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Felinexpress.com Home > Cat Behavior > Homing Instincts and Cats

Homing Instincts and Cats

Cyclone arrived on our property in 1999. So named because once this orange and white tomcat was trapped, neutered and released into our cat room, he launched himself about eight feet in the air and began to do laps around the room. Up by the ceiling!

Within a few months, Cyclone mellowed out, learned to trust and accepted all the other cats living here. Regardless of this transformation, I knew that I couldn’t keep him forever. Eventually I found a family who needed a barn cat. Since he was an older cat, living outside seemed to be his preference. We transported him to his new home, fourteen miles away.

One December night in 2006, I heard a cat fight outside. Puzzled, because I only have one barn cat, I rushed out to see what was happening. That is when I saw the two cats. Once I saw them, I did a double-take. Both of these cats had been gone from our house for seven years!

There was Cyclone, looking leaner than I remembered him. Squaring off with him was sweet Maya, a rescued shelter kitty shipped here from Southern California in 1999! She vanished right after we had a straight-line wind whip through here. A neighbor’s tree crushed the shed where she slept. We gave her up for lost. The debris of the shed, moved by a bulldozer showed no evidence of her body, but we mourned her loss.

Now here she stood, facing Cyclone, both of them on full alert until they became aware of my presence. Then they bolted out the cat door into the night.

What brought them back here? I called Cyclone’s adoptive parents the next morning, receiving a disconnect message. Driving out to the farm, I found a “For Sale” sign firmly planted on the front yard. No sign of anyone.

Although it is possible that they dropped Cyclone off near our place, my adoptive kitty parents are aware that at any time, I would be happy to take back a kitten or cat that isn’t working out. So I doubt a midnight drop happened. As for Maya, where has she been for seven years? Why are the two of them showing up at the same time? 

In the next week, I would find my answer. We got hit with the strangest, strongest winter storm in the history of this area. High winds (106 mph) slamming rain, then sleet, then snow. The cats were coming out late at night to gorge on food, before retreating to the safety, underneath the house.

According to a PBS Nature report, there have been many cases of cats finding their way back home:

  • A cat named Sooty managed to find his way 100 miles to return to his old home when his family moved to another place.
  • Pillsbury, an eight-year old cat in England traveled back to his former home forty times. His old home was eight miles away.
  • In 1996 Ninja, a tomcat moved with his owners from Utah to Washington State. He vanished soon after the move, turning up at the old address (850 miles away) one year later!

They call this ability Psi-Trailing. Instinctively, some cats know how to find their old owners, or the home they grew up in. Not all cats are equipped with this ability; otherwise there wouldn’t be so many “lost cat” ads on the internet or in local papers. Scientists do not know why this extraordinary navigational ability exists, only that in rare instances it does.

  1. Korat
  2. Balinese
  3. Javanese
  4. Japanese Bobtail
  5. Somali
  6. Abyssinian
  7. Turkish Van
  8. Siamese
  9. Egyptian Mau
  10. Oriental Shorthair
  11. Tonkinese
  12. Bengal
  13. Norwegian Forest Cat
  14. Cornish Rex
  15. Siberian

More cat breeds

Persian Cats

Persian cats prefer staying relatively quiet. They are docile, loving cats.


Ragdoll cats prefer to stay low to the ground, rather than in high places


Ragamuffins are calm and can handle most types of child’s play