How Far Can a Cat Wander & Still Know How to Get Home?

"I love snooping around the neighbor's yard."
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You’ve probably wondered where Sampson goes off to all day and how far he goes. He's exploring the world around him and making friends with other felines in the neighborhood. The exact distance varies between kitties, but they can go a surprisingly long way and still make it back home safely.

How Far He Travels

In 2011, researchers at the University of Illinois Extension school conducted a study to see exactly how far cats roam away from home. Cats were tagged with a tracking device and lived in central Illinois. Both human-owned kitties and feral cats were tracked during the two-year study. As expected, the furballs with homes didn’t go quite as far as the feral felines. On average, adopted kitties scoured an area of roughly 4.9 acres during their prowling sessions. This means that if you have a house on a half-acre lot and all of the houses in your neighborhood sit on the same amount of land, your mischievous buddy explores a radius of as far as your neighbor’s yard four or five houses down the street. He still makes it back home safely for dinner every night.

Distance for Feral Cats

Wild kitties who don’t have human families travel even farther than your beloved pal would. Feral felines wander from place to place, but still tend to stay within the same range. These fuzzballs cover an average of 1,351 acres while they’re out and about. That’s a dramatic increase over your purring pal’s comfort zone.

What is He Doing?

You’re most likely wondering what in the world Sampson could be doing in a neighbor’s yard where you’ve never been yourself. Cats are, by nature, very curious animals. Sampson spends his day being nosy, lurking through the neighborhood looking for critters to catch. If he isn’t fixed, he may head two yards down every day to check out Molly, since she’s in heat. Of course, Sampson also spends a chunk of his freedom chasing the sun, catching some z’s under the afternoon rays.


While you may feel that Sampson is an animal and needs his outside time, it probably isn’t the best lifestyle for him. If your furry family member gets into a fight with another cat or wild animal infected with rabies, he can bring it home to you and get you sick. Plus he most likely won’t survive the illness and have to be put down. He can also get fleas, worms and a slew of other terminal illnesses from other animals or possibly get hit by a car. If Sampson wanders over to your neighbor’s garage, he may accidentally get antifreeze, rat poison or other chemical on his fur and then swallow it. He’s much safer inside with you.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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