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Why Do Cats Go Missing For Days at a Time? 5 Possible Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Cat walking among tall grass

Do you have a cat that spends at least part of its time outdoors? Have you noticed that it will sometimes spend days away from home? In this article, we will discuss some of the possible reasons for this behavior and identify strategies for keeping your cat from wandering off so often.

The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat May Have Gone Missing

If your outdoor cat hasn’t come home in a few days, there are several reasons why this might be the case. Consider whether any of the following reasons could explain your cat’s absence.

1. Your cat is in heat.

If you have a female cat who is not spayed, she may be out in search of a mate. Cats in heat tend to wander until they can successfully locate a mate. If this is the case, you will have probably noticed some other behaviors such as begging to be let out of the house, spraying urine, raising the hind legs, uncharacteristic or increased affection, and rolling around on the ground. If you do not want your cat to become pregnant, you may want to consider spaying her before letting her roam the streets.

2. Your cat has located a source of food.

Whether it’s a local rodent population or a friendly neighbor, your cat will stick around wherever it can find a good meal. Pay attention to your cat’s appearance and try to assess whether or not it is gaining weight. A cat that is eating at home and at a neighbor’s house is likely to pack on the pounds if it is getting more food than it needs. Ask around in your neighborhood to determine whether anyone has seen your cat poking its head in for a morsel or two. Politely ask that any well-intentioned neighbors who find your cat on their stoop refrain from feeding it.

birman cat walking outdoors
Image Credit: Jeannette1980, Pixabay

3. Your cat is trapped or staying in a temporary shelter.

If the weather is bad, your cat may have decided to seek shelter somewhere, such as a shed, garage, or underneath a car. If you’ve ever locked a cat in a closet by accident, you know how easy it is to do; cats are small and will often slide into spaces without humans knowing. It is possible that your cat could be locked inside a neighbor’s shed or getting warm by huddling under someone’s car. Make sure to let your neighbors know that your cat is missing so that they will check under their cars before starting their engines.

4. Your cat is lost.

Cats very rarely get lost because they have an excellent sense of smell that can help them track their route. However, they can become disoriented if they are frightened by a noise and dart away quickly or they follow their prey into an unfamiliar part of town. In most cases, however, even lost cats can find their way back.

Flame point siamese walking
Image By: Lflorot, Shutterstock

5. Your cat is ill.

Sick cats tend to spend time alone. They do this to prevent predators or rivals from noticing that they are weakened and potentially more vulnerable. If your cat is sick, there will likely be other signs, including loss of appetite, inability to use the litter box, aggression, and uncharacteristic crying or hissing when held. If you have a sick or elderly cat, it may have wandered off to find a place to die alone. While this can be difficult for families, you should try to remember that being alone is probably what your cat wants in this situation. If you are able to find your cat, be sure to check for any symptoms that might indicate they need medical attention.

Ways To Keep Your Cat From Wandering Off

While you cannot completely control your cat’s behavior, there are some strategies you can try to prevent your cat from wandering off for long periods of time.

Here are our tips for keeping your kitty at home:
  • Spay or neuter your cat to keep it from chasing potential mates.
  • Use a cat tracker in your cat’s collar and make sure your cat is microchipped.
  • Purchase an enclosure that your cat can use to explore the outdoors while feeling protected and without feeling the need to wander too far.
  • Play with your cat to stimulate its hunting instincts and prevent it from wandering off to hunt.
  • Get to know your neighbors so that you can contact them in the event that your cat does wander off again.
  • Transition your cat from outdoor to strictly indoor living. This may be hard at first, but it is ultimately a safer option for your feline’s lifestyle.


There are many reasons why your cat may have wandered off. With some context clues, you can identify why your cat may be leaving your home for several days at a time and hopefully prevent it from happening again.

Featured Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

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