Cat Walks 3,000 Miles & Finds His Way Home / HOW?

I remember seeing a heading similar to the one above and it got me wondering:
How on earth can dogs and cats finds there way home from a distance of hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of miles?

I’ve heard tales growing up, and remember reading a story in the local paper about a family who went camping in British Columbia and took their pet cat in the RV.
Apparently the cat got out and the owners couldn’t find him, so they finally gave up and drove back home to Ontario.

6 months later the cat shows up at their back door “meowing” to be let in.

Are stories like these urban myths? Outright lies that are told in the supermarket tabloids, or do these things really happen?
If it’s true, I wonder if scientists have ever figured out what type of “internal radar” makes this possible.

It’s truly amazing.

I don’t have any source to cite but I seriously doubt a cat would do that. I could believe a dog would because dogs are pack animals and would want to return to the pack. Cats however are solitary. I suspect they either are lying about the cat or found another one that looked alot like it.

It may be possible it was dog instead of a cat in the story I remember, so you very well may be right.
In any case, I still find the story (if there’s any truth to it) simply amazing.
(Dog, cat, pet snake, canary, what have you :slight_smile:

I thought about it some more. heres a suggestion as to why it would not be possible. a cat sleeps somewhere around 16 hours a day. lets assume the cat slept 16 hours a day, spent 2 hours looking for food and 6 hours walking towards his previous owners house in a direct path. lets further assume that the cat walked about 5mph. 5 x 6=30 miles per day. about 100 days to make it home. again this is assuming the cat was walking as the crow flies towards his house. How many roads would the cat have to cross and how many predators would he half to face?

it just isnt likely

A dog on the other hand-using the same scenario would probably only sleep 8 hours, if he walked at the same pace he could make about 70 miles per day and make the trip in about 42 days. However if If it was only 1000 miles, the dog makes the journey in 14 days. Much more plausible and still sounds pretty amazing. :smiley:

This calls for an experiment with something involving RFID chips and GPS satellites. We have too have a family story about a cat that was dropped off at a farm some 350-400 miles away, and found it’s way home after a few months.

I have one anecdote about a cat returning “home” after being gone for more than 2 months:

We have a feral cat colony here at the university and one of the cats disappeared. We searched in areas near where she and he son usually slept and ate, and she was no where to be found. Eventually, we decided she was gone and was not coming back.
Then, one day, I went to feed her son, and there she was, much thinner than usual, but laying in her usual spot and acting as though nothing was out of the ordinary. I have no idea whether she wandered off, got stuck under a pipe or in a building, or was carried away in the bed of a pickup (she used to sleep on cars all the time), but whatever happened, she came back to where she knew she had food and shelter.

A cat may sleep 16 hours a day when it has nothing better to do, but if it has a need to be active (say, to get home) it will be active as long as is necessary.

The predators thing, though, is a solid point.

Did anyone else hear Bob Dylan sing this?

Wasn’t the Incredible Journey ( billed as a true story? Confirmed or debunked?

  1. :wink:


As someone who has had many cat companions over the years, I can safely tell you that “cats are solitary” is a myth. Domestic cats, feral of not, are social animals who form relationships with other cats, humans, even dogs.

They recently tracked a wolf that left its pack in Alberta, Canada and headed south into Montana. It had a GPS collar on it, so they could follow its movements pretty well. Obviously, it didn’t travel in a straight line, since it had to hunt, but it still managed to travel over 300 miles in a month. That’s 10 miles a day when wandering aimlessly looking for a mate.

In another case, a wolf was eating livestock, so they tranquilized it and relocated it 140 miles away. It was back in just under a week. That’s 20 miles a day with a specific destination in mind–and it was traveling from an area it had never visited back to its home.

I see no reason a domestic dog in good shape couldn’t duplicate that. Cat’s don’t travel quite that fast. Cats do seem to be better able to go feral in a hostile environment, though. We had a tubby housecat disappear for three weeks in December with temperatures hovering right around freezing. We thought he was dead for sure. We lived in an area of California with bobcats, foxes, coyotes, mountain lions, and quite a few other critters that would cheerfully kill a cat. He came back hungry, but much healthier-looking than when he left.

Yep. And it depends on the cat too. The two cats I have now are the most “dog-like” I’ve ever observed. When I move about the house, they follow me from room to room. Not in an aloof “I meant to go to this other room anyway” feline kind of way, but in a big, goofy, canine “I’m off to hang out with the two-legged one in the computer room” way.

I think Cecil answered this in one of his articles but I couldn’t find it. The gist, if I recall correctly, was that the dog just sort of wanders around in the right general direction until it sees something it recognizes then goes straight home. Mostly luck then for it to stumble accross the right landmarks. I’ll see if I can dig up his article later tonight if I’m not working late and if I can find it in the archive. As to a cat…no idea. Sounds implausable to me but I suppose it could be the same kind of thing…mostly luck.


Yep again. We have three cats. One was feral when found and adopted, and now (15 years later) she’s one of the most demanding “I have to sit in your lap and be petted” cats I’ve known. Another one is in the “follow from room to room” category (no pun intended). She’s not goofy in any way, but clearly has an air of “I want to be in the same place you are”. At least sometimes. She even wags her tail like a dog; it’s unusually short, result of a birth defect, so she can wag it like crazy, and does.

[Sorry for the OT…]

First hand experience here with a cat traveling about 15 miles in about a week to get home. My aunt and uncle were going out of town and gave us their two cats to take care of. One of the cats disappeared after a day. We were really worried and frantic. We kept checking the animal shelters and put signs up in the neighborhood.
When my aunt and uncle came home they called us and asked why we just left one of the cats at the house. They thought since we knew which day they were coming home that we had decided to just drop off the cat earlier in the day.

The cat had found its way home from across town. About 15 miles and no one to have done it without crossing major roads and a bridge.

I tried this once, using an airplane, with my wife.

SHE came back.


I’ll bet sombody found the dog, took it to the address on the tag, then took the tag off and left it at the owners’ doorstep. Y’know, just to trip them out.

When I was in 5th grade, we moved from one house in Sunnyvale CA to another. But for about a month in between, we stayed at a friends’ house, which was probably about a mile from either. When we arrived at the new house, our cat escaped, and several months later showed up at the intermediate (friends’) house. Granted, it was hardly an Incredible Journey. On the other hand, how on earth did the cat even know the right direction to start out in? A mile in suburbia includes a LOT of chances to go the wrong way and get lost forever. And continuing that search for several months is pretty impressive.

(Poor thing lost 1/3 of its body weight, but ended up fine.)

True story: When I was a kid, our dog, a Shelty, ran away from home. My mom placed an ad in the paper, and we got a call within just a few days that someone had found him ten miles away, across town. When we went and picked him up, he recognized us!

Yes, the canine homing instinct is truly amazing.