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anartist's avatar

Knowing a cat's love of place, do you think many cats would have a hard time choosing between going with their loving owner to a new location or accepting a new and nice owner to stay in place?

Asked by anartist (14779points) April 18th, 2011

I once lost a beloved cat this way. He loved me very much. I could even take him into the shower with me. He followed me when I went out walking.

But he could not bear my housemate and his cats when I moved or his difficulty gaining access to outdoors as he had no cat door, and was confined to the second floor. He ran away repeatedly to his old home. There was nothing there for him. His cat door in the window was gone. I searched and searched and found him living feral under the house next door. I brought his food bowls and can opener and food and the familiar sound made him revert to a cat who knew me and I brought him back to his new house. Several times. But he would not stay [His mother accepted her new digs].

I finally took him to stay with a friend in the country until I could move again but he ran away from there and I never saw him again.

I have since read that cats are very attached to place. He was born in the bedroom closet of his first home.

Does anyone else have any experience with or knowledge of this?

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12 Answers

SABOTEUR's avatar

Well, you probably already know that some cats don’t like other cats. So while you may be correct about what drove your cat away, your husband’s cats may have had a big influence too.

Bellatrix's avatar

They can be finicky things. @Saboteur is right. I adopted a cat that someone wanted to find a new home for and my existing cat would just not tolerate this intruder. It ended up sleeping in the front garden and I had to feed it out there. I couldn’t stand seeing it so unhappy and found it another home with no other cats. So was it the location or the lack of other cats that upset your cat? Sad story though. You must have been devastated.

BarnacleBill's avatar

My daughter’s cat was one that she got from a sign off a coffee shop board. He was 6 years old and his owner had a new baby who was allergic to cats. The cat moved from a house in the suburbs to an apartment in the city, and they lived together for a year before my daughter had an internship out of town, and the cat went to live with a friend for 6 months. Then my daughter went away to grad school in another city, taking the cat with her. She lived in four different apartments/houses while there, including one arrangement where there were five other cats.

Her cat adapted to each situation, but probably because he is not an indoor/outdoor cat. Each time she’s moved she lets him walk around the house for a few days, and then puts a little bit of butter on his paws so he can lick it off and internalize the taste of the new place. He’s accidentally gotten out at each location but has come back to the correct front door.

I think each cat is different.

SABOTEUR's avatar

What @BarnacleBill says rings true. Besides, it’s hard to attribute a cat’s change in behavior to one specific thing if a number of things in it’s environment has changed.

seazen_'s avatar

I think a cat will adapt to whoever is feeding it.

auntydeb's avatar

I agree with @SABOTEUR, @BarnacleBill and in general about the various circumstances that cause cats to run away. I don’t personally think cats are attached to ‘place’ at all, but are deeply affected by the company they are obliged to keep and as @seazen_ points out, where their food comes from. Speaking from experience, cats will adopt people who put them first. Or at least, who seriously consider the cats’ nature and personality before making big changes to their lives. They are intelligent, sociable hunters who need to have a sense of belonging I think, rather than of place.

Such a shame your cat was lost, it is very sad when they disappear. Looking at your story, it seems simple to me, that it wasn’t an address the cat was looking for, but friendly and suitable company to live with and to share you with. Cats are deeply possessive of their keepers, are very inclined to jealousy and very much desire things to be their way… rather than ours!

Keeping them is at best a compromise, I think, as their intelligence is also what keeps their wild cousins alive. The domestication process is still under way, many cats are more wild than we can tell and less patient with us than we would like.

We keep two Bengal-type cats, brother and sister. They chose to live with us. They are complete b**tards, in every sense, rule the roost, and this is the third address they have lived in during the 5 years we have had them. Getting to know them is a joy, taking care of their needs is a pain in the proverbial. Knowing we have them for at least another 10 years or so, is a mixed blessing!

Zaku's avatar

I too agree that it was probably more likely the other cats, than the move. I think if a cat really likes its owner, it will prefer to move with them, especially if there are no other cats at the new place. I’ve moved several times with cats, and they were always pretty happy about the new (competition-free) place. Those were all indoor cats, though.

anartist's avatar

Well, you are all probably right.

There’s a little more to this story. I had stalled about getting him neutered. Several years. But I finally decided it was the right thing to do. It didn’t seem to bother him [as far as I could tell, since I didn’t see him with other cats]. But when we moved into a house where my housemate bred Himalayan cats, he tried to mount and of course failed.

He may have run away in shame.

lillycoyote's avatar

I don’t know. When my cats were 4 we all, me and the cats moved from Texas, from the apartment/place they had lived they’re whole lives, since I adopted them at about 9 weeks to a new place, a new house on the east coast. I was so afraid that they would run away but they never did. I really think it depends on the cat and the circumstances. I have heard the stories about cat and dogs traveling incredible distances to get back “home.” My cats were indoor/outdoor cat. I just couldn’t keep the buggers in when they were kittens. I would open the door a crack and they would basically launch themselves like rocket out the door but I always brought them inside for the night. When I moved; by then I had mastered various body blocking techniques to keep them in if I had to I didn’t let them go outside for two weeks so they would know where home was. And they never, ever ran away. I’m sorry he’s gone though. I would have missed mine terribly if they had run away and would have worried about whether they were o.k. I think maybe your cat didn’t like the other cats and after moving to the farm he decided that he was going to choose where he was going to live. Maybe he has found the right place for himself. Cats are good about that.

auntydeb's avatar

Aw, @anartist – poor thing! Cats definitely understand humiliation and shame, although I imagine his frustration at simply being unable to fully… well, we know the rest. Have you adopted your partners cats now? Do they like you?

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve always heard that a cat would rather change people than change places.

My son’s girlfriend’s cat is an exception. He has moved with her many times and even traveled in her lap when she drove across the U.S. They are both staying with us now, and it took him only about three weeks to settle in.

I’ve also known cats—haven’t you?—who just up and left home to move in with a neighbor. If you want loyalty, you get a dog.

anartist's avatar

@lillycoyote Thank you very much for the hope you offered. I had always imagined him running away into the woods, living a harsh feral life, not living very long, and dying alone, with no one ever discovering what a sweet loving cat he was. It was over 20 years ago and by now even under the best of circumstances he would be dead, but the grief and not knowing never really ended just became more muted with time.

@auntydeb he was not a partner, just a friend I shared a house with for economic reasons when I was young. I moved away later, with my mother cat, who lived to be 21, back to an apartment. She did not care for other cats. She had even encouraged her son to leave as soon as he grew old enough to use the cat door.

Now I have my Jillycat, who is 11 and survives her brother Jacky by two years. I have always tried to raise my cats to be loving and smart and give them a lot of freedom. Unfortunately, my two boycats were very headstrong, even foolhardy, despite that they were loving and smart. Jacky ran into something he shouldn’t have eaten. He was always a voracious eater as well as a serious hunter.

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