How Far Do Cats Travel From Home? The Surprising Answer
Domestic cats travel less than you might expect. Their territory is usually only made up of 40-140 acres.
Every cat is different. The distance they travel can depend on whether your kitty is male, female, neutered, indoor, outdoor, adventurous, timid, and a lot more!
It is instinctual in cats to roam. This can be to mark out their environment, practice their homing abilities, and hunt.
We're offering our expert insights into our furry friends' traveling behavior, so read on to learn some essential feline facts.
How far do domesticated cats roam?
How far do feral cats roam?
Why do cats roam?
How far do domesticated cats roam?
Understanding roaming behavior is important for any domestic cat owner. However, it's important to know that this behavior can change depending on your cat's personality, gender, environment, and routine.
We pet parents know that some cats barely leave the sofa, while others can be gone for days at a time adventuring. Let's find out why that is.
Male cats walk a little further than female cats on average. Their territory is usually made up of about 140 acres (source). This equates to around 0.2 square miles (0.5 square kilometers), so it's not as far as we may have previously suspected.
However, this is the average for a male neutered cat. If your kitty hasn't been neutered, they can travel a lot further when looking for a mate. This can often cause them to become lost if they venture outside their territory, making it harder for them to locate their home again.
Female cats roam a lot closer to home than the average male cat and have a territory of about 40 acres (source). This means, on average, they prefer to stay closer to home. It's unclear why this is. However, as we mentioned, it always depends on the individual cat.
If your female kitty isn't spayed, they are likely to wander further than their usual 40 acres when they are in heat. This is because their instincts are encouraging them to find a mate. This is usually when most female cats get lost!
Outdoor or indoor cat?
Cats have incredible homing abilities that allow them to wander far and return home safely.
They use their powerful sense of smell, hearing, sight, and sensitivity to the earth's electromagnetic field to understand and recognize their environment. This also helps build up your cat's territory.
Cats will use these instincts every day during their time outdoors. This practice means they will be 'street smart' and more able to find their way home from different areas.
Indoor cats won't have this experience, meaning when they find themselves outside of their homes, they won't recognize the area as their territory. So, if your indoor kitty escapes through an open window, they likely won't travel far.
"Cats have incredible homing abilitiesthat allow them to wander far and return home safely. They use their powerful sense of smell, hearing, sight, and sensitivity to the earth's electromagnetic field to understand and recognize their environment."
How far do feral cats roam?
Feral cats usually have much larger territories. The average farm cat is likely to roam up to 2 miles away (3.2km) from their home (source). This isn't surprising as they spend the majority of their days outside without a warm home to return to.
A feral cat will also be hunting to survive. Compared to domesticated kitties that bring us a mouse or two for fun, feral cats will be hunting for food to live off. This often means they need to travel further to find new prey to sustain them and possibly their kittens.
Wild cats' homing abilities will be well practiced and better than any domesticated outdoor cat. This means they are unlikely to become lost and vulnerable to potential predators.
"Compared to domesticated kitties that bring us a mouse or two for fun, feral cats will be hunting for food to live off."
Why do cats roam?
Cats are renowned for their independence, often favoring a loan adventure than cuddles. But why is this? Let's look at some of the most common reasons.
They have reached 'social maturity'
Did you have a cuddly kitten that never left your side? One day, did they start staying out longer and coming back less frequently?
Don't panic, it's normal! When a cat reaches social maturity, which happens around 18 weeks and onwards, they will start to want their own territory and will spend less time indoors.
It's very normal for an adult cat to determine and maintain their own territory (source). To do this, they will need to continually roam the area to mark their scent and to hunt. This tells other cats in the area that your kitty owns the space.
To understand their environment
The more information a cat has about their environment, the safer they will be within it. Even our domesticated cats will want to know their territory inside and out to avoid feeling vulnerable to predators. This means regular roaming is important for all outdoor kitties.
This explains why our furry friends may be more adventurous after moving house. Suddenly, they need to know everything they can about a completely different environment.
For this reason, it's important to keep them inside for at least 2 weeks while they get used to the smells, sights, and sounds of their new home.
If you don't do this, they may find it difficult to find their way home again. They may even try to return to your old house if it's relatively close!
Expert Insight: If you're worried about your kitty roaming too far and not being able to find their way back, invest in a GPS tracker. We think Tractive offers the best solution. Check them out here.
For fun and curiosity
It's no secret that our furry friends are curious creatures. Our domestic cats roam because:
They are intelligent: Cats are incredibly intelligent creatures and need a lot of stimulus because of it. Without it, they can become bored, which can lead to a sad kitty. This ability to learn and remember experiences encourages them to be curious.
They have natural instincts: Cats are naturally predatory animals. However, they are also prey for larger wild animals. This means they need to constantly survey and learn about their environment to feel safe, which leads to a natural curiosity.
They are protective: Our cats are constantly aware and protecting their owners. This means they will investigate anything that they don't understand to make sure it is safe and poses no threat to the household. Pretty cute, right?
Every cat owner has experienced the mouse on the mat or the bird under the bed. It's no fun and can be pretty devastating for animal lovers. Unfortunately, it is in our cats' nature, and there is no stopping them.
Even if your kitty is well-fed, they will still most likely hunt because they can. For them, it is fun, stimulating, and satisfying. It does require a lot of roaming, which may explain why your furry friend is gone for hours on end.
Top Tip: If your kitty likes to hunt a little too much, consider buying a collar with a bell on it. This will make it more difficult for them to catch prey.
Your cat isn't spayed or neutered
Several factors impact how far different cats roam. A main consideration is whether your cat is spayed or neutered. If they aren't, they will likely travel far to find a mate.
It's important to get your cat neutered to avoid them going missing multiple times and, if you own a female cat, to stop them from getting pregnant.
Do indoor cats wander far from home?
No, indoor cats won't wander far from home. They will likely be scared and go into hiding close to the house.
How far do outdoor cats travel in a day?
Outdoor cats can roam about around 0.2 miles (0.5km) in a day, as this is the size of their average territory.
What if my cat hasn't come home in 2 days?
If your cat hasn't come home in 2 days, and this is not their normal routine, then you need to start searching for them immediately. You can also post on social media groups to alert your neighbors and start pinning up posters.
Will a cat come back if it runs away?
Most cats will come back if they run away. However, if they are in unfamiliar territory, they may become lost and not be able to locate their home. To help them, start searching immediately, notify your neighbors, and take steps to lure them back home.
Do outdoor cats stay close to home?
Many cats stay surprisingly close to home, only roaming around 0.2 miles (0.3km) on average. However, it does depend on the different personalities cats can have. If you have a very adventurous kitty, they'll likely travel a little further.
Where do house cats go when they go outside?
House cats will usually stay close to home when they go outside. Check under cars, in bushes, up trees, and in outbuildings like sheds and garages. Read our full guide for a complete checklist.
Where do cats sleep outside at night?
If your cat sleeps outside at night, they have probably found a very concealed hiding spot. To stay safe from predators, cats will choose hidden and secure places. This often includes sheds, garages, thick hedges and bushes, and under cars.
Our cats are natural adventurers, so we shouldn't restrict them based on our own worries. They are intelligent animals, and with a little help from us, they're likely to come home after their travels for some dinner and cuddles!
If your cat has been missing for longer than usual, you should start searching for them. They may be struggling to find their way home, or they may even be sick or injured.
Start a PetRadar search to notify over 4,000 neighbors that your kitty is missing, search in and around your house, and print missing cat posters to stick up around your neighborhood.
So far, we have reunited 8000+ cats with their owners, so you're in good hands! We'll support you through the whole process, offering expert advice, insights into cat behavior, and instant notifications whenever a sighting is reported.
In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.