Why do domestic cats abandon their owners?

Sometimes domestic cats gradually migrate to a new “owner”. I don’t think they “abandon” their owner in the same way that some people abandon their pet cat by dumping them by the roadside or outside a rescue centre or perhaps taking them back to a rescue centre. Domestic cats leave their owners in are far more subtle and natural way. It might not be that their existing owner is a bad one. They could be perfectly adequate but perhaps for a reason that is not obvious they prefer a neighbour’s home. One reason might be that they are being bullied in their existing home by another cat. This might be difficult to detect because the reasons could be quite slight.

 Free spirit cat
Free spirit cat. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
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Cats choose

A cat might naturally and instinctively migrate towards a better environment if they are able, even though the differences between the new environment and the old isn’t that obvious to humans. It will certainly help if the new environment is very pleasant. If the new home has good food and the owner or occupant of the home is very sensitive towards domestic cats it will obviously encourage the ‘migration’. I’m reminded of Sarah Hartwell who I often refer to. She runs a successful website about cats and she remarked to me that she has never gone out of her way to adopt a cat but that they always come to her and make her home their home. This kind of sums up how cats abandon their owners. They find a better place to live and as one lady said they are free spirits and independent-minded.

Ownership – personality

It goes to the heart of an issue which always pops up which is that you don’t really own a domestic cat. You share a home with them but the concept of human ownership doesn’t really apply to domestic cats and the law is out of date on this subject. The law does say that we own cats but we don’t really. They are free spirits but clearly it depends on the individual cat’s personality as to whether they are confident enough to leave their existing home.

Return to the wild

Sometimes, rarely, a domestic cat’s wild traits come out and drive a cat to leave a good home and live in the wild (urban or countryside). Yes, it is much harder for a cat to survive in the wild but they do it instinctively because it’s more natural for them. I suppose this is truly abandoning their owners (all owners). It shouldn’t surprise people because when you think about it the act of cat domestication is quite a strange one: two completely different species living together harmoniously, hopefully and normally. It’s quite a delicate situation which can be upset and sometimes people take it for granted.

Home range

Like their wild cat ancestor domestic cats have a home range which may be quite or greatly compressed if they are full-time indoor cats. But they have their place which they call their own (shared sometimes as the domestic cat is sociable nowadays) and they may feel that they’re being forced out of it in, perhaps, a multi-cat home. This may encourage them to find a new home range.


I have to come to a conclusion in answering the question in the title. Sometimes cats do truly abandon their owners but normally they gradually migrate to a new home which they have decided is better for a whole range of reasons which are not always obvious. Cats don’t recognise doors, boundaries, fences and designated areas. It’s all wide open to them and they just park themselves in a new area which they prefer but which might happen to be a neighbour’s home.


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