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Why Do Cats Run Away? 10 Potential Reasons for This Behavior

Written by: Jordin Horn

Last Updated on January 11, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat sitting

Why Do Cats Run Away? 10 Potential Reasons for This Behavior

When your cat runs away from home, it can be heartbreaking. You think you are giving your cat all they could need or want, why did they run away from you?

Don’t be too alarmed, as this is not an uncommon story. Out of a survey of around 1,000 pet owners, 15% of pet cats (compared to 14% of dogs) went missing, according to the ASPCA. Most of the time (74% of the time), the cats were either found or returned home themselves.

As much as your kitty cat may love and adore your affection, sometimes they will take off and be gone for a while. Try not to take it personally; cats have many normal reasons for doing this. While you may not be able to pinpoint exactly why, take a look through our list to see if you can remedy the cause and fix it.3 cat face divider

How Long Do Cats Go Missing For?

Most cats that have run away go missing for up to 7 days on average. When cats are hunting, reproducing, or being territorial, they are commonly only gone for 2–3 days. If a cat has been missing for around 4 months, that average goes up to 12 days.

Some Cats Are Better at Finding “Home”

Cats are believed to house some magnetic geolocation in their brains that help them find where home is. When cats are kittens or seniors, this function is not very developed or has been worn out. This is why cats that are grown up but not old could be the most likely to make it back home.

One interesting fact is that when cats run away, they are usually only within a 1 mile radius of “home”.

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The 10 Reasons Why Cats Run Away

Let’s discover all the typical reasons why cats can run away from your home.

1. Reproduction

Did your cat ever have surgery to remove its reproductive parts? A spayed or neutered cat is less likely to run away. This is because cats who aren’t spayed or neutered will have the uncontrollable urge to go out and find a mate. Male cats will sense female cats in heat nearby and go out to find them, female cats in heat will go outside and cry a lot.

If they don’t find a suitable mate in the nearby area, they are liable to go out even further to find a cat partner.

Pregnant cats nearing their time of birth may also run away from home in order to find a perfect spot to birth her kittens. Keep a close watch over cats about to go into labor and keep them inside as much as possible.

Image by: Fuu J, Unsplash

2. Territory

Cats are extremely territorial creatures. Their whole lives are influenced greatly by it. With that being said, a cat’s territory is not always what you think it is; it may not necessarily just include your home. This is especially true for cats who spend a lot of time outside.

Wherever a cat feels comfortable, they will likely include that area as their territory. So, it’s not that unusual to see your cat in your neighbor’s yard frequently if they like that area.

3. Relocation

Did you recently move? Your cat probably doesn’t understand the whole thing. Remember that cats have a strong sense of what “home” is, and that cannot be quickly switched. If they have run away, they could be trying to get back to where they understand “home” to be.

If you’ve moved homes, make sure to keep your cat indoors for several weeks to give your cat time to adjust to the new home and area. When you do let them outside again, keep a close eye on them.

4. Cat Fights

Do you hear a lot of cat fights in your neighborhood? It could be that cats are infringing on each other’s territorial lines.

If your cat does not feel safe in its territory, it will fight, or it will fly. When your cat flees home, they are most likely marking some new territory that they can truly call their own.

cats fighting_Samarskiy, Shutterstock
Image by: Samarskiy, Shutterstock

5. Hunting

Cats have a natural instinct to hunt. Some cats will want to head outside to pounce around, as the indoors infrequently has nothing worth hunting for. When your backyard doesn’t provide sufficient game for your cat, they could be wandering off to find that exciting prey. Sometimes, an outdoor cat will leave its normal stomping grounds to extend its hunting perimeter.

6. Curiosity

We know cats are curious. Outside, they might follow their curiosity farther away than you would like. Whether it’s an insect, a small animal, a noise, or another cat, your cat gets distracted easily and wants to chase after that distraction.

Because there’s more activity going on outside in the summer, the summer months might see your cat running away from home more often than at other times of the year.

7. They Are Cheating on You

Cats aren’t always known for their loyalty to their owners. When someone else nearby feeds them better (or just more) food, your cat might be spending more time at that house than yours, or she could just be securing the food source as a “backup.”

If your cat is gone pretty regularly around the same time each day, this is probably the cause. Make sure the neighbors are not spoiling your cat if you dislike this behavior.

woman hand petting a cat_zavtrak92, Pixabay
Image Credit: zavtrak92, Pixabay

8. New Member of the Family

Did you recently bring home a new bundle of joy? Babies will need a lot more of your attention, attention your cat was likely the greater recipient of. Your cat might feel threatened by this lack of pampering or just the presence of a new person in the house and run away to seek comfort elsewhere.

To help your cat adjust, make sure to let him know they are still loved with attention and treats. Also, it could be helpful to have a safe place for them to escape the excess noise and chaos.

9. Discomfort at Home

Cats like to keep the peace and status quo. Renovations to your home might be too much commotion for your cat to handle. You may have let a new person or pet move into your house that your cat’s not used to. These both give a cat a reason to run away from home.

Other, more obvious reasons your cat might be uncomfortable at home include abuse from someone in your house or fighting with other pets. Maybe she’s not getting the right care.

If the reason they are not themselves is avoidable, seek out the problem and put an end to it. If, however, you can’t do anything about it (in the case of a new person/pet or renovations), it is helpful to keep up the same routine, adjust gradually, give him the same love, and create a safe space inside for him to hide away.

10. Weakness Caused by Illness

When your cat is ill, they may have weak moments and hide away. This is due to evolutionary instincts: when they don’t feel well enough to defend themselves against real or imagined predators, they will stay hidden so they aren’t exposed to attack.

Outside cats might have a moment like this while they are out and about. Too weak to come home, they will find a safe place to hide while they regain their strength to come back home. An indoor cat might find a dark closet or cabinet to hide in when this happens.

Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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How to Prevent Cats From Running Away

Now that you know most of the reasons cats run away from home or from your sight, you will be better equipped to understand your cat’s situation and keep them from going off. Here are some basic tips to help you further in your cause.

Keep Them Inside

Your home is a safe place for a cat. There’s no thread of predators, cars, or distractions to lure them away. Make sure all your windows and doors stay shut if there’s any reason for your cat to wander off.

Spay and Neuter

If your cat frequently gets out and they are reproductively active, get used to their absences. However, you can put a quick end to it by spaying or neutering your cat. This also helps control the stray cat population.

Give Them Time to Adjust

When it comes to new experiences inside your home, your cat is sensitive to the changes. Give them lots of their favorite scratches, toys, and treats during this trying time. You might want to gently expose them to the new thing and, as we’ve mentioned, give them a space to hide out in. This could look like a cat tower, a catio, or a cat cave or tunnel.

cat sitting by the door_Lauren Hudgins, Pixabay
Image Credit: Lauren Hudgins, Pixabay

Tracking Technology

There are options to either put a microchip in your cat’s collar or fasten a GPS tracking collar on your cat. This will help you locate your cat via a mobile phone app, or you will get notified by a local animal shelter if your cat is located by them.

Train Them

Even though cats are independent creatures, they can be successfully trained to respond to cues like hearing their name or the ring of a bell. The key is providing them with the food they like during ample training sessions.

You can train your cat to come to you when you call their name by giving them a tasty treat every time you call them, then gradually reducing the times. Be sure to associate their name with good behavior.

If you want a cat that spends time outdoors to come at a certain time for dinner every evening, consider ringing a bell each time you feed them. That way, when they hear the bell outside, they will know someone is ready to feed them.

Make Them Noisy

Cats are sneaky. Make yourself more aware of their whereabouts by putting a bell on their collar. That way, you will hear them when you can’t necessarily see them or when they are up to no good.

cat collar with bell
Image Credit: 19eli14, Pixabay


A catio, or cat patio, is an outdoor enclosure for a cat attached to the house, usually via an open window. It is often built out of wood framing with chicken wire, but there are several interesting designs out there. A catio allows your cat to go outside when she pleases but keeps her from running off.

Basic Care

Has your life been so busy or overwhelming lately that you keep forgetting to feed the cat? Don’t feel bad, but do realize when your cat isn’t getting properly fed or nourished. Your cat, being the independent animal he is, will go off to take care of himself if you do not do it. Keep him happy and healthy at home by giving him the proper paw divider


If you are reading this because your own cat up and vanished, our thoughts are with you. It can be devastating to have a pet run away from home. By reading these possible reasons why and how to prevent it, we hope you are more clued in to why your cat ran away. We hope your cat returns to you soon!

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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