Unlike dogs, cats are only semi-domesticated animals. This may explain why cats are natural wanderers; every cat owner knows this! It is known that some cats are gifted with a fantastic sense of direction, but the source of this gift is still a mystery. We have yet to find a definite answer to the question, how can a cat find its way home even thousands of kilometers away? Read on to learn how cats find their way back home.
Theorists speculate that a cat can instinctively choose the right direction, even if it first finds itself in an unfamiliar place. But how? Cats can be one of those animals that can sense the earth’s magnetic fields. In addition, there is iron in a cat’s inner ear and skin, which can act as a natural compass.
You have probably read or heard a few stories about cats that were lost for an unthinkable period, and after many years, they found their way back to their beloved home despite all the difficulties! While few scientific studies can prove why some cats return home unmistakably, several theories might explain how this happens. Cats can return home thanks to an impressive internal compass, whether due to their sense of smell or earth magnetism.
How Do Cats Find Their Way Back Home?
How Do Cats Walk?
To understand how cats return home, let’s examine how a cat walks, whether in urban, suburban, or rural areas. Cats are territorial animals. You may have already witnessed examples of your cat’s territorial behavior without even realizing it – for example, when the cat rubbed its cheeks, sides, and tail against objects, your legs, and trees around your house. This behavior is a way of marking territory with the smell of pheromones. Cats rub against objects on the street to mark their houses and areas that they consider “theirs.” they send messages to other cats that this is someone else’s territory and it is already occupied, or someone has claimed it.
Thanks to these invisible boundaries for the human eye, established among animals, cats, as a rule, remain in their own or familiar territories most of the time. Observation of cats revealed that they can bypass the territory up to several tens of kilometers! However, most domesticated cats walk in a much smaller area, and many dare to go up to 1.5 km from where they live. Cats that lived in a densely populated area that several other cats live in were more likely to explore only a tiny portion of their street, and some cats may even choose to stay within the familiar boundaries of their yard.
How Do Cats Find Their Way Home?
Cats that offer the opportunity to walk outside quickly explore the surrounding area and usually stay close to home. But what happens if a cat is on the street that has never been there? Or what if you were traveling with your cat and she lost … can she find her way home? And if so, how? Due to a lack of scientific research on this topic, it is currently impossible to tell exactly how some cats return. Several theories can shed light on possible explanations, one of which is the feline’s definition of its territory.
Cats mark their territories differently, with urine, claws, cheek pheromones, etc. Cats actually have a perfect sense of smell, almost as good as a dog’s nose. For example, the human nose has five million odor receptors, while cats can have up to eighty million. Cats use their sense of smell to understand if other cats are nearby, whether they are enemies or friends, and whether other cats occupy the territory they have entered; they can also find their home by smell. They smell their familiar scent several hundred meters away and realize they have returned to their home territory.
These sensory abilities can certainly help a cat navigate the world around her, but there is another reason why cats sometimes return home. Like most mammals, a cat’s inner ear contains iron, which can help them determine the direction, thanks to the earth’s magnetic field. Some animals, such as deer, have shown the ability to discriminate between north and south, which suggests that cats can do this too.
What Colors Can Cats See?
There is an opinion that cats have incredibly sharp eyesight, and they see perfectly in complete darkness, but at the same time, they do not distinguish colors and see the world in black and white. However, scientists have proved that all this is nothing more than myths.
Are Cats Color Blind?
Many do not know for sure whether cats are color blind or not, but they are already in a hurry to make erroneous assumptions and conclusions. As proved by scientists, despite all the previous guesses and hypotheses, cats can see and distinguish some colors, albeit rather weakly.
Unfortunately, such animals’ green, red, and yellow tones cannot be distinguished. How many colors a cat sees can be found if you think logically. It turned out that their biological nature laid increased attention to gray, white, and dark tones.
All this is due to some factors inherent in cats, namely:
- The plant world is painted green, which does not attract the attention of cats at all.
- The main prey of such animals is mice and rats, which by nature are gray, white, or gray-brown.
- The world at night does not have colorful shades, and cats are accustomed to leading a nocturnal lifestyle.
Two types of receptors on the retina of the cat’s eye are its most essential parts, as they are directly responsible for the perception and recognition of color. They are called cones and chopsticks. These pets and people are not much different since both receptors are inherent in them. The main difference is only in the number of those same receptors. Cats have fewer cones than rods, which is why pets recognize colors much worse than humans and have better vision in the dark.
What Colors the Cat Does Not Distinguish At All?
Scientists have long studied cats’ vision and conducted many experiments. At one of them, for the sake of the experiment, they painted things that were especially attractive to predators – prey and feed. During the test, it turned out that cats do not distinguish between such a range of colors and their tones:
Cat’s vision perceives these colors as one of many shades of gray. However, the perception of a red tint by the cat’s eye is still unknown. Thanks to such non-standard vision, cats can survive in their natural habitat – fields and forests. They quickly notice even the smallest movement at a great distance and attack with lightning speed. Moreover, it allows you to hide from larger predators quickly.
Why Do Cats See Well in the Dark?
On the Internet, many photo materials depict cats with bewitching glowing eyes in the dark. Many are used to believing that it is because of such bright eyes that they can see in the darkness almost as clearly as during the day. However, only some people know this assumption is completely erroneous and has nothing to do with reality.
The entire cat family represents farsighted animals that can see their prey from afar and monitor it without scaring it. They can perfectly identify and distinguish objects at a distance of no more than ten meters, and their eyes cover a review of 270 degrees. However, their eyeballs are set deep enough, and because of this, the cats have to follow the object, periodically turning their heads. Meanwhile, human eyes can quickly move the viewing angle without changing the position of the head.
There are photosensitive cells in the retina: cones and rods. In the eyes of a cat, there are many more sticks than in humans. They are located closer to each other and, due to this, form a lens that catches the minimum reflection of light. That is why pets see much better than their owners in dim light or complete darkness and can keep track of their prey with quick movements. They use a mustache (vibrissa), which sometimes calmly replaces their eyes and ears for better orientation. This is especially evident in deaf or blind cats.
Help Your Cat Get Back
While there are certainly impressive stories of dogs that walked tens of kilometers to return to their owners and cats found in a nearby town years after being lost. Unfortunately, many of the missing animals don’t return home. It is safe to assume that most pet owners would not want their pets to go missing, and proactive measures can help prevent such a disaster.
First, you can microchip your cat and always wear a secure self-detaching collar with updated contact information. Also, for the safety of your cat and anyone she might come across, be sure to castrate cats and cats, which will prevent unwanted pregnancies in females and curb the tendency to run away and wander.
Dr. Jenifer Miona is a highly skilled and compassionate veterinarian based in Ireland. With a passion for animal health and wellbeing, she has dedicated her career to providing the highest standard of veterinary care to pets and their families.
After completing her veterinary degree at the University of Dublin, Dr. Miona went on to specialize in small animal medicine. She has since gained extensive experience in all areas of veterinary care, including routine check-ups, surgical procedures, and emergency treatments.
In her clinic, Dr. Miona is known for her gentle and compassionate approach to patient care. She takes the time to listen to the concerns of pet owners and develops personalized treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each animal.
Beyond her clinical work, Dr. Miona is active in the veterinary community and stays up-to-date with the latest advances in veterinary medicine through ongoing education and professional development. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the Irish Veterinary Association and the European College of Small Animal Medicine.
Outside of her work as a veterinarian, Dr. Miona is an avid animal lover and enjoys spending time with her own pets. She also volunteers at local animal shelters and is committed to promoting animal welfare through community outreach and education.