The reason why cats sometimes end up hundreds of miles from their home

Not infrequently we read about domestic cats being lost and found hundreds of miles from their home. How do they get there? There can be only one plausible reason: they have hitched a ride on a lorry or a van parked outside their home. It might be a removals van or lorry or perhaps a tradesman travelling some distance between two towns or cities. Through inquisitiveness the cat jumps on at one town and is transported hundreds of miles to another without the driver being aware of it.

The reason why cats sometimes end up hundreds of miles from their home
Image: MikeB
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When at their new destination they jump out and are found by a good Samaritan as a lost stray who takes them to a veterinarian who then scans their microchip and hopefully discovers the name of the owner and their address to enable a reunion of the two. Sometimes the inadvertent traveller is hurt as in the case of Milo, reported below. There’s a story in The Times today which illustrates the problem and its resolution.

Cat went missing from the Dutch town of Veendam

In this instance, Milo, a three-year-old tabby was last seen by his owner, Marlijn De Wal, at her home in Veendam, the Netherlands on Friday 24th November at 7:15 AM.

It looks like Milo travelled from the Netherlands via Germany to Austria
It looks like Milo travelled from the Netherlands via Germany to Austria. Image: courtesy Google Maps.

De Wal quickly missed him because he “shows up almost every hour and demands a lot of attention”. She reported Milo missing and declared to news media that: “I am always a bit overprotective but thought that with this cold weather Milo really should have come home by now.”

She set up a dedicated Facebook page to try and find him. She put up the usual missing posters and searched in her local woods. She had three restless nights thinking about him.

She then received a phone call from a veterinarian, Dr. Johannes Harting, from the Alpine town of Reutte in the Austrian Tyrol, 530 miles away.

The veterinarian said that a lorry driver had brought Milo to him after finding him at a busy road bypass in Austria.

It appears that Milo had been hit by a vehicle and then found and taken to Johannes Harting for treatment. A good Samaritan indeed.

De Wal discovered that a man had driven a company van with a trailer in one go from her town to Austria and made a short stopover in Reutte. It appears that Milo had jumped on to their trailer or into the van. And then got out somehow and was hit by a passing vehicle because he was described as being in a ‘critical condition’ when at the veterinarian but made a quick recovery and was then reunited in a happy ending.

The moral of the story is that domestic cats make these long-distance journeys with the assistance of some kind of vehicle usually a lorry or a van because domestic cat through their insatiable inquisitiveness simply have to jump into the back of a van to find out what’s going on. The van door is closed and off they go until they are released at the other end which might be, in the case of Milo, 530 miles away! The lesson for cat owners is to keep their cat inside if there is a van outside. Hard to achieve that.

And in the process, also like Milo, the cat might lose one of their lives.

Going home

It should be stated that it does happen (although less frequently) that domestic cats can find their way home on their own travelling on foot over hundreds of miles because of their excellent navigational skills. It is said that they can use the Earth’s magnetic field to help guide them and they will use markers in the landscape as well to assist them. Cats are strongly attracted to their home range which for a domestic cat might be around 10-20 acres surrounding and including the home of their owner. They need to live in the area to feel whole and they use their best efforts to get back to it.

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