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How Far from Home Do Domestic Cats Roam?

American Polydactyl cat walking outside

If you have a cat that likes to spend a lot of time outdoors, you probably have seen it all over town. If you have a kitty with severe wanderlust, you might be wondering just how far away from home your cat will go. The answer is quite surprising, so if you would like to learn more about the travel habits of your cat, keep reading.

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The 3 Factors That Affect Cat Travel

1. Sex

beige fawn maine coon cat on the move walking
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

One of the biggest factors that affect how far your cat travels from your home is its sex. Male cats tend to venture farther from home than female cats, and it’s not uncommon to see them as far as 1,500 feet away (more than ¼ mile), and many cats will likely venture out even further. On the other hand, female cats tend to stay closer to home, and it’s rare to see them beyond about 750 feet (⅛ mile).

Similarly, the male cat’s territory is usually larger than the females. Males tend to protect and watch over a rather large 153 acres, while females typically worry about only 42 acres. Ideally, this territory would be round, but it rarely is and will be heavily influenced by other factors like finding food and mating partners. Their territory will stretch further along a river where small rodents are often plentiful, for instance. They may also prefer to avoid wide-open areas like a paved parking lot.

2. Food

maine coon cat eating
Image Credit: Fayzulin Serg, Shutterstock

Another thing that will have a big impact on how far away a cat travels is food availability. As we mentioned earlier, some areas, like rivers and streams, can be home to many small animals like rodents and moles. Snakes, birds, and even some fish can be easy prey for cats, and their plentiful numbers mean the cat won’t have to go as far to find its next meal. If you are a cat owner, you know that they love to lounge around, and they will likely find a comfortable perch to nap on after a filling meal instead of wandering far away from home.  However, if the cat lives in a city or other area where food can be scarce, the cat may need to travel further away from home to get the nutrition it needs.

3. Mating

cats mating
Image Credit: Neonci, Shutterstock

One of the biggest reasons male cats travel further than females is that they often need to travel quite a distance to find a mate, while the female stays put and waits for the males to come to her. In many cases, the males will fight over the right to mate, and the loser may need to travel even further. The search for a mate is likely the reason some cats can cover more than 150 acres.

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How Far Do Cats Walk?

Most healthy cats can walk a half-mile or more per day, depending on their need to do so. However, some cats can cover amazing distances, and one cat named Sugar traveled over 200 miles to get back to her hometown in Florida. Scientists were amazed by her ability to cover such a distance. They also found it amazing she was able to navigate her way home.

Should I Let My Cat Outside?

Most experts recommend keeping your cat inside if possible as they can cause a significant amount of environmental damage. Cats kill for food, but they will also kill for fun, and they kill almost anything that moves even if they have no intention of eating it.

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Image Credit: Kutikova Ekaterina, Shutterstock

How To Protect My Cat

  • The best way to protect your cat from danger is to keep it in the house where it cannot get into a fight with another cat or get hit by a car.
  • Make sure your cat has plenty of access to food, so it doesn’t need to travel far to find it.
  • Get your cat microchipped while it is still a kitten. The cost is not high, and you are 20 times more likely to have your cat returned if it has one.
  • Get your cat spayed or neutered. Spayed and neutered cats have much less desire to go outside and will likely stay much closer to home and get into far fewer fights.
  • Get your cat vaccinated. While most people do get their pet vaccinated, it’s important to mention because doing so can help protect your pet from a wide variety of diseases, including rabies. It’s also important that many of these vaccinations require boosters every few years.

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Summary

Most cats travel between ⅛ and ¼ mile per day, depending on whether it’s male or female. Cats can travel much further when looking for a mate or food, and some cats have traveled hundreds of miles to get back home. We recommend keeping your cat inside, but if it needs to go out, make sure it has a microchip and all of its vaccinations to minimize risk.


Featured Image Credit: Jenny Margarette, Shutterstock

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