When cats roam…

No matter how much our cats love us and rely on the care we provide, some still prefer to spend time outdoors, while others are content observing the world from the comfort of a window seat. Many cats enjoy occasional wandering, whether a short stroll in the garden or a long, late-night prowl. But what drives this urge to explore, and how can we ensure the safety of adventurous cats when they roam?


Let’s start with why cats roam.


Hormones play a significant role in the roaming behaviour of unsterilised cats. Male cats often venture far from home, searching for a female in heat, which they can detect through scent.


Another factor is prey behaviour in cats. Some cats have strong hunting instincts, which motivates them to seek and capture prey, even if they have more than enough food at home. Hunting for, and catching prey, is not necessarily linked to being hungry – it influences emotional and behavioural health too, and since finding prey within the confines of the house is rare, they roam in search of it.



Curiosity is another factor behind roaming cats. As curious creatures, cats often explore their surroundings to gather valuable sensory information about new food sources, other cats in the area (including rivals), and potential threats or changes in the immediate environment. It’s worth remembering that both male and female cats roam, not just intact males. 


Now, let’s discuss how far cats roam.


The distance individual cats can roam from their home can vary significantly. While some cats may always stay in their own garden, others travel long distances. However, studies have shown that sterilised cats’ average roaming distance is relatively small, ranging from 40 to 200 meters from home.


So, why can roaming cats be problematic?


If you’ve ever lived in a suburban area and been part of a community WhatsApp group, you have likely encountered messages like “Whose cat is this? He’s in my house.” In densely populated areas where cats’ territories overlap, conflict between cats are common, often accompanied by loud screeching. Roaming cats face dangers such as traffic, other animals, and accidents. Research indicates that roaming cats engage in more fights with unfamiliar cats,  and are at a higher risk of contracting diseases. It is worth noting though that spraying, overgrooming, overeating and fighting in indoor only cats can also be extensive, as the cats experience frustration at the inability to perform natural behaviours like hunting or exploring, (if these opportunities are not provided by their caregivers, on an ongoing basis).


For homeowners, unfamiliar cats in their homes can lead to issues such as food theft, fights with resident cats, or spraying. Although these are natural behaviours, most neighbours won’t appreciate waking up to the smell of cat urine on their furniture.


Now, let’s explore how to keep your roaming cat safe.


Cat-proofing your garden is first prize – this allows your cat access to a safe outdoor area, where new things happen/ the environment changes.  If you can’t cat-proof your garden, you may opt for creating a smaller cat-proof outdoor area, such as a catio – but remember that the smaller the environment, the more the responsibility of providing stimulation and novelty falls on you as the guardian.  If you choose to keep your cat strictly indoors you can prevent their natural roaming behaviour, however this comes with risks too.  Keeping an indoor only cat suitably enriched and stimulated must be a priority if this is your choice. 

If your cat has access outside, there are several measures you can take to maximise their safety:


Getting your bomb-proof male cat sterilised at six – eight months significantly reduces roaming tendencies, aggression, and the urge to spray and mark territory. Ensure your cat wears a collar and tag that make them easily identifiable. Opt for a quick-release collar to prevent injuries if he gets caught on something. Additionally, microchipping your cat provides added security should they lose their collar. The collar and tag will help neighbours contact you if your cat gets lost or becomes a nuisance, while the microchip is a permanent form of identification.


Keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date to protect them from contagious diseases they may be exposed to.


Simple training, like teaching your cat to come when called, encourages them to stay close to home. While cats are independent, they are also affectionate and generally know where home is.

Ensure your cat has access to essential resources that allow them to engage in natural behaviours, such as jumping and scratching. Alongside food and water, provide toys, scratching posts, hiding places, elevated perches, and comfortable sleeping spots. By fulfilling their instinctual needs at home, they will be less inclined to seek them outside.



Evaluate whether your cat’s home environment is enriching and stimulating. If not, provide enrichment activities such as lick mats, puzzle toys, or treat balls. Rotate these items regularly to maintain their novelty.

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