What is the average size of a cat's home range?

A cat’s home range is the area that the cat normally uses in its daily activities.  A home range is different from a territory in that it may not be defended from other cats, but non-biologists frequently use the terms interchangeably.  When an outdoor-access cat goes missing, it probably means that something has happened to prevent the cat from coming home.  Some of the possible circumstances that could prevent a cat from coming home include being injured or killed by a vehicle or predator, hiding due to illness or becoming trapped somewhere.  Under these circumstances the lost cat is probably still present within its own home range.  Missing Pet Partnership suggests that owners of lost outdoor-access cats should search their cat’s territory.  However, most cat owners do not have an accurate understanding of where their cat travels when it is let outside the house.  I researched the scientific literature and compiled a summary of the mean home ranges of owned and free-ranging domestic cats in urban/suburban and rural areas.  Free-ranging cats may be lost, stray, feral or farm cats.  Please see the attached file for a summary of results and literature reviewed.  In general, I found that these home range summaries conformed well with Missing Pet Partnership’s recommendation of physically searching for a lost cat within a three to five house radius from the cat’s home.

Summary of Domestic Cat Home Ranges

1 thought on “What is the average size of a cat's home range?”

  1. Cats’ territorial ranges vary greatly up to several miles in radius, not just several houses from home, depending on several things.
    If the cat is allowed outdoors, it will go farther on its own to explore. If the cat is spayed/neutered, they will also tend to stay within several blocks (but not always), while unspayed/unneutered cats will travel from home to find a mate and contribute to the issue of feral cats and population.

    An indoor-only cat, I think you are referring to, don’t tend to wander far from home, at least right away, out of fear.

    Also several human-related interferences can alter the distance the cat is from home entirely. If someone saw the cat while driving by or found it injured, or it got into a vehicle, it could be anywhere if they drove off with it. The same applies if your lost cat was believed to be a ‘stray’ and someone trapped it or took it and brought it to a shelter or decided to keep it without looking for its family.

    There are microchipped cats that have been found over a decade after going missing, several countries or even continents over, that got into shipping crates, or got taken by someone who later moved overseas, where they then somehow ended up at a shelter where they were luckily scanned, and their family, luckily still reachable through the contact from the chip, then notified and reunited.

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