Why do Cats Disappear for Days at a Time?

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Cats are very independent animals, they can take care of themselves for long stretches of time and as a result, cat owners are quite happy to allow their cat to freely roam in and out of the house as s/he pleases. Most of the time, cats will stay relatively close to their home and will stick to their known territory. Sometimes, cats disappear for days at a time with little explanation, giving some very anxious owners some long and sleepless nights.

If you’ve wondered why cats do this, then I will try to explain it in this article. I’m by no means a cat behavior expert, but I have a lifetime’s experience of being a cat owner. I’ve had indoors cats, outdoors cats and a combination of the two. This article will explain different theories as to why cats disappear for several days at a time without a trace and then reappear several days later as if nothing happened.

Sometimes, very sadly, cats don’t return home. If your cat is currently missing, then remember that the chances are in your favor and so many cat owners spend days fretting, only for the cat to saunter back in through the door without a care in the world (except for, you know, “feed me now please!”)

Also, don’t forget to check out this complete step-by-step guide of what to do when your cat goes missing, which is very thorough in helping you find your cat. If you want complete peace of mind, then a discreet cat tracker that’s attached to your beloved cat’s collar could give you that security you need. Not all cat trackers are created equal, so here’s a list of best cat trackers and a guide to their features.

Anyway, back to the original question…

Why do Cats Disappear for Days at a Time?

Why do cats disappear for days?
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There are a plethora of reasons that your cat has gone awol, we all know that cats are very curious creatures who love to explore places they shouldn’t. That’s partly why we’re so attracted to cats in the first place, they’re adorably adventurous and we adore them for it.

Un-Neutered Cats are a Greater Risk

If your cat isn’t neutered (male) or spayed (female), then they’re much more likely to wander off and disappear for longer periods of time. Male cats will hear the calls and pick up the scent of female cats (queens), who will be calling out when they’re in-season. Males will wander purposefully around their territory, which is bigger than that of their neutered feline friends.

Sometimes, unspayed female cats will wander further away if they’re unable to find a male cat to mate with. So, by spaying and neutering your cats at the earliest opportunity, you’re protecting them and giving yourself peace of mind that they won’t wander as far.

There are many other benefits to neutering your cat(s), including…

  • Avoid having unwanted litters of kittens, all of whom will need good homes, vaccinations and checking by a vat (which costs $$$)
  • Your cat is likely to live a longer live than an unneutered cat
  • Prevents unwanted cat behavior, such as male cats spraying or female cats calling. Whilst this is completely natural, it can be annoying and distressing for the owner.

So, get your cats neutered!

They get Genuinely Lost

Sometimes, a cat will be happily chilling in its own safe territory. Suddenly, a car backfires nearby that startles the cat, who is already a bit skittish and that cat darts off to find a hiding spot. When the cat feels ready to come out of the hiding spot… s/he is confused, lost, nothing seem familiar. This is how a cat gets lost. Cats are not stupid and their instinct for familiarity is strong, so rest assured that any lost kitty will be searching for those hints of familiarity.

Lost cat sign on tree
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Doing small things like scattering your cat’s dirty cat litter around your back yard or hanging his/her blanket on the clothes line can help your cat find his/her way home. Read our full step-by-step guide to finding your lost cat here.

They get a Better Offer

Sadly, and frustratingly for cat owners, sometimes cats just want to be somewhere else. If your cat is happier somewhere else and gravitates towards that area, there’s not much you can do to stop him/her from roaming over there.

It may be that your cat has found another home, where s/he feels more relaxed and content. Or, there could be something in your home environment that could be pushing the cat away. It may even be outside of your control, like an unruly dog in the neighbor’s yard.

Cats are very determined. If this has happened to your cat, but you know they’re safe and happy, then you just have to leave them be, even if it is heartbreaking for you.

Urgent Cat Business

You know when your cat is just lying there, chilling, before s/he suddenly runs through the door? That’s because s/he has to attend to urgent cat business, that only cats know the details of.

All silliness aside – you’ll just have to accept that sometimes, there are matters that are more important to your cat than being at home. Perhaps sleeping in a tree, hunting mice in an old barn, or even hiding somewhere in your own house.

Cat in tree
Photo credit: Pixabay.

How to Prevent your Cat from Disappearing

If you want to prevent your cat from going missing, getting lost, or wandering too far, then there are a few different things you can do.

Get your Cat Microchipped

There are so many benefits of microchipping. If your cat is microchipped, they stand a much better chance of being found if they do wander off. Kitten owners generally get their cats chipped at the same time as neutering. By doing so, they’re protecting their cat for life.

Microchips can be detected by vets and animal shelters who have hand-held scanning devices used to detect the chip. The chip is connected to a database that contains your contact details, should the cat get lost or go missing. The vet or animal shelter can then contact you to reunite you and your cat.

Take Lots of Photos

This is really important, as if your cat does go missing then you’ll need a good set of photos to show people or to share on social media. If you’re an Instaholic, then this is a good task for you to do right now!

Take photos of your cat from different angles, a front-facing photo and a profile (sideways-facing) photo. Also, take a close-up of his/her face and a photo from a distance. If your cat has any distinctive markings on his/her fur, then take photos that clearly show these too.

Neuter/Spay Your Cats

I’ve already highlighted the benefits of neutering. Cats who are neutered are less likely to wander far. Their instinct to roam is restricted by neutering, making their homing instinct stronger.

There is sometimes financial support available for the procedure if you’re on a low income. This depends largely on where you live and what’s available!

Get a Cat Tracking Device

If you want to be really sure that you’ll be able to find your cat if s/he goes missing, then do all of the above and invest in a cat tracker for your cat’s collar.

There are different types available to suit different budgets. The most popular brands include Loc8tor Tab Cat, and Whistle. They’re all very discreet and lightweight.

Read our detailed Cat Tracker Reviews here, or check out the Best Cat Trackers of 2018!

Make Friends with Your Neighbors

This is vital if you want to prevent your cat from getting lost. Being on your neighbors good side can mean the difference between your cat getting found and him/her staying lost. Unfriendly neighbors are the worst when you’re looking for a lost cat, as they’re not always willing to help or check their outbuildings, etc.

If you have neighbors who don’t like cats, that’s OK. They’re making friends with you, not your cats. If they trust and like you, then they’ll understand your plight if you end up having to search for your cat and be more willing to help.

Read more tips for preventing your cat from getting lost here.

Moving House?

Moving house is a very stressful time, with or without pets! Having a cat to worry about is an added stress. By careful planning and understanding your cat’s behavior, you can make the process of moving house with your cat stress-free!

Decide upon a plan for moving your cat. In my experience, it’s best to ensure the cats are out of the way when large items of furniture are being carried in and out of the house. The doors are wide open, a prime opportunity for your cat to sneak out and hide somewhere.


It’s also common to keep your cat inside after first moving. There’s no specific amount of time, but your should definitely keep your cat indoors for the first 2-3 weeks after moving to a new place.

Read the complete guide for moving house with your cat here.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more, check out these other resources for cat owners.

Thanks for reading!

Black and white cat against a dark blurry background
Photo credit: Pixabay.

This post contains affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, we may receive a small commission if you buy a product using one of the links on this page. Read our full disclosure here.

16 thoughts on “Why do Cats Disappear for Days at a Time?”

  1. Kathleen J Sievert

    I had a cat that was gone for weeks in the middle of an Illinois winter. We thought she would never come back. Then one day, she showed up (hungry of course) but with frostbitten ears. The tips of her ears were gone. Our theory (right or wrong) was that someone picked her up and took her somewhere and left her there. She then took weeks to find her way home. She was a wonderful cat. She never disappeared again.

  2. my cat has been missing for 5 days- soon to be 6 days in a matter of hours. i believe he’s turning a year old this same month (found him meowing outside my door). he hasn’t been neutered, would mating be the reason of his disappearance? i’m very worried that people from my neighborhood had some fun with him- he isn’t used to humans he is not familiar yet and runs away before meowing with such fear. so i’m also thinking that people might have found him that caused him to go farther and lost his way. i don’t know what to do, i’m still very much a 14 year old with no knowledge of cats, sorry.

  3. I got my fairly new (have had her 4 months now) shot updates 2 days ago and she has not come home after them. She comes home everynight until now…I am SO mad at myself for making her do that! 😦

  4. denise honeycutt

    my indoor/outdoor cat has been missing for 2 weeks 2 days. This is very unusual for him. I have searched everywhere, put up posters, put him on PawBoost, Facebook, handed out flyers with his information. I don’t know what else to do. I feel so guilty for letting him go out at night. He has a collar with his name, address, and phone number. I have my neighbors looking for him. He is very shy. He will not go up to anyone for them to see his collar. I don’t know what else to do. He does like to hunt. I am hoping he went too far and got lost and will find his way home. I don’t think he will even come to me he is so shy outside.

    1. My 13 years old cat is missing 6 days and 5 nights. He is inside & outdoor cat. Never done this before. Always stayed around the house. What makes me wonder, after such a long time he slept with me in my bed. Around 5 am he went outside and never came back. Somebody told me, maybe he was sick and this was his time. He eat well, he was very playful, love to cuddle. I put his picture on FB and different website. So far no luck. What about your baby, did he come back???

  5. We have six “outside” cats (“‘s because they’re in the garage every night w/food, water, beds and litter boxes) We live in the woods among 13 acres. Our youngest boy (4) – neutered and the shyest, stayed out one night, then acted strange the whole next day. I noted him moving gingerly and every time I’d get near he’d move further from the house. He’s been out 4 nights now. I finally tracked him in the woods yesterday, but he just went further into the underbrush. I waited for my husband to get home so we could both track him and try to herd him towards the house, but to no avail. The temperature’s been in the 90’s and I thought for sure he wouldn’t make it through last night, but I came home this morning to find him hunkered in the back yard – whether I spooked him coming up the drive I don’t know. My husband had left food and water on the patio. He stayed at the edge of the yard while I watered the beds and when he started to leave again I called to him and took the food and water near him. He ate a little and returned to the underbrush. What can I do? I trapped him and his feral sister in a carrier when they were still following their mom around. I think he’s too smart for that now. Miserable.

  6. my cat periodically went missing for 3-10 days every week. I take it that perhaps she needs a better place, or maybe recreation. suddenly when I was about to eat out, she came back with her kitten.

  7. My cat is an outdoor cat but he’s been sleeping inside for the past couple of weeks and even gained a few pounds he always sits outside the door when he wants to come in. I tried looking for him tonight so he can sleep in my room and I couldn’t find him. I tried calling out for him and he didn’t respond. He normally meows when I call him idk where he is and I’m worried, scones there’s a lot of stray dogs in the area and we have no fence.

  8. We have had cats for over 50 years. They were all “fixed” (after the first few) and outdoor cats. Every cat is different, and most cats are homebodies, maybe leaving for a day or two. We have lost some that did not come back, but the life of freedom & adventure they were allowed comes with risk.

    On the extremes, 45+ years ago, one male cat decided he wanted to go back to a rural area we had lived in 10 miles from our new home. Neighbors spotted him and informed us he had taken up the life of a feral cat. His brother joined him a couple months later. Oddly enough they were city cats when we moved them to the country. The first cat sired a litter, we took a male, who sired a litter from which we took a female.

    That female was the smallest daintiest cat ever, a treasure. She was also a ferocious hunter, and was our most travelled cat. She would leave for 2 weeks, even 3 weeks on end. It was nerve wracking and she did it 1-2 times a year over a long life. One trip the days just went past her “record” and kept adding. It was sad.

    Another male was fixed but a fighter who ruled the neighborhood. He never was away a day. Our current female was a city cat feral ‘rescue’ who has complete freedom and an acre. she rarely leaves the property or goes far.

  9. huhu my cat has been missing for a day her last appearance is when im about to go to sleep she was meowing so loudly and i went out give her some cheese her favorite then i go straighly to bed after that shes gone im a first time cat owner and im only 13 shes the only cat if ever loved :((

  10. My ten year old male has suddenly started staying away from home.He comes in during the night to eat but goes away again.Very distressed because up until two weeks ago?…and nothing happened then,as far as I can tell..Mooglie liked to be with me all the time.He was a stray in a terrible condition but after only weeks of love and feeding all his physical symptoms cleared up.Been with me five years so not the call of the wild again.Neutered and microchipped.

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