Domestic Cat Behavior: How Do Cats Find Their Way Home?

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Cats are known to be extremely smart, whether they want us to know it or not. Everybody knows that a feline's amazing abilities include being able to walk on tiny surfaces, run fast, and land on their feet if they fall. However, one of the most incredible abilities of our feline friends is not commonly known, as it is almost a hidden sixth sense for them. This additional sense is a cat's homing ability. Similar to birds, felines have homing abilities that help them to find their way home from up to 3 miles away. How is this possible?

Cats can attribute their homing ability to their amazing sense of smell, their keen eyesight, and their internal compass.


Upon observation of a feline's eyes, you might notice that their pupils are extremely active. A cat's pupils can range from being really tiny and thin to really large and wide. When their pupils are dilated really wide a cat is able to see a larger image of their surroundings. By being able to see such a large portion of their surroundings, cats are able to make a mental map of where they are. This allows our feline friends to keep track of the areas that they have been before, which helps them to find their way home.


Cats have extremely sensitive noses, and have a sense of smell that is 14 times greater than a human's sense of smell. In addition, felines are able to leave their scent on different items by rubbing up against them or touching them with their paws. Different areas on a cat's body can release pheromones that will mark different surfaces with their territorial scent. Using both their pheromones and their strong noses, cats are able to smell where they have been before so that they can follow the path back home.

Internal Compass

A feline's internal compass reacts to different magnetic fields on the earth's surface. Because they notice changes in the magnetic fields along their journey, cats are able to sense the direction that they came from, and follow that route home. In addition, just like humans who use the angle of the sun to map out their location, cats are able to find their exact position by using the angle of the sun as their guide.

Using these three incredible senses, cats are usually able to find their way back home. This incredible homing ability may be reassuring for a pet owner that has recently lost their feline friend; However, not all cats are able to find their way home. For this reason, you should always be on the lookout if your feline friend has recently gone missing.