Imagine my horror when my rescue cat decided to escape from my home just twenty four hours after I had collected him!
Sammy was a cute black and white moggie that I had found at the excellent Battersea Home for Cats and Dogs. He had been cruelly treated by his previous owner but remained incredibly friendly and affectionate. I had decided to keep him indoors for a few days so he could get used to his new environment and I had locked the cat flap. Unfortunately I had to keep opening it to allow my other cats to get in and out of the house. Just one day after I had brought Sammy home, I unlocked the flap to allow my Himalayan called Yasmin to come inside. At that precise moment, my phone rang. I was distracted for a few seconds and the next thing I knew, Sammy was on the missing list.
The Wanderer Returns
I spent two hours combing the neighbourhood but there was no sign of my new cat. I was cringing at the thought of having to explain my negligence! Sammy did not know me or the area and I feared that I would never see him again. I was wrong. Just before I was about to retire to bed, the cat flap opened and in strode Sammy.
He gave me a quizzical look as if he was wondering how I could imagine that he was too stupid to find his way back. From that day I never locked Sammy in again and he lived happily with me until he passed away 15 years later.
Another Escape Act
A year after I welcomed Sammy to my home, I returned to Battersea to find another new friend. I chose Caspar, a ridiculously affectionate tabby, and took him home promising myself that I would not allow him to escape from the house. Caspar had other ideas. On the second evening, I walked into the kitchen to find that the cat flap had been dismantled and there was merely a hole in the door where it had been. Caspar was nowhere to be seen. Again I searched to no avail and this time there was no triumphal return.
I went to bed feeling miserable and wondering what I could do to find Caspar. When I awoke the next morning I was shocked to discover him sitting next to the bed. What a relief! He also lived with me for many years until he passed away at the age of 17.
I was fascinated by the behaviour of the two cats. They didn't know me, the house or the neighbourhood when they first arrived. They could have gone anywhere they wanted to and yet they came back to my house. All cats which have access to the outdoors can leave whenever they wish but they so rarely do. Why?
Security and a Good Meal
Cats seek security. Their priority is always a safe place to live where there is a reliable source of food. They dislike change and their primary attachment will be to a place not to a person. I guess that my cats both quickly realised that they had found a safe haven with a supply of food and so did not feel the need to explore any other options. Clever them!
Cats do eventually form bonds with humans but it their need for security and sustenance which initially ensures that they don't leave home. They seem to instinctively know when they are in the right place and are skilled at finding it again after an exploration of the local area. The RSPCA advise owners to keep their new cats indoors for a few weeks. This is harder than it sounds and in my experience unnecessary. Cats know when they are on to a good thing!