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How Do Cats Find Their Way Home?

Updated: August 9, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

There are so many stories going on around about cats who somehow found their way back home after being lost or abandoned many miles away from their living place. A cat’s abilities seem so mysterious that many wonder how cats find their way home.

The sad reality is that most cats never manage to get back home but the ones that do make it back safe and sound rely on their abilities and well-developed senses to achieve that.

How Do Cats Find Their Way Home

We all know that cats are predatory animals and that alone makes them more able than other animals to orientate themselves and make it back home in one piece. A predator has a wide range of ways to get around.

Natural Instinct

One of the ways in which cats seem to do that is by combining their natural instincts and their superior senses to track down prey and then track their way back to their territory — the home they’ve adapted to.

One of their most important senses is smell. With 19 million smell receptors in the nose over the 5 million we have, cats can clearly obtain a better map of the environment by smell alone.

Hearing is another helpful trick cats rely on to orient themselves in the environment as they can hear sounds that the human ears can’t even perceive.

Their whiskers are a very good way for cats to literally feel the environment. By touching something with their whiskers, cats receive a great deal of information, which adds up to the information received by their other senses and helps them get a feel of what’s around.

Magnetic Fields

Some scientists have formed theories which claim that – like most other mammals – relying on the magnetic fields of the earth is one of the manners cats find their way home and orient themselves around.

While this can’t be known for sure, it’s possible, but to a lesser extent than birds for example, for cats to somehow sense the North-South magnetic direction of the Earth and ‘feel’ their orientation and position in relation to that.

Other Considerations

The territory of a feral cat can spread up to an average of 1,300 acres while that of a domestic indoor cat goes up to a limited 5 acres, which is a great deal less.

Add to that the tested fact that most cats can track their prey and have no problems finding their way back on a radius of 2 to 3 miles from their territory or respective homes and you can easily deduct how able some cats are at getting back home.

It’s hard to get an exact answer to this question, so take into consideration that most stories on how cats have mysteriously found their way back home are biased, as nobody knows how many cats haven’t managed to return.

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