Your beloved cat opted for a miserable life under a porch somewhere about half a mile away or under the crawlspace of a neighbor’s house (USA) instead of the warmth and comfort of your home.
I have just read two cases of loved cats disappearing. Their caretakers were distraught so they must have really cared for them and looked after them well. Their cat’s lives were certainly better, much better, than after they had “escaped to freedom”.
Perhaps the two examples that I read concerned full-time indoor cats who craved an outdoor life but when they discovered it they found it too harsh and couldn’t cope. However, I think this happens with cats who are allowed out.
I don’t know for sure why cats leave their caretaker’s home. If the caretaker is no good then it makes sense to leave. This is not uncommon. Often these cats find another home, perhaps a home they have visited before several times. But to leave a decent home where a cat is treated well for an uncertain future where there is no food and warmth seems strange.
I will have a guess at why this happens. The cat is an indoor cat or confined in some way. The space allowed is too small. The natural drives within a cat click in and the cat seeks ways to express his natural desires, to roam within a territory that suits his instincts.
Once out, he is fine for a while, then he becomes confused and nervous because he has to survive in a strange place. He has lost the skills to do that. It is a fallacy that the domestic cat can survive in the wild, instantly converting from domestic to wild cat.
Why then does he not return to his home? His caretaker is searching for him, calling his name etc.. Why does he stay out, hungry and cold, anxious and out his element? Shouldn’t his go to his human caretaker immediately?
He returns reluctantly, days later, but when he is found by his caretaker, he is happy. His human companion is happier.