Why Cats That Are Lost May Not Return Home

If you have experienced, or are currently experiencing a lost or missing cat, it can be a very stressful time. These feelings are understandable because your cat is part of your family and you sincerely want your cat to come home.

why some lost cats do not return

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I’ve been blessed to work with people and their lost cats (as well as many other types of animals) for over a decade. Thankfully, there have been many success stories along the way. The missing pets I work with are not only from the United States, but are also from all over the world. While many of the animals are reunited with their families, some aren’t able to return home and others may choose not to return home.

While there are many obvious reasons a cat won’t be reunited with their families, there are also many not so obvious reasons. One obvious reason would be that they left because something frightened them. Examples would include any number of unexpected loud noises such as fireworks going off, a car that backfires or someone firing a gun. They will not return until they no longer hear the noise and they regain their confidence. Another such case of something frightening them is if a predator chased them away. If they feel like they are still in danger, they will not return home until they feel the predator is gone.

Another obvious reason that cats may leave their home is if they haven’t been spayed or neutered and they leave to seek, shall we say, companionship. This can be the case several times per year. Even those cats that have been spayed or neutered will sometimes develop an overwhelming desire to go out and explore their surroundings.

Cats have been known to be perfectly content to view their outdoor surroundings from a window for years. Then one day, they decide to slip out to get a closer look. Often these cats will begin exploring new areas and before they know it, they can be miles from their home. Sometimes they will become confused or fall into harm’s way, especially when they are in unfamiliar territory.

Cats that are lost can sometimes be taken in by a different family. Some families may keep the cat indoors and take care of them while they actively look for the original family. Others wait to see if anyone posts a sign or show up at their door looking for the lost cat. Still others may simply choose to keep a cat because they like the cat or their children have fallen in love with the cat.

I’ve known people to say that the original owners must not have cared much for the cat since they let it get lost in the first place. Of course while that may be true in some cases, that’s not true in most cases. After all, accidents can happen and cats can escape their home without someone noticing. I’ve known this to happen on more than one occasion.

lost cat that has not returned

A not so obvious reason that cats may choose to leave their homes and not return is that they’ve fulfilled their purpose with a person or with their family. Like us, animals come into this realm of existence with a specific purpose or mission to fulfill. Some refer to this as your life’s path. Not all animals have more than one mission during the same lifetime, but some do. So, some animals, therefore, have been known to leave because their life’s mission may be taking them in another direction.

I recount one example in particular where my client had gone through a divorce and missed having a companion in her life. She decided to adopt a kitten to keep her company and provide her love. She and the cat lived together for nearly ten years and were very happy. She loved the cat but, always yearned for a human relationship and a family. She finally met the man of her dreams and in short fashion they started a family.

Shortly after the first child was born, her cat left home and never returned. She felt sad and blamed herself for not paying attention to her cat. She often wondered if the cat didn’t like the family and felt neglected. In reality, I firmly believe that her cat had fulfilled its purpose of being with her and had moved on to help someone else in a similar capacity.

At the end of the day, I always tell people to never give up on finding a lost cat or any missing animal. As long as they are alive, there’s always hope. However, always consider that there are many reasons that they may leave and not return.


12 thoughts on “Why Cats That Are Lost May Not Return Home”

  1. Our Gizzy was able to slip out the front door only 3 days after we rescued her from a high kill shelter. My daughter was heartbroken and was afraid Gizzy just didn’t like us and ran away. We searched and searched and in 3 days Gizzy showed back up and came back inside. She escaped 2-3 more times over the next 2 years. I remember the final escape she was waiting in the back seat of my car where I’d left the window down. It’s too dangerous for her to escape these days. Construction a road over from us has forced coyotes on to our property at night and it just wouldn’t be safe.

  2. I had similar situition when this beautiful tabby cat came for a short time she was so beautiful her name was jadie. Thankfully we were able to find her owner as thought she must be someones pet as she was affectionate and loving. We found the pets owner in the end and was happy to take her back to her owner

  3. A very interesting article. It’s sad when a cat goes missing and never returns and no one ever finds out where the cat has gone, when that happens there is no closure for a family who love their cat.
    Doing Lost and Found for Cats Protection was a very emotional voluntary job, but the pleasure of matching up a found cat with one lost was wonderful. Some people had given up ever seeing their cat again.
    I do believe that sometimes cats (as well as people) come into our lives at a time we need each other but some come to stay for their lifetime.

  4. I’ve often wondered about my Bigfoot. I tried to find his owner back when he moved in, but never succeeded. Bigfoot was just what I needed at the time. Now, I am just what he needs for this period of old age. We are the perfect couple.

  5. Thanks Tim. Very nice article. I have been involved in a quite a few what I call “time-share cats” — cats that share homes but which would stay with me if I allowed them but don’t because it would wrong provided the cat’s caretaker is doing at least a reasonable job. Anyway, sometimes the owner knows about me so if the cat stays she might accuse me of theft.

    It always surprises me that some well cared for cats go and don’t come back. But some do. A neighbour’s cat here has gone missing although he is a unneutered male and probably fits that group of male cats looking for a mate although he may have visited someone nearby with a cat flap (cat door). There are quite a lot of people with cats and cat flaps around here.

    • Yes, often people will say that someone has stolen their cat, though they may be temporarily taking care of the cat.

      You have to watch the cat doors. They are very nice until an unwanted guest enters or the cat exits and never returns.


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