Cats have a very good sense of direction. They cover long distances in their large territory. Some cats are even on the road for days and still find their way back home. But how do cats manage not to get lost even in unfamiliar territory?
How cats always find their way home
What exactly constitutes the good sense of direction of a cat, is still not exactly clarified. Scientists agree, however, that a good imprinting on the home place the basis is. The cat must consider its territory as a home, which provides it with a retreat to which it wants to return. For this reason, after moving in, a new cat should initially be kept only in the house (ca. 4-6 weeks). So she can explore it at her leisure and recognize it as her new home.
If one takes the reference to the precinct as a basis, various theories arise as to how a cat always finds its way home:
The magnetic field theory
With this theory scientists assume that Cats orient to the magnetic fields of the earth. This behavior ("magnetic sense") has already been demonstrated in birds, some fish species and in snails.
The auditory picture theory
In this theory scientists see the excellent sense of hearing, smell and sight of the cat as a cause for the good orientation. They assume that cats memorize the sounds, smells and pictures of their home country exactly and become so-called "Hearing pictures" store. If they are far away from their territory, they can run towards stored impressions, such as the sound of church bells or the scent of the flowerbed in front of the house.
The sun theory
Here exists the assumption that Cats orient themselves by the position of the sun. They remember the position of the sun in their home at different times of the day. This ability is called "astronavigation" and has been observed in birds.
The Morphic Field Theory
With this theory the imprinting on the home plays a particularly large role. Cats are believed to build a close familiarity and connection to the home place, a so-called "morphic field". This field enables a kind of telepathic communication with their home. This is how they are guided home.
The size of a cat’s territory
How big the territory of a cat really is, can be determined with the help of a small GPS tracker, which is attached to a collar. Many owners are amazed at how far their little tigers actually run in some cases.
The radius of a normal small round around the house is usually only just under 50 meters. During an extended round of hunting and exploring, however, some cats also like to move away from 0,5 to 1 kilometer from home.
Unneutered males usually have a larger territory than cats, because they are looking for mating females. There are also differences between urban and rural cats. Due to the denser building development cats in cities usually have only a small territory of 1.500 to 2.000 square meters. Cats living in the countryside can already be a territory of 60.000 square meters call their own and run in a night partly also times 10 kilometer distance from.
How far the maximum distance from home may be, so that a cat still finds back, is unknown. In an experiment, a cat was abandoned 30 kilometers from its home and found its way back in just a few hours. In some press headlines you can find stories about cats that have traveled thousands of kilometers to find their way back home.
When my cat can’t find its way home
Despite their good sense of direction, cats unfortunately do not always find their way back home. There is always a risk that a cat will be injured or accidentally locked up somewhere during its foray.
escaped house cats have it especially hard, because they don’t even know the environment directly at the house and the unfamiliar situation causes them stress.
If your cat has disappeared, it is always important to remain calm for the time being. Before they turn the environment outside upside down, they first start by searching the house inside. Even in rooms you had already searched, there is usually still a hiding place where a cat might have crawled in. They find space in the tiniest holes and steal past you unnoticed. Hiding places under furniture, in cupboards or even behind the cabinet of a fitted kitchen are often popular! Look for above all also Basement rooms, the Attic and Tool shed from. These places offer ideal hiding places for the little tigers.
If the velvet paw is not to be found there, the search can be extended to the outside area: