How far from home do domestic cats roam?

If you have an outdoor cat, you likely have been seeing them wandering all around the neighborhood, maybe fighting another outdoor cat on the way, raiding through trash cans and singing serenades to every indoor cat that he can find.

You’ve probably wondered how far your cat might have walked on their journey? Was it the fish shop over the corner or the supermarket several miles away? Of course, we panic when we think we have a lost cat. Turns out, they come back in their own time. Let’s find out how far do cats roam, as well as how many miles a cat walks during the day.

Table of Contents

  1. How far cats roam depends on several factors
  2. How much do cats walk during the day?
  3. Cats impact on their environment
  4. How to keep your outdoor cat safe
  5. Summary of how far from home do domestic cats roam?
Grey and white kitten roaming the streets
Outdoor cats can roam far from home.

How far cats roam depends on several factors

Research shows that the area through which a cat travels, varies greatly depending on the environment, availability of food, and mating partners. For example, the distance a cat would not be the same in New York City as the outback of Australia, right?

The average Male cat reportedly wanders anywhere from 2.1 acres up to 1038 acres in the wild environment. Wild cats have to hunt for their food which is a factor.

On average, the size of a territory covered by a cat is:

  • 42 acres for female cats;
  • 153 acres for male cats.

If we assume those areas are a circular with a cat’s home (your house, e.g.) in the center, means a male cat on average wanders 500 meters (or 1500 feet) away from their home. A female cat being less curious and not searching for mates like their male counterparts walk approximately 230 meters (or 750 feet) away from home.

The reality is that these territories are never circular and distances of how far cats roam will vary highly. It depends on the area, spay/neuter status of the cat, food available, the cat’s personality and other factors.

How much do cats walk during the day?

From another point of view, we also have studies that show cats typically travel from 70 to 850 meters (or over 1/2 a mile) per day on their own feet . We can assume that the average outdoor cat would cover distances somewhat in between.

Of course, we have all heard about some extreme cases, where domesticated cats travel miles and miles from their new home, back to their old ones, or, in extreme cases, in a completely different direction.

For example, a cat named Sugar had been reported traveling 1500 miles (2500 km). He did so after his owners moved to their new home and left poor Sugar behind. Sugar set out and found his owners more than a year later. How he did this, no one has a clue, but it calculates out that Sugar traveled roughly 4 miles per day .

Yes this is a rare example. It happened sometime in the 1950s. It is a rare event (or a super special cat) and a story that everyone is amazed by. At the same time, other stories about cats traveling several hundred miles or kilometers for a reunion with their owners pop up in the news now and then. But we should not use these stories to form our view about how far cats typically roam.

Cats impact on their environment

An outdoor cat can affect the world in which they roam. If your pet cat is an outdoor cat, they can affect their environment in many ways. For example, many people have an outdoor cat to help keep rodent populations down. This is especially true for farm cats. But the domestic cat and wild cat populations continue to grow and have a tremendous impact on the wildlife in their territory. National Geographic states:

“There are so many cats in the country (some 95 million are pets , plus millions more are feral) that they could be doing damage to our wild animal populations,” he said. “But it really depends on if they are hunting in urban areas or moving out into our nature preserves.” (See ” Vasectomies Could Cut Feral Cat Population Barbara King of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, an expert on feline behavior who isn’t involved in the project, said Cat Tracker is a great way to solve this important mystery, since more hard data on cat predation is “sorely needed.” Not to mention, as King said, “it would just be fascinating to learn how far they go and where!” In addition, following in feline footsteps could elucidate how their “outdoor diet” relates to disease and parasites, noted NC State veterinarian Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf , who’s part of the project.

How to keep your outdoor cat safe

As a responsible, loving cat owner, you likely have a house cat which never goes outside. That’s wonderful as they won’t hunt potentially endangered species. Or what a feral cat thinks of as “food”. But what if you have an outdoor cat? Here are the steps we recommend to all our patients to help keep their cat as safe as possible on their travels:

Microchip your cat.

We strongly recommend all our patients microchip their pets. This is best done when you take your new kitten to the vet for the first few times. A microchip is embedded in the upper neck area. This is where both cats and dogs have lots of extra skin as this is where their mothers pick them up with their mouths when they are young. If your cat is taken to a shelter, one of the first steps they do is to scan the animal for a chip. The chip will let the people that found your cat how to contact you so you can be reunited.

Spay or neuter your cat.

We strongly recommend all our patients spay or neuter their pets. This will help in the wild cat overpopulation problem. Further, neutered male cats are less amorous and will be less inclined to wander constantly looking for mates. And neutered cats won’t be making lots of unwanted kittens. For information on how your kitty’s behavior will be affected by this, here’s our post on the Expected changes in cat behavior after spaying or neutering.

Vaccinate your cat.

We strongly recommend all our patients vaccinate their pets. Who knows what your wandering cat can get into when they are out and about the neighborhood. The community cat that you see may be super cute, but also may be carrying a disease that no one is aware of. The Cornell Feline Health Center writes:

“Kittens are susceptible to a variety of infections due to their immature immune systems. Vaccination at the appropriate time and minimizing exposure to infectious agents are thus very important…”

Summary of how far from home do domestic cats roam

As you can see, a free roaming cat while natural in many ways, is less desirable in our current society. The risks your cat may run into are things like being picked up by animal control, getting attacked by wild predators, or attacked by a stray cat. Worse, your cat may unknowingly be snacking on an endangered species of bird. As a responsible pet owner, keeping your pet safe and happy is what we all want. So think twice about having an outdoor access cat. An indoor only cat can have a wonderful, fulfilling, and loving life on your lap. Here’s our article on 8 ways to entertain a bored indoor cat. The purrs from your happy indoor cat will tell you how happy they are. And a happy pet is what we all want right?

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