Why do cats leave home?

The most likely reason why a cat leaves an apparently good home is because she could not establish an area or territory where she could feel at ease because there were challenges from other cats. Domestic cats still need to have a home range of some sort.

Cat looking for a new home?
Cat looking for a new home?
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When a cat leaves an owner’s home they must do so reluctantly because often they are leaving a supply of food and human companionship. Cats may (perhaps quite rarely) leave homes where they are fed and loved if they cannot establish an area of their own.

Some cats are genuinely lost and wandering cats looking for their original home but most will be seeking a home territory where they can be relaxed.

This is a topic to which cat owners perhaps do not pay enough attention. A lot of cat owners expect a new cat to fit in fairly straightforwardly to a home with an existing cat forgetting that the domestic cat still behaves on many levels like his/her wild cat ancestor.

A domestic cat’s territory can be threatened by a cat next door for instance or other cats or another cat living in the same home. There are real possibilities that cats in a group living in one home might not get along. It does not automatically take place. I am sure Elisa can add a useful comment to this article because she looks after a group of cats who as far as I am aware get along or at least tolerate each other.

In fact cats living in a group in the owner’s home are more likely to tolerate each other rather than form friendships. That said many cats do form friendships and the domestic cat is fairly social. They have learnt to be.

Surveys indicate that in households of two cats about one third (33%) reported that their cats avoid each other if possible while a quarter (25%) fought each other from time to time. Cats will find a way of maintaining the peace by, for example, respecting each other’s resting place. The original cat or dominant cat through size may take the best spots. There may be competition for things like cat flaps and litter trays.

Signs of Conflict

It is useful to recognise signs of conflict. When domestic cats regard themselves as part of the ‘social scene’ and successfully share territory or it overlaps:

  • they hold their tails upright when greeting other cats
  • rub against one another
  • sleep in contact with each other
  • share toys

When cats have separate territories:

  • they chase or run from each other
  • spit and hiss when meeting
  • avoid contact – cat leaves room while the other enters
  • sleep in separate areas – one may sleep at the top of a cat condo
  • ‘sleep defensively’ – not genuinely asleep because the cat is alert. The ears may twitch
  • one cat may deliberately restrict the movements of another – blocking access to cat flap for instance
  • watch one another intently
  • look tense when in the same area as the other cat
  • interact with their human companion in a way whereby they avoid each other.

Cats do leave home and wander into another. The reason is most often the failure to establish a territory where he can feel content.

Source: Dr John Bradshaw’s Cat Sense.

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