There are new missing cat posters hung up every day in neighborhoods across North America. One in three pets will go missing in their lifetime. But why do so many cats run away and stay away for days?
Cats go missing for days, usually because some instinct has taken over. Your cat may disappear to find a mate, to hunt something, to follow a curious scent, or to give birth. Cats may also disappear if they have gotten lost or if a neighbor has taken them in, thinking they are a stray animal.
There are so many possibilities as to why a cat will go missing for days. Read on to learn all about these intriguing reasons.
They Got Lost
If your furry friend hasn’t appeared for consecutive days, there is a chance that it has lost its way. Your cat may have wandered farther than usual into an unknown area and lost its sense of direction.
They could have fallen off a hill or cliff and dropped their scent track home, as well. Unfortunately, this is increasingly likely to happen with strictly indoor cats who have never explored the area around their home.
They Are Looking for a Mate
When female cats go into heat, they have an intense drive to find a mate. They will focus on seemingly nothing else until they mate or until their heat cycle passes. If your female cat has access to the outdoors and she goes into heat, she will likely disappear for days on end, searching for a male to breed with.
Alternatively, if you have a male cat that is allowed outside and he catches a whiff of a nearby female in estrus, he will sense a strong drive to find this cat and mate with her. Males and females both have a high instinct to breed, and they often disappear for days at a time to do so.
When your female returns, she could very likely be pregnant. When your male returns, he could have impregnated a female, but you’ll probably never know for sure.
They Are Hunting
House Cats have a high prey drive, which is their instinct to chase and kill smaller animals. Hunting, mating, and eating are perhaps the three most intense drives for a cat, meaning it is nearly impossible to break a cat’s attention when they’re focused on one of those three things.
If your feline happens to spot an overly appetizing bird or squirrel, they could take off chasing that animal for hours. Even if they lose that specific chipmunk, your cat may have such an enjoyable time hunting that they stay out for days chasing small critters and trying to catch a kill. When your pet returns, don’t be surprised if they bring you one of their “trophies” to show you their love.
To help your cat expel their prey drive, you can purchase specific toys that trigger the hunting instinct in your kitty. This way, they can release some of their pent-up energy in the safety of their own home.
They Were Chased by Something
Even though cats have an extremely high prey drive, they aren’t the only predator around. Cats are often chased by dogs, coyotes, wolves, and even raccoons. If your pet is hanging around outside and an off-leash dog happens to catch sight of them, the ensuing chase could continue for a long time.
Your cat will likely take cover in one of its favorite areas during the chase. After all, felines are highly intelligent and may have lots of favorite hiding spots or escape routes in the area.
However, cats cannot always outrun or outwit a dog or coyote, and they may be forced to run away from their usual domain. This can result in the cat getting lost, and they may take days to sort out their return.
They Wandered Farther Than Usual
Cats may have been living with people for 12,000 years, but their independence has not been forgotten in that time. Housecats have a very strong urge to explore, especially areas around their home. Whether your cat is allowed outside or not, they likely have a strong sense of curiosity and need to look around.
Indoor cats will often wait by doorways, looking for their chance to dart outside. Outdoor cats will meow and paw at doors for you to let them out first thing in the morning.
Once outside, felines are master adventurers. An outdoor cat will often visit the same locations every day, doing a sort of “round” of the property around your house, making sure everything is in order, and no new threats have entered the neighborhood.
However, during this excursion, your kitty may push it further and further, getting farther away from your house. If an indoor cat manages to get outside, there is a high likelihood that they will become confused and discombobulated.
If your cat has disappeared for days on end, she may have simply wandered farther than usual or is intrigued by a new area and decided to spend a few days on an adventure.
Someone Else Took Them In
People love animals, whether they are their own or not. When they see an animal wandering outside, some people’s first instinct is to bring it inside their home and take care of it. While this act is well-meaning, sometimes the animal they have brought inside was on their way home, and they have stopped the pet from getting back to its family.
If you have an outdoor cat, most people in the neighborhood will recognize it over time. Your community will learn that the orange tabby cat belongs to you, and they won’t be alarmed if they see it hanging around outside alone.
If, however, your cat wanders to a different neighborhood or someone new moves onto your block, these people might not know that your cat isn’t lost or in need of help. They could take your cat indoors, feed it and keep it company, and in doing so, may stop your cat from finding its way home for a few days.
They Are Giving Birth
Pregnant cats about to give birth will often run away to find a safe place to hide and deliver their litter. Cats prefer small areas that are well-guarded, like underneath porches and in abandoned boxes or sheds.
If your cat is pregnant and you want her to have the kittens indoors, you should set up a sort of sanctuary for her and the kittens (called a “kittening area”). A cardboard box full of blankets in the laundry room or spare closet is a perfect place for a mama to have her babies.
If your cat doesn’t have an appropriate place to give birth and care for her little ones inside the house, when it comes time to deliver the babies, she will likely run away to find a spot somewhere in the neighborhood and stay there for a few days.
Eventually, she may move the kittens home, but she could continue to keep them outside until they are strong enough to wander independently.
It’s not uncommon for house cats to disappear for days on end, and there are many reasons why this happens. Cats can be taken indoors by neighbors that mistakenly think they’re lost, or your cat could have wandered to a new area that they are unfamiliar with.
Your cat may also have been chased away from your home by a predator. Or, they could be doing the stalking themselves for a few days. Cats are also likely to hide away for a few days to give birth. In any case, your cat will likely have to find their way back to you.
- Peeva: Lost Pet Statistics
- VCA: Estrous Cycle in Cats
- PetMD: The Are the Best Cat Toys to Simulate Prey Drive
- Smithsonian Magazine: A Brief History of House Cats
- MedicAnimal: 5-point Checklist for Owners Expecting Kittens
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.