How Long Do Cats Go Out For?


It’s relatively common for cats to go missing at some time or another. More independent than dogs and a lot less clingy, your typical house cat tends to be something of a roamer.

This isn’t really ideal for jumpy owners, though. We this in mind, we’ll now take a closer look at the reasons why cats often go missing, when to worry and what to do if your beloved mog doesn’t return.

How Long Should My Cat Be Missing Before I Worry?

The average length of time it takes for a cat to return home is about 24-72 hours, but this can vary.

There are times when cats go missing for longer – this can of course be a source of great stress for caring and attentive owners.

Much depends on your cat’s normal routines. Try comparing its current absence with any previous occasions when it didn’t return home when expected.

Generally speaking, if it hasn’t returned in more than three days, you should contact your local cat shelter or vet.

Where Do Cats Go When They Go Missing?

When not at home, a cat’s typical day is often filled with hunting and exploring. And because they’re so territorial they’ll usualy roam around patrolling their domain.

A cat’s territory is usually defined by its scent. So, to retain their hard fought-for boundaries, they’ll use a scent to mark their territory – all in all quite a time-consuming activity!

Most felines roam up to 100 square yards from their house, but some are more adventurous than others and travel further.

Cats can also become distracted or hindered by local terrain or structures that make it difficult for them to return home.

We’ll now take a closer look at some of the common reasons for your cat’s absence.

Cat in Tree

Stuck in Tree/Tall Structure

Cats of course love to climb for various reasons. As well as getting a better view of the world, they can track and/or lie in wait for prey. Being high up also makes them feel safe and protected.

Having such an instinctive need to climb can unfortunately put them in a pickle sometimes.  While it’s usually very easy to ascend trees or other tall structures, it’s not always as easy to come down.

Hence, the proverbial cat stuck in a tree scenario could be the reason why he hasn’t yet returned home.

Trapped in an Outbuilding

Cats are often attracted to outbuildings and sheds because they are dark, dry and warm, which  makes them ideal places to rest. They may also be attracted by the smell of food or potential prey located therein.

An open door could therefore be very inviting. Should somebody close and lock said door, the cat becomes trapped – another reason why you’re still waiting for your cat to come home.

Trapped in Another Cat Owner’s House

Cats are not averse to exploring other cat-owners’ houses. This is especially true if cat is in pursuit of a rival feline or potential mate.

Food can also tempt cats to take a closer look. Access is often made much easier, given how many people install cat-doors.

Unfortunately for a marauding cat, a lot of cat-doors have two-way locking systems – so the door can be locked from the inside as well as from the outside. So getting trapped is a very real possibility.

Hunting Odysseys

Despite enjoying a regular diet, house cats are hunters by nature. To satisfy this basic instinct, hunting usually forms part of their daily routine. They favourite prey tends to be birds, insects and rodents.

If pickings are slim within their own territory, it’s not unknown for cats to move outside of their own realm in search of victims.

This behavior tends to be more pronounced during the spring and summer months due to more agreeable weather.

Waiting for a Mate

Unneutred male cats often wander around their neighbourhood before they pick up the scent of a female cat in heat, while others can travel for very long distances.

Should the object of your cat’s affections be locked in a house, he may simply wait until the female appears. So it’s possible that your cat could be missing for a day or to. Unspayed females also exhibit similar behaviors.

What to Do If Your Cat Goes Missing

So how to find a missing cat? The first thing to do is try and remain calm and be optimistic. There’s a myriad of reasons why your cat might not have returned home, the majority of which are completely innocuous.

Search Your Home and Garden

Conduct a thorough search in and around your home. Cats are known to be curious creatures so make sure to check all of the places that he could be hiding, both in your house and garden.

Search the Surrounding Neighborhood

Then start looking around your neighborhood and knock on doors. Local cats become familiar to residents so there’s a chance that one of them might have seen your cat more recently than you.

If one of them has, this is really going to help put your mind at rest. Also, try to provide a photo for those unfamiliar with your cat.

Social Media

Use Social Media and the Internet

Use social media to spread the word about your missing cat. Post a photo on Facebook or Instagram with a description and share it with your friends.

Contact Local Animal Shelters and Vets

Another option that’s perhaps more suited to cats that have been missing for more than a couple of days is to contact your local animal shelter. Ask them if they have found any stray or missing cats recently.

It may also be the case that somebody handed one in. If your cat has been microchipped, it’s merely a case of the vet or shelter employee scanning it to confirm your ownership.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Going Missing

Given the personality of cats and their roaming instincts, preventing them from going missing at some point can be pretty challenging. Here are a few suggestions that might be of some help.

Use a Two-Way/Microchip Cat Flap

As mentioned, most modern cat doors allow you to lock them from inside and out. One option might be to lock from the inside after certain hours.

Although he probably won’t be too impressed, if he can’t access the great outdoors as and when he pleases, at least you’ll have more control over his roaming habits.

Microchip cat flaps are another option. These allow you to configure the  door to only grant access to your cat. They can also be locked at a time of your choosing.

Use GPS to Keep Track of Your Cat

Thanks to modern technologies, it’s now possible to learn the location of your cat with the use of RF or GPS trackers. This is a device that’s attached to a cat’s collar which can track its location in real time. See our article to learn more about how cat trackers work.

To monitor your cat’s location you can simply use an app on your phone or tablet. The GPS device will then provide your with updates. While these may not be ideal for every cat, they’re a great way to ensure peace of mind.


Hopefully, this article will be of some help, if your cat is late coming home. Keep in mind that in the vast majority of cases, awol cats do return – so if you’re wondering about whether or not to let your cat out, don’t be put off! Sometimes, their extended leave of absence is simply because they operate according to their time not yours!

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