How Far Away Will a Cat Travel If It's Outside?

Cats that travel outside usually stay close to home and only go further if they're seeking mates.
Cats that travel outside usually stay close to home and only go further if they're seeking mates. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Unlike dogs, household cats can be let outside to roam and they will usually return home. The range or distance a cat will travel varies depending on many factors, including the age of the cat, whether or not the cat has been sterilized and the presence of other cats or wildlife. Domestic pet cats and feral cats generally stay within a small range they have established as their territory.

Feral Cats

According to wildlife veterinary epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, most cats stay within 300 meters of where they are placed, whether they were born feral or are kept as household pets. However, feral cats have been found to travel significantly further, especially in rural areas. In a University of Illinois study in which 42 cats were tracked with radio collars, one adult male feral cat traveled in an area of 1,351 acres.

Household Cats Allowed Outside

Household cats spend almost all their time sleeping or resting, but when they're let outside, the distances they'll travel varies from cat to cat. One cat may limit himself to the porch or yard, while another might travel into neighboring yards or other areas nearby. Cats kept as house pets will come back for their food source and generally stay close to home. Household cats also establish territories using their scent glands. When they rub up against things like fences, doorways or other objects with their faces, they are leaving pheromones as reminders.

Age and Travel

A cat's age has a lot to do with travel distance. According to a 2009 study published in "Wildlife Research," cats younger than 6 travel much further than older cats. As cats get older, they become less active and less likely to wander as far as they may have in the past.

Cats Not Neutered or Spayed

Whether they are feral or owned, cats that are not neutered or spayed will travel substantially further than cats who have been. When a male cat is not neutered, he will journey in search of female cats in heat to mate with. Female cats who are not spayed will go into heat several times per year and will look for males to mate with. Neuter or spay your cats to prevent them from roaming too far.

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