Florida Cat Walked 197 Miles To Get Home

By Elisa Black-Taylor

A West Palm Beach, Florida cat has walked 197 miles to get home demonstrating a fantastic homing instinct. This is one of those stories I can never get enough of. It shows the love of a lost cat and its desire to be reunited with her family.

Four year old Holly, a calico cat, was lost on November 4, 2012 when her owners, Jacob and Bonnie Richter had their motor home parked in the middle of the Daytona Speedway Park. They believe Holly was scared off by fireworks and bolted from the motor home.

Holly’s family spent days putting up flyers and notifying rescue groups. Then time ran out and they had to head back to their home in West Palm Beach without their cat.

The Long Walk Home Mapped

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Cat Holly Walks Home

Cat Holly Walks Home

Holly was spotted outside a Daytona Beach restaurant where feral cats show up to be fed. A rescue group spotted her and notified the Richter family. Holly was gone from the restaurant area before the family had time to make the trip to rescue her.

Last Saturday Holly showed up in the West Palm Beach garden belonging to Barb Mazzola. Holly was too weak to meow and could barely walk. She had lost a lot of weight and could barely walk.

Barb took Holly to a vet, where she was scanned for a microchip. The information came up showing she belonged to the Richters. Holly had walked to within one mile from her home, for a total of 190 miles in just over two months.

Here’s a short video describing Holly’s adventure.

Holly’s going to be fine, but will need to be fattened up after her ordeal. There are several lessons I can think of about cats that we can learn from this brave little kitty.

First of all, love of family conquers all. Holly loved her family and was determined to be rejoined with them.


Next we have the importance of microchips. Not only is it important to have our cats micro-chipped, we also need to make it understood to anyone finding a cat, that the cat should be taken to a vet or shelter and checked for a chip. Micro-chipping is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the return of a lost cat. Statistics show a 2-5% return rate for cats who are not micro-chipped, compared to 39% of cats who are. Be sure to keep the micro-chip information up to date with the provider, and have your vet scan it at each visit to ensure it’s still working.


I just have to say something about the manner in which Holly was lost. She was terrified of fireworks. I’m going to hold my tongue on that one, which is really hard for me, but I’d like to say WHAT CAT ISN’T! Fireworks and cats (or dogs) don’t go well together. My cats live indoors, and we always have to comfort them during the seasonal fireworks the neighbors shoot off. Thankfully, they’re usually over and done with in less than ten minutes. We try to offer our cats playtime and treats to distract them from the noise. I really hope Holly’s owners didn’t realize the fireworks were going to take place.

Homing Instinct

Holly’s story leads me to ask, “how did she do it?” How did she find her way home? Is this a fantastic sense of direction that a lot of humans don’t possess? Michael has a page on this: The Homing Instinct of Cats. The homing skill is dependent on the individual cat and the major factor is probably the ability of cats to sense the earth’s magnetic field. We are not sure, though.

In Holly’s case, the fact that the journey home was almost directly south might have helped using the earth’s magnetic field.

Domestic Cats Struggle in the Wild

Some people say the domestic cat can manage if simply left in the wild. A few can. Almost all cannot because they are domesticated. Holly’s loss of weight indicates the difficulties faced by domestic cats when they have to survive on their own.

In closing, I’d like to offer a bit of advice every cat lover needs to remember. Always guard the door to your home. Sometimes this can be quite difficult if your cat is a Houdini master escape artist (like our cat Gizzy). Be especially proactive on keeping your cat inside during holidays where fireworks may be set off. It takes a lot less effort to guard a door than to search the neighborhood for a terrified cat. Especially if the cat escapes a good distance from home.

Stay safe, Holly. Please don’t take any more road trips on your own.


Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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4 Responses

  1. an amazing “Believe it or not” true life cat story.Fireworks are the main reason for pets bolting out of their homes in all country’s. Pet owners should keep the doors of their houses or windows shut during firework displays in their localities.This is a miraculous story.

  2. Hairless Cat says:

    Hi Elisa,

    Amazing story and glad it turned out well. 197 whole miles is no small task for all but a bird.

    Good thing Holly was microchipped though there’s something of a fair chance that she’d have made it all the way to the exact house.

    I’m with you on the fireworks. I call the cops when our neighbors shoot them off. It disturbs my peace and scares my cats half to death. I wish people would stop being so selfish when they know it upsets cats and dogs and that it disturbs the peace. Then there’s the fire hazard and risk of injury.

    The homing instinct is incredible. I think that you and Marc are right – it’s the magnetic field and probably more.

    As Marc pointed out, there are probably additional contributing factors – weather, atmosphere, and direction sense as well as being somewhat familiar with the route and landmarks.

    Additional factors might be elevation, position of the sun, smells in the wind. Call me crazy, but perhaps cats can see into the Astral Plane or just “feel” where their loved ones are. It always seems like they have some kind of extra-sensory perception.

    On the last point, I always shoo the cats away when I approach doors leading outside of my house. I don’t let them come near the doors when I am going to open them. I learned the hard way a long time ago and will never make that mistake again.

    Super interesting article, Elisa.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

  3. Marc says:

    Amazing. I believe she sensed the sea was on one side of her – or the prevailing winds and she was then left with having to go south – perhaps because she sensed the sea or such on the opposite side of her on the journey up there. Even if you are in the back of the car you kind of know the general direction you are going in from when you left even if you are lost otherwise. So you sense which way you should go back. I don’t know how far from the sea it is that she was, but the sea brings seagulls and a general air and atmosphere that can be sensed as coming from one side of your environment. Its probably the only simple thing she had to go by. Amazing story though.

    Can I just say something – bringing your cat to the Daytona speedway is tupi lupi bonkers. I work at race circuits around Europe often and I could think of no worse place for a cat. That’s crazy.

    But well done Holly for keeping the water to your right since it was on your left all the way up there. She must have known when she was near home from thew sounds and smells of her usual area.

    A happy ending – that’s nice!

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