Does your cat have a tendency to run away? Are they prone to disappear for one, two or several days, and then return home as if nothing had happened? If the answer is yes, unfortunately you’re the owner of a runaway cat. This behaviour is quite common in cats, whether they live in an apartment (and escape via the balcony or a door left open) or in a house with a garden.
Why do cats run away? Cats are territorial animals whose everyday lives revolve around a fine-tuned daily routine. However, sometimes they ditch their routine and venture out of their territory. The most frequent instance of this is male cats pursuing female cats during the reproductive period. But a cat may also be tempted to pursue prey or to extend its hunting perimeter.Cats can also drift away from their home if a situation stresses or disturbs them. This can occur if there is a territorial dispute with another animal at home, or when there is a change in situation: the arrival of a baby, moving preparations, etc. Lastly, don’t rule out the possibility that your cat has found some nice neighbours who give them food.
Some precautions to prevent your cat from running way If you have an uncastrated male cat, sterilising him (ideally when he is young) can be a rather effective solution to prevent him from running away. The other solution is to prevent your pet from going outside, either by making sure the door is kept shut or by placing nets around your garden. Electric fencing is also an option, but unless there is a serious danger (such as a busy road), they are not recommended because of the potential health risks (physical and mental) for your cat.
If your cat is used to spending their days outdoors, however, it will be difficult to deprive them of this pleasure. Another vital precaution is therefore to equip them with an electronic chip (which is, in theory, mandatory) and a collar with your address and phone number. For the collar, make sure you buy one with an anti-choke system.
What to do if your cat runs away?
If your cat has already run away and has come back, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t come home again this time. To put your mind at ease and to make sure your cat’s not in danger (injured or stuck for example), it's best to go from door to door and ask your neighbours if they have seen your cat. At nightfall, you can also call your cat for 5 minutes every half hour for 2 or 3 hours: your voice will give your cat a point of reference; if they are nearby, this will help them find their way home. Another method is to diffuse a smell that will guide your cat home: you can leave food or treats (dry food, pâté, tinned tuna) and/or objects with strong, familiar smells (their litter or bedding, but also blankets or clothes with your scent) in front of your door. If your cat still hasn’t come home after several days, it’s best to implement the “lost cat” plan: call your vet and the local pound, stick up posters in your neighbourhood, etc.
But let’s end on an upbeat note! GPS trackers now exist for cats and are a real source of hope for owners of runaway cats. A few issues need to be resolved regarding the weight, reliability and cost of existing models, but given the very rapid progress in this technology, satisfactory solutions will no doubt be available very soon!