I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul – Jean Cocteau – Photo by Martha★
The homing instinct of cats and dogs are well known but how does it work? Here are some examples of cats finding their way home over long distances:
- Tabby cat called Mimine in France: The family had moved a distance of 500 miles from Toulouse to Treveray in the north. The family had left their cat with someone else but Mimine wanted to go home and turned up 13 months later.
- USA – Cat travels from New York to California, the breadth of the USA to be with family
- Cat predicts that family are about to move and moves on ahead. A family living in Louisiana went house hunting in Texas. Their cat had disappeared on their return. When they moved to Texas their cat turned up at the place of work of the family’s mother! Extraordinary.
- Under several tests a cat and a kitten (different family of cats) were taken up to 4.5 miles from their home. The cat was tested seven times and blindfolded on one occasion (on the outward leg) and anaesthetised on another occasion. The kitten made it back after 36 hours having negotiated a range of severe obstacles. The cat always made it back.
- In another test in Germany a number of cats were tested. They were driven on a confusing journey from their homes and then put in a maze (not sure about the ethics of these tests by the way). The maze was covered, blocking out the sun to prevent the cats using it as a source of guidance. All the cats used the exit from the maze that pointed to their homes, indicating a fantastic sense of direction. However, when the cats were more than 7.5 miles from home they were less successul (in an American version of the same experiment).
You can’t confuse me! Furby surrounded by mirrors
Photo by Joyce Sammons
- Cats have a sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field (the same magnetic field that allows us to use the compass). This is supported by the fact that the cats were less successful in the maze experiment above when magnets were attached to collars worn by the cats.
- A more fanciful (but no less believable, I feel) theory is that there is a “morphic field” set up in a cat/person relationship binding them mentally and physically.
- Another interesting theory is that cats and dogs have an extrasensory ability called “psi trailing”. This is something I have never heard of. The theory goes that there is something going on at the atomic level. When a cat or dog is separated the equilibrium in the atoms in respect of the electrons is disturbed and a reunion is the only way to recreate the equilibrium
On a more simplistic level, we only have to look at the wild cats. Some have extremely large home ranges of hundreds of square kilometers. The snow leopard comes to mind as one example. They navigate and patrol these areas effectively. My theory is that cats and dogs use a wide range of signals to assist them. Some are commonsense and some may be related to science which we are unsure about.
Another factor in the success of cats to travel long distances to return to their families is their survival instinct. Cats as we know have nine lives and they sometimes use up some of these on the hazardous trek home. The homing instinct of cats are remarkable.
It also begs the question as to whether people (or at least some of us) have the same or similar skills!
The Homing Instinct of Cats – source material: Play It Again Tom by Augustus Brown – thank you.