Catster logo

12 Reasons Why Your Cat Runs Away & How to Stop It

scared British blue-point cat hiding under the bed
Image Credit: Zossia, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Ed Malaker

If you have a cat that keeps running away, it can be a scary and frustrating experience, even if they always come back. If you are looking for ways to prevent this, you’ve come to the right place. Here are several reasons that your cat might be running away and what you can do to stop it.

3 cat face divider

The 12 Reasons Why Your Cat Might Run Away

1. Fear or Anxiety

Cats are sensitive creatures, and certain situations can trigger fear or anxiety. Common triggers include loud noises from fireworks, thunderstorms, noisy vehicles, and music. Unfamiliar visitors can also upset your cat, as can environmental changes, like moving.

Solution: To stop your cat from running away, try to identify these triggers and create a calm and safe environment. Provide hiding places and comforting scents, and gradually desensitize your cat to their triggers through positive reinforcement training. For example, plenty of early socialization can help them tolerate strangers better when adults.

Black cat in fear and aggression
Image Credit: NZ3, Shutterstock

2. Territory Disputes

Cats are territorial animals, especially unneutered males, and encountering other cats in their territory can lead to them running away, especially if the other cats are much bigger or have been there longer.

Solution: If other cats are in your neighborhood, your cat might feel threatened and choose to escape. Keep your cat indoors, and if they want to go outside, create a secure outdoor space where they can explore safely without encountering other cats, like an enclosed porch (catio).

3. Lack of Socialization

Cats that haven’t been properly socialized during their early development stages may feel uncomfortable around people, animals, or new experiences, making them more likely to want to flee, especially if you have a large family and other animals are in the house.

Solution: Gradually expose your cat to different situations, people, and pets to help them become more comfortable, especially when they are still a kitten. Use positive reinforcement, treats, and praise to associate these encounters with positive experiences. The more they get used to new things, the more comfortable they will feel.

scared British blue-point cat hiding under the bed
Image Credit: Zossia, Shutterstock

4. Boredom

Cats need mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom. If they become bored, they often scratch up the furniture and misbehave, but they might seek adventure by running away.

Solution: Provide interactive toys, scratching posts, puzzle feeders, and dedicated playtime to keep your cat engaged and entertained. Place plenty of perches around your home so they can look over their territory. Put a few in front of windows so they can look outside. Bird feeders can be a great way to keep your pet entertained while you work or take care of chores.

5. Medical Issues

Cats in pain or discomfort may exhibit changes in behavior. Many cats will hide away when sick, and they might run away if there is nowhere to hide.

Solution: It’s essential to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Take your cat to a veterinarian for a thorough examination to ensure that they are healthy. If a medical issue is detected, appropriate treatment can help alleviate the problem and reduce the chances of your cat running away.

British shorthair cat hiding
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

6. Mating

Unneutered cats, particularly males, may roam in search of a mate, and it’s one of the most common reasons that cats run away and return later. The strong instinct to reproduce can cause some cats to travel more than a mile to find a suitable partner.

Solution: Spaying or neutering your cat will remove the need for them to seek out a mate, and they will be much less likely to run away from home. It can also help them avoid medical issues later in life.

7. Desire for Exploration

Cats are naturally curious animals and may want to explore their surroundings. If they find an open door or window, they may take the opportunity to run away without thinking about how they will get back.

Solution: Ensure that your cat has plenty of things to do inside the home. Cat perches, tunnels, cardboard boxes, baskets, open dresser drawers, and similar items are wonderful places for your cat to explore, and you can move them around frequently to keep it fresh and prevent them from wondering what’s going on outside and running off.

cat lying on the floor hiding behind the curtain
Image Credit: Mantikorra, Shutterstock

8. Unfamiliar Environments

Moving to a new home or unfamiliar environment can be stressful for cats, leading them to run away in search of something familiar. In fact, if you only move across town, you might even find your cat at your old home.

Solution: When you move, take measures to help your cat adjust. Provide familiar items like their bedding, toys, and scratching posts to create a sense of familiarity. Limit their access to new areas initially, gradually expanding their space as they get more comfortable and start to become curious about their new home.

9. Outdoor Dangers

The outdoors presents numerous dangers for cats, including traffic accidents, predators, and exposure to toxins. If your cat is suddenly startled by a barking dog or braking truck, they might take off running, quickly finding themselves far from home and too frightened to return.

Solution: To protect your cat, keep them indoors, and provide a secure outdoor enclosure where they can safely enjoy nature. Supervised outdoor time on a leash is also an option, as is walking them in a cat stroller—if you can convince them to try it.

Image Credit: Carlos Merigo, Flickr

10. Separation Anxiety

Cats can experience separation anxiety when they are alone for extended periods, and it can cause them to run away in search of their owners, or they may fear that you are not coming back and run off.

Solution: Provide your cat with comforting toys and a cozy space, and consider getting interactive feeders or puzzles that can keep them occupied and mentally stimulated when you are not home. You can also try training your cat by gradually increasing the duration of your departures to help your cat become more comfortable with being alone.

11. Previous Negative Experiences

If your cat has had negative or traumatic experiences outdoors, they may associate those with running away. Finding the trigger can also be difficult, as it can be a sound or smell that you can’t even detect.

Solution: Building their confidence through positive reinforcement and gradually exposing them to safe outdoor experiences is vital. Use treats, praise, and playtime to create positive associations with being outside, and gradually increase the duration and distance of outdoor activities. An enclosed porch or similar structure can be a safe barrier between the two worlds that helps your cat adjust.

kitten hiding
Image Credit: Madelynn woods, Unsplash

12. Predatory Instincts

One common reason that cats run off is to chase other animals. They are instinctive hunters and will chase after almost any creature that crosses their path. If there is a flock of ducks or large groups of other small animals, your cat might spend considerable time stalking and hunting them.

Solution: If your cat frequently runs away to pursue prey, you’ll need to help them stay indoors to prevent harm to themselves or wildlife. Double-check all exits in the house to ensure that your cat can’t sneak out, and make sure their catio or cat stroller is escape proof.

cat paw divider


While your cat may have run away for multiple reasons, if they returned, they were likely out looking for a mate or hunting an animal that caught their attention. Cats that leave due to anxiety, territorial disputes, or medical issues might not come back. The best way to keep your pet from running off is to get them spayed or neutered and to keep them in the house. If your cat likes to spend time outdoors, try screening the porch or using an outdoor cat house that can be closed. They may also enjoy watching birds at a feeder through a window while they relax on a cat perch.

Featured Image Credit: Zossia, Shutterstock

About the Author

Ed Malaker
Ed Malaker
Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.


Follow Us

Shopping Cart