s. This is a potential lifesaver, in case your cat gets injured.
4. Get your cat vaccinated.
Be sure your cat is up to date with all its vaccinations. That way, when it does roam, it has a decreased risk of acquiring any diseases.
5. Entertain your cat at home
Encourage your cat to hunt at home by providing it with toys to keep it occupied around the house.
6. Provide a semi-outdoor enclosure.
Build your cat a cat enclosure to prevent it from leaving your premises.
The distance your cat will roam outside your house is dependent on several factors such as the cat’s nature, the number of cats in the neighborhood, and your cat’s relationship with each cat. Your cat being male or female also factors in, as well as whether it has been desexed or not.
On average, cats will roam between 130 to 650 feet away from your house.
An unneutered or unspayed cat will roam further, especially when they catch the scent of a mate. An indoor cat usually stays close to its house, while an outdoor cat is more adventurous.
If you worry about your cat’s safety when it roams, get it chipped, desexed, and tagged. If you want to make sure it does not go anywhere, build a cat enclosure.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nils Jacobi