Cat Behavior After Being Lost: Things Every Owner Must Know

It’s not uncommon for cats to wander away since they are naturally curious beings. Unfortunately, many of them fail to find their way back home. After finding your cat that has gone missing for a few days or months, you may notice that it’s somewhat not the same. Worry not because some changes in cat behavior after being lost are quite common.

In general, the majority of cats that get lost tend to become more affectionate and friendlier after being found. However, some cats tend to become aggressive as a result of a terrible experience away from home. Negative behaviors usually go away after recovering from the trauma of being lost.

Nothing can be more devastating to cat owners than losing their beloved purring pals. This is especially true since only 74% of lost cats are ever found — on the other hand, up to 93% of lost dogs are found.

If you wonder why it seems like there is something different about your cat behavior-wise after roaming, continue reading.

Changes in Behavior After Being Lost and Found

Cats have different reasons for wandering away. Similarly, cats have different experiences while far away from home. Because of this, changes in behavior after being lost and found can vary from one cat to the other.

No matter the behavioral changes, it’s important to give the cat plenty of time to bounce back from the entire experience of straying, getting lost and being found.

Since different cats have different personalities, cats that have been lost and found may recover from the whole experience at different rates.

lost cat
Image credit: Canva

Here’s how a cat that’s been lost and found can go through some changes in its behavior…

  • Having a taste of the real world. The world inside the home is completely different from the world outside it. Because of this, it can be expected for an indoor cat to be traumatized as soon as it ends up a few feet away from home, especially if its home is in the heart of the city.
  • Worrying about what food to eat. In humans, hunger can have an effect on one’s mental health — experts say it can cause depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Well, we can safely assume that a missing cat that’s been relying on its owner for food and water might end up mentally traumatized.
  • Missing its owner very well. Especially if the owner and pet have been together for a very long time, it’s not unlikely for them to miss each other dearly when the four-legged animal goes missing. Failure to be with its owners for days or weeks can undoubtedly wreak havoc on the feline’s mind.
  • Catching an illness or a disease. Outside the home, a cat is exposed to bacteria, viruses and parasites, which is why it’s at a higher risk of ending up with an infectious disease. In humans, poor physical health can result in an increased risk of developing mental health problems. This applies to animals, too, like cats.
  • Being frustrated for being brought back. Sometimes, a cat may deliberately wander off to run away if it’s not pleased with its owner or home. This is why an unhappy cat that’s been found after some time may exhibit reluctance to be brought back to its previous owner and home and even attempt to escape again.
  • Finding a new home or set of friends. In some instances, cats that go missing end up finding new homes. Sometimes, too, they are just as happy in their new homes as in their previous homes. If your missing cat found a new home or even a group of feline pals on the street, it may act like it’s no longer your pet.

Reintroducing a Lost Cat Into the Home

People whose cats have gone missing, whether for just a couple of days or several weeks, can’t help but wonder if their four-legged friends will recognize them.

For your peace of mind, let’s answer this pressing question…

Do lost cats remember their owners?

Lost cats remember their owners. The long-term memory of cats is 200 times better than the long-term memory of dogs. Cats remember people who provide them their basic needs such as food, water and shelter. Besides people and positive experiences, cats also remember pain and fear for months or years.

When your cat returns, it’s very much likely that it will recognize you. The purring creature will remember you based on your face, the sound of your voice and your scent.

Going back to reintroducing a cat into your home after being lost, here are the steps to take:

  • Offer food and water. The hunting skills of indoor cats are not as sharp as those of feral cats. It’s because of this why it may have not been eating properly and drinking enough water while it’s missing. Offer your cat its favorite food but only small amounts of it to keep it from getting nauseous. Give it water to drink, too.
  • Reduce stimuli. Your cat may have found the world outside its home extremely unnerving. After being found, make sure that you let it know that it’s now safe and sound once again. Place it in a room where it can have some peace and quiet until it realizes the fact that there is no more need for it to worry anymore.
  • Take the cat to the vet. Earlier, it was mentioned that an indoor cat is at higher risk of having illnesses or diseases outside the home. It may also incur injuries. Many internal injuries do not have external marks, and a thorough assessment by a vet can establish whether or not your cat has sustained one while missing.
  • Have lots of patience. Just because your missing cat has been found doesn’t necessarily mean that things will get back to normal. In some instances, your cat may exhibit strange behaviors. Worry not because, with patience, you will realize that it will go back to its old self once it realizes that it’s now back home.

Just Before You Welcome Back a Lost Cat

Having a missing cat can be awfully stressful for any devoted cat owner. It can be tremendously stressful for the missing cat, too.

This is why you may notice that your cat is behaving differently after finding it and welcoming it back into your home, and this can go on for several days to a few weeks.

No matter how your cat behaves after wandering away, give it plenty of understanding — the things that it must have seen and experienced, many of which your cat’s unfamiliar with, could have been emotionally and mentally traumatic.

Above, we talked about some of the reasons behind changes in cat behavior after being lost. We also talked about reintroducing your pet into your home without causing it even more stress and anxiety. Sooner or later, your cat will be back to its old self as if nothing happened.

Related Questions

How far do cats roam when lost?

According to the author of the book Cat Sense, Dr. John Bradshaw, most cats roam 131 to 656 feet away from their homes. However, many successful recoveries of missing cats involved looking for them up to 10,033 feet away from their homes, roughly equivalent to up to 17 houses away.

How long do lost cats go missing?

The majority of missing cats return to their respective homes after 24 to 72 hours only. In some cases, some cats go missing for several weeks or even years. Some missing cats can survive for a really long time away from their homes, relying on their innate hunting and survival skills.

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