Can cats find their way home?

By The Daily Cat experts for The Daily Cat

It seems like every week, news headlines highlight some amazing story about a cat that got lost in an airport or another busy place. The cat often miraculously finds its way back home, even if it takes months or even years.

The reality is that most lost cats never make it home. The reasons may be many, and the outcomes can be tragic; however, the bottom line is that an indoor-only lifestyle is best and safest for your feline, with you making sure that your cat should never become one of the lost victims.

It's true that cats possess extraordinary sensory perception. Jeff Horn, a former graduate student in the University of Illinois department of natural resources and environmental sciences, and his colleagues recently studied outdoor cats. They determined that one feral cat had a home range of 1,351 acres. Conversely, the mean home range for pet cats in the study was less than 4.9 acres.

To handle any of these distances, cats put their incredible senses to work. Consider the following:

Smell Humans have approximately 5 million scent-receptive nerve endings in the nose. Impressive, right? But not when you consider that the average cat possesses 19 million of these scent receptors. Using scent alone, your cat can probably smell its way out of many situations.

Hearing Cats can hear sounds that are two octaves higher than what humans can detect. Cats may then perceive ambient sounds that can help them orient themselves.

Touch Each and every whisker and piece of fur on your cat receives information from the environment and sends it to your cat's brain for processing.

Navigation Studies are ongoing, but it's possible that cats, like birds, can inherently detect the earth's gravitational field. This would give them a sense of direction, even without pertinent visual cues. Birds need this when flying. It's possible that cats have this skill as well, although my guess is it would be to a lesser degree than what birds possess.

I'm sure we'll continue to hear stories about lost cats finding their way back home. But you don't want your cat to be in such headlines, especially since the ending may not be a happy one.

- (Health24, November 2011)

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