Cat finds way home. How?

Last winter we would occasionally catch a glimpse of a cat in our barn. I set our Havaheart trap and eventually caught her. I took the trap to the vet and had this 6 month old feral leukemia tested, vaccinated, and spayed. I brought her home still groggy and set her up in a spare room with food, water, litter, and a Feliway diffuser.

My gf sat in the room for an hour or so every evening. After a month she could touch the cat. Eventually the cat came to like her. But we didn’t want a cat.

A friend did want a cat, so we drove her over. It was a 4 mile drive. The day after we dropped her off, The cat found a loose screen and escaped, disappearing. She searched her property, put out food, etc.

A few days later the cat showed up on our porch as we ate dinner by candlelight, scaring the crap outa me. She has been her since, living outside but hanging out with us anytime we are outside.

So. . .how do cats find their way? Is it scent? Trial and error? Magnetic fields? What?

The neighbor’s farm, while a 4 mile drive, is probably a 2 mile hike through the woods. We ride over on horseback occasionally and our dogs sometimes go there to swim in their lake.

Trial and error is certainly possible. This study shows that the feral cats studied have a range of up to around 2 square miles. So it wouldn’t be all that weird for the cat to wander a mile or so down the road and accidentally run into some familiar territory.

I think cats has powerful sense of smell or perhaps their body has some kind of tracking device that could enable them to track their last known position and to help them track their home.

She totally could have followed your scent through the woods. Their sense of smell is as good as dogs. An indoor-only all its life cat may not have had the wherewithal to make the trek, but since this kitty was already an outdoor cat, it was easy-peasy to find her way back and keep herself fed and sheltered along the way. See what they mean about cats adopting you, not the other way around?

Cool study. I recall reading a blurb about it a while back.

Yep, we’re stuck with her now. I messaged our friend that night, and she broke down in tears; she was sooo relieved. She was shocked when I offered to bring kitty back to her. It’s just assumed that the cat has spoken.:smiley:

They mostly use their alien powers.

Alien purrers?

Why does this story remind me of that creepy doll on the Twilight Zone?
“You’re gonna be sorry”

Let her stay inside, please.
Outside cats die to soon from my experience.

Eaten by plants?

Seriously, if this cat was feral, I doubt it would be happy kept inside, and actually, plenty of people have outside cats that do fine.

Couldn’t get her into the house without re-trapping her in a box trap.

Our other cat, Hootie is 17 and has lived 15 of those years in our barn. His previous owner was going to have him euthanized over litter-box disuse. In the winter when it is brutally cold and snowy, we have tried bringing Hootie in. He will hang out for an hour max, then wants back out.

But yes, the reason we originally took the cat to our friend was so that she could live indoors.

Our home is a farm, the last of three properties on a long gravel private road. No traffic besides us.
ETA: what njtt said.

My gf sat in the room for an hour or so every evening. After a month she could touch the cat. Eventually the cat came to like her. But we didn’t want a cat.

Why would you spend a month trying to tame a feral cat that you don’t want?

And then when you succeed in creating a bond, you give the cat away.

Why are you torturing this poor cat?

don’t discount their good hearing. they recognize the sound of the food drawer being opened distinct from all the other drawers in the house.

you can turn the cat into an easy life indoor cat or let it stay an outdoor cat as is its current nature

an outdoor cat can do just fine in your climate with adequate food.

you can get cats to stay if you provide easy food and some outdoor shelter to stay dry. if you want to have your friends keep the cat then always return it and never feed it, let them provide tasty food and treats upon and after return.

A friend of mine would call his cat with the electric can opener to take it to the vet.

My gf wanted to attempt to make things better for the cat. We also didn’t want it to reproduce, hence the spay. We attempted to tame her enough so that someone else (our friend) could take things from there.

I’m gonna go with confirmation bias.

If you release eight cats in a spot they’ve never been to, four miles away from home, and each of them wanders off in a random cardinal direction, seven of them end up hopelessly lost and you never see them again but one is headed in the right direction and begins to recognize landmarks when close to home.

Then the seven people whose cats never came back DON’T ask the question why.

I took in an abandoned cat who refuses to come inside. We got her a Snuggle Safe Pet Bed Microwave Heating Pad (snappy name, eh?), which we put under blankets in the garage in the winter. She loves it.

Sorry if this is too off-topic for GQ.

What about these stories of dogs who somehow end up a thousand miles or more from home, and yet somehow find their way back?

Are those stories for real? And if so, how do they do it (no scent to track there.)

Another anecdotal story, but years ago one of my brothers needed a barn cat to take care of mice/rats after he rented an old farm place. He took a friendly outdoor tomcat from our farm, drove it almost 20 miles north to his rental late at night in the trunk of a car.
When he opened the trunk at his place, the cat shot out of there like a furry gray missile and disappeared into the woodline north of the rental house (going the wrong way). The cat was back in our barn waiting to get fed the next morning like nothing had happened.

Just so more points to add to the mix.

One of my sisters had an old grey tom that was a dog bustin badass. He took off from our cabin and showed up at her house 45 miles away about 6 weeks later.
Fast FWD a few years.
Cat disappears at the house and 3 years later shows up at the cabin. Stays for several years and then disappears forever.

We had a cat that liked to go walkabout. After a couple of 1-2 day trips, left for a couple of weeks. Showed up for a few days then went off again, have not seen since.

Cats are strange. We only have 8 at this time.