What Do Indoor Cats Do When They Escape?

Reasons Indoor Cats Escape

There are several common reasons why an indoor cat may try to escape, even if they are normally content staying inside.

Boredom is a major factor. Indoor cats can get bored from the lack of stimulation inside, and want to explore the outdoors. According to The Spruce Pets, “It’s instinct for your house cat to want to explore and seek out the best view of its territory.” They see the outdoors from the windows and their curiosity is piqued (Source).

The desire to mate can also prompt indoor cats to escape. Unneutered male cats in particular may be driven to roam in search of a mate (Source).

Stress is another factor, whether from changes in the home environment, conflicts with other pets, or loud noises that frighten them. A stressed cat may bolt out the door because they feel they need to escape the stressor (Source).

Overall, curiosity, boredom, mating urges, and stress are common reasons an indoor cat tries to escape outside, where they hope to find adventure, mates, and relief from whatever is bothering them indoors.

How They Get Outside

There are a few common ways that an indoor cat may accidentally find its way outside:

Open doors or windows – Cats are curious creatures and may try to sneak past an owner entering or exiting through a door. Windows left open can also allow cats to jump out before owners realize. According to [1], cats can slip through small openings and cracks surprisingly easily, so diligence is required to keep indoor cats from escaping.

Sneak past owners – Even if owners are careful, cats can be crafty in finding ways to dash out doors and windows. As [2] mentions, cats are faster than humans and will seize opportunities to run past owners and get outside before they can react. Limiting the number of exits, adding screens, and using leashes can help prevent this.

Door darting – Sometimes indoor cats will wait right by doors and windows and bolt out as soon as they detect an opening. Quick reflexes are needed to block them. Training cats to sit and wait before going through doors can curb this behavior, per [3].

Accidents – No matter how careful owners are, unexpected circumstances like blown open doors or broken screens can allow indoor cats to get out. But being aware of ways cats escape can allow owners to prevent accidents and be prepared if they happen.

Where They Go

When indoor cats escape, their instinct is often to find a place to hide and feel safe. According to the Midwestern Lost Animal Resource Center, cats tend to hide under porches, decks, and bushes in the immediate area around your home. These areas allow them to remain hidden while assessing their unfamiliar surroundings.

Indoor cats lack experience exploring the outdoors, so they tend to stay close to home within a 2-3 house radius as found by the Creative Cat. The neighborhood itself becomes an exciting new environment for them to cautiously investigate. But without survival skills, they generally don’t venture far and stick close to hiding spots in the near vicinity.

How Far They Wander

Most indoor cats will typically stay within a 3-4 house radius of where they escaped from if they can find a suitable place to hide, according to a report from a local animal shelter[1]. This is because even though they are curious about the outdoors, they still feel most comfortable and safe staying relatively close to their home territory. However, some more adventurous or skittish cats have been known to travel miles from home when they get outside.

One study found the average distance an escaped indoor cat will roam is about 1 mile per day[2], but there are certainly exceptions. Some lost cats have turned up several miles away after just a day or two outside. How far and how quickly a cat travels depends a lot on its personality and temperament. Shy, timid cats tend to stay closer to home and move slowly. Bolder, more explorative cats will cover more ground more rapidly trying to satisfy their curiosity about their surroundings.

Overall, while most cats won’t travel too far if they escape, it’s important not to underestimate how far some can range. Searching a wide area around the home is necessary, as an indoor cat can sometimes wander quite a distance when out of its comfort zone.

Outdoor Risks

Escaped indoor cats face many dangers when they venture outside that they are not accustomed to. Some of the biggest risks include cars, other animals, and extreme weather.

Roads and parking lots pose a huge threat as cats can easily be hit by passing cars. Indoor cats are not street smart and may freeze or run right in front of an oncoming vehicle. According to American Humane, outdoor cats are 3 times more likely to get hit by cars than indoor cats.

Other animals like coyotes, foxes, and dogs can attack and injure escaped cats. Cats are also highly territorial and may get into fights with other outdoor cats over territory. Wounds from animal attacks can lead to infections or abscesses. Stray and feral cats may also spread diseases like feline leukemia to indoor cats when they come into close contact.

Extreme weather like cold winter temperatures or intense summer heat can also put indoor cats at risk. Cats who escape during a snowstorm may freeze or suffer frostbite. Hot temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat stroke, and other heat-related illnesses in escaped cats not used to being outside for long periods.

Finding Escaped Cats

Indoor cats that escape typically do not go far, often hiding out within a few houses of their home according to the Humane Society (https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-find-lost-cat). When searching for an escaped indoor cat, focus your efforts close to home.

Put out the cat’s favorite foods and familiar bedding to help lure them back. Canned tuna, canned cat food, and treats often work well. Leave these in areas the cat is likely to pass by or recognizes (https://www.mlar.org/media/1139/lost-my-cat.pdf).

Set up humane traps baited with food around the house and neighborhood. Check the traps frequently. Be sure to alert neighbors so they do not accidentally release your cat.

Search under decks, sheds, porches, and any other outdoor structures near the house. Indoor cats often hide under these when scared outside.

Enlist friends, family, and neighbors to help search the area and keep an eye out for your cat. The more people involved, the better.

Preventing Escapes

There are several ways to help prevent indoor cats from escaping the home. One important step is getting your cat microchipped and ensuring their collar has accurate ID tags. Microchips provide permanent identification if your cat ends up at an animal shelter. ID tags enable someone who finds your cat to contact you right away. According to the American Humane Society, indoor cats should wear a breakaway collar with ID so they can be easily identified if they do get outside.

You’ll also want to check your home carefully for any potential escape routes. Screen all windows and doors with secure mesh screening. Make sure screens are firmly installed and have no tears or gaps. You can also install pet proof window screens that allow air flow but prevent cats from pushing out the screen. Use door sweeps at the base of doors and check for any small openings around plumbing pipes where a cat could squeeze through.

The Spruce Pets recommends applying double-sided sticky tape on surfaces near doors and windows to deter cats from approaching potential escape spots. The sticky surface is uncomfortable on their paws. You can also try motion-activated pet deterrent sprays around exits – cats dislike the smell of citrus and some cats will avoid areas with these scents.

What To Do If They Escape

If your indoor cat manages to slip outside, it’s understandable to want to chase after them. However, it’s best not to chase or run after an escaped cat as this can scare them and cause them to run further away. Instead, move slowly and calmly, avoiding direct eye contact. Call their name in a gentle, encouraging tone rather than shouting.

Leave familiar items like their bed, toys, litter box, or food/water dishes outside near where they escaped. The familiar scents can help draw an escaped cat back home. You can also try shaking their treat bag or a can of wet food to encourage them to return.

Contact local shelters and animal control to report your missing cat. Provide a detailed description of your cat along with any microchip information you may have. Check their lost pet listings daily to see if your cat has been brought in. Many shelters also allow you to file a lost pet report on their website.

For more tips, see “What To Do If Your Indoor Cat Accidentally Gets Out” at https://ashevillepetcare.com/what-to-do-if-your-indoor-cat-gets-out/

Easing Their Transition Back

After your cat returns home from their outdoor adventure, it is important to ease their transition back to being fully indoor again. Here are some tips:

Take your cat to the vet for a checkup as soon as possible after they return. According to the ASPCA, escaped cats can get injuries, parasites, or illnesses when outside, so a vet visit is crucial [1]. The vet can treat any medical issues and provide vaccines if needed.

Keep your cat inside for at least 2-4 weeks after their escape, recommends the Humane Society [2]. This gives them time to calm down from the stressful experience. Close doors and windows so they can’t dart out again.

Make their environment more stimulating by providing new toys, cat trees, scratching posts, and activities. Rotate toys to keep them interested. Give them extra playtime and affection too.

With patience and care, your cat can readjust to being an indoor pet again. The key is allowing them proper time to decompress and providing enrichment so they feel comfortable at home.

When To Transition To Outdoor

The decision of when to allow an indoor cat to go outside is an important one that requires careful consideration. Most experts recommend waiting until the cat is at least 5-6 months old before exposing them to the outdoors. This allows them to fully develop physically and mentally.[1] There are a few steps you can take to gradually transition an indoor cat to being outdoors:

Gradual Exposure – Start by carrying your cat outside on a harness and leash, allowing them to experience the sights, sounds and smells while staying close to you. Increase the time spent outside slowly over a period of weeks.

Harness Training – Get your cat used to wearing a harness indoors first. Provide treats and praise so they associate it with something positive. Once accustomed to the harness, attach the leash and let them drag it around while supervised.

Supervised Outdoor Time – When first allowing access to the outdoors, accompany your cat outside on the harness and leash. Keep them in sight and only allow access when you can monitor their activity and reactions. Limit supervised time to 15-30 minutes at first.

With a gradual acclimation process, an indoor cat can better transition to being allowed supervised outdoor access. Always use a harness for safety and prevent escapes until you’re confident they will return when called back inside.

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