Categories: home range

Why this cat ended up living on a scrapyard and not in his warm friendly home

This is an example of a domestic cat trying to return to his home range (the territory that he feels is his home) after his owner moved home. But he failed and got lost.

Little Jess got lost trying to go back to ‘his’ home. Photos: MEN Media. Montage: PoC.

I am sure that this happens a lot. It happened to me and my cat. The distance of the move may be a factor. If the distance is short it makes a return journey more likely.

In this instance Cathy Scott, 27, moved home with her cat ‘Little Jess’ from Swanland, Yorkshire to Hessle in the same county. In fact the distance between Swanland and Hessle by car is 3.2 miles.

This is the sort of distance which would have encouraged Little Jess to return to his home. He did not want to move in the first place. And I am sure that Cathy adopted him when he was young. He had developed a mental link to his Swanland home. And cats have a home range for life. They don’t move like humans.

I let him out after a month – they usually say around two weeks – and he never returned. I was searching for him and had put up a post last year. The other day someone had seen it and got in touch.

Even though Cathy kept him in for a month after she moved, as soon as she let him out he disappeared in an attempt (I would argue) to return to his Swanland home. He had a 3 mile journey but failed to find it and then failed to get back to his new home in Hessle.

He was lost for 2 years and made his home in a vehicle scrapyard where he found cover from the elements. He found himself in a harsh world. His life was far worse than when he was living with Cathy and her kids.

Underlying issue

The underlying issue is a desire by domestic cats to remain in their home range for life. When wrenched from it they feel uncomfortable and discombobulated and return. Cats have a good sense of direction. Some cats travel many miles to successfully return to their home range. Others are unsuccessful like Little Jess. They are not as good at navigation.

It is not that Little Jess wanted to escape his home because he was unhappy there. Rather, he was compelled by instinct to go back to a place where he felt at home. I’ll guess and say that the scrapyard is somewhere between Swanland and Hessle.

Cathy was reunited with Little Jess through a Facebook campaign and he was microchipped. Little Jess will learn to find his new home acceptable. But it will take time, probably months, but he has lost his memory of his previous home so will not try and return. I don’t think he’ll try and return to the scapyard because he is far more comfortable where he is.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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