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January 20, 2013 9:28 AM   Subscribe

A Cat’s 200-Mile Trek Home Leaves Scientists Guessing [NYTimes.com] "Nobody knows how it happened: an indoor housecat who got lost on a family excursion managing, after two months and about 200 miles, to return to her hometown."
posted by Fizz (104 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is due, of course, to kitteh magic.

Also "Jackson Galaxy" is a pretty rad name.
posted by elizardbits at 9:32 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cat does not need data.
posted by notyou at 9:33 AM on January 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


There is, in fact, little scientific dogma on cat navigation.
Oh, quit it now, NY Times journalist!
posted by notyou at 9:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


But, he said, “nobody’s going to do an experiment and take a bunch of cats in different directions and see which ones get home.”

Whitehouse.org petition to fund this project in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
posted by spacewrench at 9:37 AM on January 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Oh good girl! Good girl!
posted by Navelgazer at 9:37 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great. So, just how far do I have to drive then?
posted by orme at 9:38 AM on January 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Must've had a topawgraphic map and a compuss

I am ashamed
posted by nathancaswell at 9:39 AM on January 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


you monster
posted by elizardbits at 9:40 AM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


But, he said, “nobody’s going to do an experiment and take a bunch of cats in different directions and see which ones get home.”

I suppose a clever shelter worker could let one out of the pound every so often to see who makes it back home.
posted by Brian B. at 9:41 AM on January 20, 2013


New research by the National Geographic and University of Georgia’s Kitty Cams Project, using video footage from 55 pet cats wearing video cameras on their collars, suggests cat behavior is exceedingly complex.

For example, the Kitty Cams study found that four of the cats were two-timing their owners, visiting other homes for food and affection. Not every cat, it seems, shares Holly’s loyalty.

KittyCams also showed most of the cats engaging in risky behavior, including crossing roads and “eating and drinking substances away from home,” risks Holly undoubtedly experienced and seems lucky to have survived.
Birdwatching.
posted by notyou at 9:43 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Where more balanced people might read this and think "wow, animals are fascinating", I read this, grab my house cat, and say "you're never leaving my sight."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:45 AM on January 20, 2013 [49 favorites]


Both points are right next to the ocean so the cat only had to guess "follow the ocean south" which would not have been difficult since it "followed the ocean north" on the way there. Once it got into the general area, probably smell and other clues led it to the right neighborhood.
posted by stbalbach at 9:45 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Muppets did it first.
posted by smirkette at 9:46 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sounds like everyone involved is ignoring the obvious.

1) Cat has an embedded microchip
2) The internet is made of cats
3) google maps
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:47 AM on January 20, 2013 [73 favorites]


YAY for the kitty who made it home!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have three cats I must hug. Or attempt to hug.
posted by Kitteh at 9:48 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even more remarkable: my cat moved 3000 miles to a strange house, made a circuit, sniffed around, went outside the next morning, and didn't disappear!

Smart kitty.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I thought Jackson Galaxy was going to be some cat's name, which would be cool enough, but its a person!!!! how do I get a last name so cool?
posted by supermedusa at 9:52 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had to talk to my little buddy who is currently snoozing away on the back of the couch. I betcha he'd do this sort of thing if need be. Of course, we wouldn't be that far apart and he would actually have to leave my company, which he doesn't. Thirdly, I know it would happen as he is made of 100% yellow fuzzy awesome.

(Also, he was a rescue kitty from a stray background, so, despite his apparent lack of survival skills, da boy knows da streets.)

Okay, gonna hug him now.
posted by Samizdata at 9:54 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mindlink with toxoplasmoids?
posted by rahnefan at 9:55 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


how do I get a last name so cool?

Go down to the courthouse with a fee and paperwork.

It worked for Homer Simpson AKA Max Power so why not for a Medusa?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:55 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of which, when I picked him up, he just made the most adorable "Wait, wuz sleepin, why'd you pick me up, but you're huggin me AND remember to support my butt so it is okay with me noise."
posted by Samizdata at 9:58 AM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Okay, so, I don't want to be That Guy, but if the Richters were traveling in a mobile home, the cat ran away, and they presumed they left without her...anyone who owns a cat knows how good they are at hiding, and a mobile home certainly affords all kinds of hiding places. The cat may have been too unnerved by travel to make her presence known during the drive back (cats really don't like being in a vehicle in motion, typically), and then when they got home, she may have just gotten outside and wandered off for whatever reason. It's fun to imagine that the cat found her way back from two hundred miles off, but it seems a bit more likely to me that she managed to get herself hopelessly lost about a mile away from home.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:00 AM on January 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


For those not familiar with Jackson Galaxy he has a Animal Planet television program (as mentioned in the article): My Cat From Hell.
posted by ericb at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay, so, I don't want to be That Guy ... posted by kittens for breakfast ..

Eponysterical!
posted by ericb at 10:03 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Kitty!
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:06 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aww, this had me thinking of the black-and-orange tortie I lost as a kid, who dashed out the door when a guest wasn't paying attention, and never came home (yes, she was chipped, and yes, we put out signs, but no one ever found her), and it was making me a little sad and then I clicked on the link anyway, because, CATS.

And IT WAS A BLACK-AND-ORANGE TORTIE.

So let this comment serve as a lost black-and-orange tortie trigger warning.

Still a very cool story, though.

May all lost kitties find their way someplace safe and warm, even if that place isn't home.
posted by BlueJae at 10:07 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everyone in this thread needs to go out and purchase/read: Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams.
Fritti Tailchaser a young ginger tom not yet a full grown hunter, is the main catamong a host of appropriately named feline peersin this extravagantly detailed fantasy. When his best friend, Hushpad, vanishes, Fritti embarks on a quest to find her, and so enters the list of jousters against the evils of the world. His many trials and adventures bring him into contact with a veritable galaxy of cats, who speak a language for which a glossary is provided. This feline epic culminates in a decisive battle with an evil cat god.
posted by Fizz at 10:10 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


For example, the Kitty Cams study found that four of the cats were two-timing their owners, visiting other homes for food and affection.

I am surprised this number is so low, tbh. Presumably the other 51 had wised up to the video cameras.

The cats we had when I still lived with my folks were regularly hitting up one set of neighbours for second breakfast and light evening entertainment. And those same neighbours fed another cat for a while too, a shiny happy tabby that started coming round more and more until he was halfway to living there. When he turned up really ill one morning, they rushed him to the vet and then started calling round to find out who actually owned him, only to find that he'd had the same living arrangement with about five different families over the years and everyone just assumed he was someone else's, but he'd started life as a stray from the mill down the road before working out that humans = food and cuddles. (Cat recovered and lived a long happy settled life with the neighbours who nursed him back to health.)

So I hope, even though Holly was in such a rough state when she finally got home, that she got at least part of the way via an unofficial human B&B chain. She deserves it.
posted by Catseye at 10:22 AM on January 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


This could simply be chance... how many lost cats never find their way back home after all?
posted by Slackermagee at 10:22 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm so tired of that cliched headline. Every single time.

Those scientists that are left guessing sure must be baffled and going back to the drawing board etc etc etc.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:26 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This story was such a pleasure to read!

Not only do we have an absolutely gorgeous kitteh coming back home to give us all warm fuzzies (yay, Holly!), we have all the intentional puns (dogma, Holly go lightly, etc.) and the awesomely appropriate punny names: Jackson Galaxy on Animal Planet, stopping by to see Dr. Sarah Beg the veterinarian at Paws2Help--it's like this post was made just for me.

A+++++, would read again. =^.^=
posted by misha at 10:31 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Everyone in this thread needs to go out and purchase/read: Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams.

No, they most decidedly do not.
posted by y2karl at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


kittens for breakfast, RTA -- the cat showed up at a stranger's home with worn claws and bleeding footpads, indicating a long journey, and was only actually reunited with its owners thanks to the microchip.

This could simply be chance.

Well, you could put the seaside journey into that bin -- after all the ocean limited its potential directions, and it could have been chance it went south instead of north, for example. But that wouldn't explain some of the other stories involving crossing mountain ranges and other obstacles.

My own cat -- which is weird, being a cat -- liked to follow me around when I walked the dog, except a couple of times he ran into another cat or otherwise got spooked (he hides when he hears cars, for instance), and eventually gave up that particular derring-do. Oh, he found his way home each time, from up to several blocks away, at least one of those covered in mud. But he did realize it was a lot easier to just wait on the porch until we showed up again.

Anyway, that leads me to believe that cats have a wide range of capability and desire in this area. Pretty sure that most cats don't imprint on their owners the way mine has (like the kittycam two-timers, a lot of them will suck up to anyone who'll feed them, etc.) and others don't have the same need for familiarity of surroundings or the gumption for long journeys.
posted by dhartung at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The cats we had when I still lived with my folks were regularly hitting up one set of neighbours for second breakfast and light evening entertainment . . .

Hee! One of my parents' indoor/outdoor cats has "divorced" them and stays with that other family now, with a new name. Apparently she was mad about the advent of a new young indoor cat who got to sleep on the bed at night. The prior cat was still welcome to sleep on the bed too, of course, and always had been, but it was the principle of the thing.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:35 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jackson Galaxy's tv show is like catnip if you haven't watched it yet.
posted by wittgenstein at 10:35 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cat does not need data.

Spot did.
posted by Spatch at 10:36 AM on January 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


I have a two-timer who came to visit me this morning for a 10 minute snuggle nap. I sure wish I knew where she really lives in case I ever need to get in touch with them, but she has no microchip. SO glad Holly did!
posted by Stewriffic at 10:41 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stuff like this always reminds me of my surprise that cats are stereotyped as aloof and unloving animals that just live in your house, and I wonder how much of that is self-fulfilling prophecy. I've been super affectionate with my kitty ever since I found her behind my apartment building and she's like a dog now in the way that she follows me around the house, sits next to me while I work, loves being held, solicits me for affection, and just generally seems to think I'm the awesomest bigcat ever.
posted by invitapriore at 10:42 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


kittens for breakfast, RTA -- the cat showed up at a stranger's home with worn claws and bleeding footpads, indicating a long journey

Well, the cat spent two months walking around and fending for herself either way...whether she walked two hundred miles in a straight line or in a big, aimless circle. I think the idea that she stowed away in the RV without her owners realizing it and then wandered off once they got back home is about a million times more probable than the going theory. But that story wouldn't be much of a story, I guess...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:42 AM on January 20, 2013


Everyone in this thread needs to go out and purchase/read: Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams.

Loved that book. It's like Watership Down but for kitties!
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:44 AM on January 20, 2013


I have no idea how these people got their cat back into their hometown, or why.
posted by escabeche at 10:45 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, the writing. (emphasis mine to make it clearer, I did a double-take before catching on)
Professor Tabor also said a Siamese in the English village of Black Notley repeatedly hopped a train, disembarked at White Notley, and walked several miles back to Black Notley.

Still, explaining such journeys is not black and white.
posted by fraula at 10:45 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is not hard to explain.

The chances of a can finding his way home over 200 miles is exceedingly improbable, but it's not impossible. Lots of cats get lost, every day, and don't find their way back. Enough so that, once in a while, one does just from the sheer law of averages. But you don't hear about those on a New York Times blog, because they aren't notable, only sad.

While not proof, the existence of a lost cat that finds its way home indirectly implies the existence of all those cats that don't, the happy crest of a wave of sorrow.
posted by JHarris at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lots of people in this thread talking about their cats.

Almost none posting the requisite links to photos.

(If "Mention your cat--post photos; non-negotiable bannination otherwise" isn't in the MetaFilter FAQ, it should be.)
posted by tzikeh at 10:54 AM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I love Jackson Galaxy (though I find some of his spirit essences schtick a little woo for me).

My first thought was that the cat never actually made it to Daytona Beach and was actually stuck outside at home until they returned.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:54 AM on January 20, 2013


This explains those mysterious navigational AskMes by that poster who could never give landmarks more than a few feet above the ground and kept talking about smells.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:55 AM on January 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


(Cat recovered and lived a long happy settled life with the neighbours who nursed him back to health.)

Yeah, cats have the strangest behavior. I recently helped a friend who complained that her neighbor got arrested and imprisoned, so his cat was abandoned. I think the landlord unlocked the house when they cleared his stuff out, the cat had been trapped for a while without food, and escaped and went feral. It stuck around the neighborhood, but avoided human contact. My friend was really upset that she couldn't help the cat, she'd put food out but she couldn't get close to it when it was feeding, or get it to come indoors with her. So I told her I'd help out.

Somehow I have a natural ability with cats. I didn't realize it was anything special, until I once I visited a girlfriend, I knocked at her front door, and while I was waiting, I saw a neighbor's cat, so I called out to it and it came right up and I started petting it. When my gf got to the door, the cat ran away and she asked me how I did that, she'd been trying to pet the cat for months but it would run away whenever it saw her. Ha.

So I told my friend, call me when it's time to put out the food in the evening, I'd come over and see if I could re-domesticate the cat. I sat down about 10 feet from the food bowl and waited for the cat to come. The bowl had high edges, so every time it put its face down to eat, it couldn't see me, so I'd scoot forward a little. The cat eyed me with suspicion, but didn't seem to notice I was getting closer. Soon, I was within arm's reach, and when it dug into the food, I reached out and petted it on the head. Oh the look on that cat was precious, it stood back and eyed me with suspicion, glaring at me as if to say, "how DARE you touch me and be nice!" So I sat there unmoving, and waited and petted it again at the next opportunity. After a couple of times, it got skittish and moved a few feet away, it obviously had a conflict between the urge to flee, the urge to eat, and then me in the middle who wasn't an obvious threat and maybe even kind.

Then the cat laid down and started grooming itself. I saw a nearby stick, so I started running the tip of it through the grass a few feet away from the cat, which drew its attention and urge to play. Pretty soon it was rolling around, and I started rubbing its fur with the side of the stick. I gradually moved the tip of the stick nearer, getting the cat to play closer to me, until I finally grabbed the cat. It didn't resist much, so I held it down and started petting it. The cat relaxed and completely caved in. I let go and it didn't run away, yesss, the cat is tamed.

A few minutes later, my friend comes out of her front door, and she can't believe I'm sitting there playing with the cat. She spent weeks trying to even get close, but I did it in 15 minutes. She came over and I had to hold the cat down while she petted it, because the sudden appearance of a stranger made it want to escape. But soon the cat accepted that it had another human friend. I picked up the cat and handed it to her, and said take it inside, and I'd leave so the cat would imprint on her, not me.

So about an hour later, I am back home, and my friend calls me. She asked me what the hell did I do, and how did I do it? The cat won't leave her side. It follows her around, rubs on her ankles, and stays within about 2 feet at all times. Awww..
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:00 AM on January 20, 2013 [50 favorites]


It sounds like you're good at not being pushy with cats, charlie don't surf. When a cat ignores you and starts grooming itself, it's generally the sign that it's comfortable around you. A lot of people scare cats away by making eye contact and doing other things that cats interpret as threatening.

It's why cats often seem to love people who hate cats and generally ignore them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:05 AM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's why cats often seem to love people who hate cats and generally ignore them.


*raises hand* The first rule of getting a cat to love you is to hate it... or at least be a little indifferent. Now it's all hugs and kisses but that's because I had to get talked into getting it.

I know better in my brain, but in my heart, I feel like this most be some sort of developed evolutionary trait -- a domesticated animal version of going after the weakest on in the herd. "If I can convince the asshole to like me, the rest of the house is MINE!"

Watership Down but for kitties!

Um, as somebody who is still maybe-slightly traumatized by a viewing of the cartoon of Watership Down 30 years ago, I'll take a pass.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:11 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, ok, tzikeh! Sheesh!

"The Dude". But never say "Hey, The Dude!" That's just crass.

That cat is so deeply imprinted in my brain that if I were to ever have children, they would probably pop out with whiskers and a tail. Perhaps holding a White Russian.
posted by sutt at 11:11 AM on January 20, 2013


The chances of a can finding his way home over 200 miles is exceedingly improbable, but it's not impossible. Lots of cats get lost, every day, and don't find their way back.

I think the premise I would go with is that not finding their way back is a function of obstacles and not navigation. Also most "lost" cats leave from home and don't make it back, which I would think falls under an entirely different category of cat behavior. I would guess that a cat that usually sticks to the yard and then decides to go on walkabout maybe doesn't consider itself "lost".
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:12 AM on January 20, 2013


The nice thing about My Cat From Hell is that the advice Jackson Galaxy gives the cat owners is always a variation of, "You are keeping a hunting predator in your house all day and it had nothing to hunt and no place to hide while hunting. What is wrong with you?" And then the cat owners adjust their behavior, and the cat is now lovable. It is the opposite of The Dog Whisperer in every possible way.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:16 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cat got trapped in RV for two months, finally escaped, was looking for someone to feed it and was dragged back to the people that locked it in the RV...

This is not the happy story you think it is....
posted by HuronBob at 11:25 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, two-timing cats. My best boy, Max (RIP), regularly came home with another lady's perfume on him. He was so excellent, I didn't care. Much. A Maine Coon with a beautiful coat, once he came home with strands of spaghetti all tangled in his undercarriage. Damn, I miss that cat.
posted by thebrokedown at 11:26 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bloody cats. Furry boomerangs, they are.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:26 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I wanted to hug my cat right now I would have to climb up on the roof.
posted by Huplescat at 11:32 AM on January 20, 2013


I did a double take before catching on

By this time I was laughing out loud with the writer. I love an irreverent romp through a story like this.
posted by Anitanola at 11:37 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My recently departed cat (RIP Lily) fortunately never escaped while on trips, but her kitty GPS always went off when we were within a mile of home or (her second home) my parents' house 250 miles away. She would hunker down in the car for hours and only come out when we were close to one of those places. It wasn't slowing down or stopping that did it: she stayed put at gas stations and drive-thrus. It could have been the smell of the neighborhood. Anyway, it was remarkably consistent.
posted by pernoctalian at 11:39 AM on January 20, 2013


My cat Tilda once disappeared for nearly a month and I was completely devastated. I put signs everywhere -- she only had one alternate family, and they didn't know where she was either -- and went out calling for her but when she gets stuck places (closets), she refuses to meow, she just waits patiently until you sense her and open the door.

One day my sister heard her meowing and recognised her meow (somehow) and though I thought it was a different cat, I went to the door and there she was. Running away in the snow. Under my neighbour's porch, where she had been snowed in for a month until that afternoon, when they opened the door to the storage and left it open. She hid from me, so I went with a can of wet cat food and when she started eating it I just grabbed her and left.

She weighed almost nothing, and although she has lots and lots of fur, you could actually see her ribs through the fur. I barely let her walk for a while afterwards so she wouldn't use any calories. (She is now almost 11 and perfectly healthy.)

I have one cat who goes out in the not-winter, and he also has multiple people from whom he gets lots of affection/food. As a teenager I had a cat who weighed 27 pounds and who got this from homes all over the neighbourhood. When I finally found a collar that fit on him, we got phone calls from blocks away saying "Oh, he's your cat! I was so worried he didn't have a home!" Twenty seven pounds! There are still neighbourhood cats there, who are all neutered (males, anyhow, and I've never seen a pregnant female or kittens) and mysterious in their comings and goings (Orange Cat will stay for weeks or months at a time, then disappear for as long or longer -- or he'll come by every day for a snack and a cuddle and then leave -- and various neighbours report the same thing) but well-fed and shiny.
posted by jeather at 12:01 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stuff like this always reminds me of my surprise that cats are stereotyped as aloof and unloving animals that just live in your house, and I wonder how much of that is self-fulfilling prophecy. I've been super affectionate with my kitty ever since I found her behind my apartment building and she's like a dog now in the way that she follows me around the house, sits next to me while I work, loves being held, solicits me for affection, and just generally seems to think I'm the awesomest bigcat ever.

I've had over 20 cats in my life so far. They have all been so different. I've had a few that do act more like dogs, followed me and were always there for cuddles. On the other extreme I've had those that I barely ever see unless they are hungry. I have three right now. One is a super cuddler, one is a medium cuddler and the other is the aloof type. I often have wondered if he hates me. However once or twice a month he'll appear when I'm on the couch and demand some power attention giving. He'll bat my face and hands until he his satisfied and then disappears again.

I don't treat any of them any different and most were raised from kittens so I think it's just a personality or breed trait.
posted by Jalliah at 12:03 PM on January 20, 2013


Obviously the cat was chipped, with H-Puss.
posted by smidgen at 12:05 PM on January 20, 2013


I'm ready to believe the cat could find it's way home. My first pony did the same, across an arid wasteland with no obvious markers.
Also, I think a lot of humans have the ability to orient themselves, without a lot of technology or even reflection involved. The hours of the day and the Stars of the night are strong markers for those who are searching
posted by mumimor at 12:25 PM on January 20, 2013


Lloyd, a 10-year-old grey Tabby, has limited navigational skills. Several years ago, he ran out into the hallway of my apartment building. This was completely normal, a stunt he pulls at least once a week. This time, however, we went to bed, forgetting he was out there. Maybe 30 minutes later, we get a call from the upstairs neighbors that a cat is crying to get into their apartment, and is it yours? So he walked upstairs and recognized the layout of the hallway and parked himself at the corresponding door and demanded to be let in. I had to walk up to him and carry him back down, his claws jammed into me, he was so traumatized. He still goes out, but I make sure to leave the door open so he can dash back in when he's ready. (We have very long halls, and he loves to run the length of the apartment when he's in the special kitteh freakout mood.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't treat any of them any different and most were raised from kittens so I think it's just a personality or breed trait.

I agree, cats definitely seem to cultivate idiosyncrasies and some will just be aloof no matter how you treat them. I'm more reacting to people I've known who went into cat ownership with the idea that cats are distant and aloof and, lo and behold, that's how their cats are. I suspect that you can raise a naturally affectionate cat to be distant more readily than you can raise a naturally distant cat to be affectionate, since suspicion of others seems to be kind of woven into their being. I suppose that's the origin of the stereotype, but it's unfortunate one in the sense that it can stifle the development of deeper cat-human relationships.
posted by invitapriore at 12:26 PM on January 20, 2013


This actually happened to a friend of mine in Central America. They left her cat with some friends across town. A few days after, it ran out the front door and didn't come back. Then like 2 weeks later, her mom found it sitting on the front porch of her house when she went to pick up her mail, about 20 miles away. I was actually traveling with them most of the time it was going on -- I was there when it ran away and she was crying about it, and there when she heard from her mom that they had found it, so I totally believe the story.
posted by empath at 12:31 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lloyd, a 10-year-old grey Tabby, has limited navigational skills.

Conrad, my 6 year old black cat with thumbs, occasionally escapes off my balcony, gets to the bottom the staircase, freaks out, and then gets lost while trying to get back up the staircase. I'm not sure if he cannot figure out which balcony is mine, or just gets to the second floor and thinks that it looks like home but doesn't smell like home help help help.

Usually I will notice he isn't in and he'll follow my voice, or someone will come within view and he'll freak out even more and run all the way up the stairs to the top floor where he lives.

But seriously, he gets lost on a staircase.
posted by jeather at 12:34 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


cat /dev/gps
posted by benzenedream at 12:35 PM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Somehow I have a natural ability with cats.

Me too. I put my ability down to being allergic to them and cats being evil.
posted by srboisvert at 1:02 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"New research by the National Geographic and University of Georgia’s Kitty Cams Project . . . suggests cat behavior is exceedingly complex."

Really? Thinking of my own cat, how complex is sleeping 22 hours a day and spending the other two hours eating, eliminating, vomiting, fucking up our furniture and growling impotently at the birds on the windowsill?
posted by slkinsey at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


sutt: Ok, ok, tzikeh! Sheesh!

That cat really pulls the post together.
posted by tzikeh at 1:04 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh - and for those who think the cat just hid in the RV and then jumped out once they got back home:

Top 10 Record Distances Traveled by Lost Cats To Return Home

Some of them shouldn't even be listed under "returned home," because one or two of them are stories of the family moving and having to leave the cat behind--and the cat finding their new home, hundreds of miles away.
posted by tzikeh at 1:10 PM on January 20, 2013


OK, I am really enjoying the Kitty Cam project and the pictures and videos. They describe the technology a bit here:

Kitty Cams are lightweight, waterproof units with LED lights to record activity at night. They are mounted on a break-away collar and outfitted with a radio-tracking device so we can locate any lost cameras. High quality video is recorded on mini SD memory cards for easy download and viewing.

Anybody have a source for these cameras, or maybe a DIY plan? I am thinking a MetaFilter Litty Cam project would be fun. I would totally strap one of those on my cat and upload the best video to a YouTube channel.
posted by LarryC at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2013


But, he said, “nobody’s going to do an experiment and take a bunch of cats in different directions and see which ones get home.”

The closest, said Roger Tabor, a British cat biologist, may have been a 1954 study in Germany which cats placed in a covered circular maze with exits every 15 degrees most often exited in the direction of their homes, but more reliably if their homes were less than five kilometers away.


I'd guess all that frenzied marking is as much to make their home so stinky they can smell their way back to it from a distance as it is to warn other cats away.

That makes me a cat-as-trophist, I suppose.
posted by jamjam at 1:20 PM on January 20, 2013


Nevermind the above, I see it had been done.
posted by LarryC at 1:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But seriously, he gets lost on a staircase.

Mine manages to get lost in my closet. And it's a small, small closet.

(I came home once to terrified yowling and howling, scrambled around fearing for the worst and found the little dumbass cowering in the corner of the closet, shedding furiously all over my interview suit. And then she had the gall to saunter out all, 'yeah, I totally meant to do that', but I'm onto you, cat. I'm onto you.)
posted by zennish at 1:45 PM on January 20, 2013


Picture: Pambalam and Edgar. Pambalam is the cat I was talking about above. Edgar is one of my girlfriend's cats who was introduced (very successfully, as you can see) as a buddy. He's pretty much her cat now.
posted by invitapriore at 1:46 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite thing about _why's Poignant Guide To Ruby is the name of the cat character, Trady Blix. I want to get a cat just so I can call it that.
posted by JHarris at 1:50 PM on January 20, 2013


I'd love an excuse to name a cat Pangur Bán.
posted by invitapriore at 1:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The answer is: because cats.

I have three cats and none of them like me.

Of course, I didn't ever actually get to CHOOSE any of these three cats. One is from my ex-ex-ex girlfriend, we were living together in Melbourne and she said "I wanna get a cat" and I'm all like "Naw, don't do that" and then I came home from work and cat.

Second cat was a "gift" from present gf's mother. We'd moved into a new place and she turned up and said "I found this cat I thought you might like it." So she was cute as a little girl and now she's just this big maine coon or russian fluffcat or something and she is tiger levels of deadly. We suspect her and her kin were abused as kittens. She won't have anything at all to do with my gf and her threshold for affection from me is about twenty seconds and the area that affection may be displayed is an area on the back of her neck about a half inch square otherwise she attacks. And I think her fur might be giving her trouble but she won't let me groom her and she sure as shit won't let me trim her so I gotta find $300 from somewhere to get her knocked out and shaved at the vet and then she can continue to hate but she'll be, y'know, smaller.

(Now, the FIRST cat was actually doing really well but with this new cat she is just spazzing out 24/7 and needs prozac. So that's two hissing, scratching, unfriendly cats.)

Third cat....we were fostering cats for this really hopeless cat rescue place run by a seriously mentally ill woman, and like eight were living in this tiny "cage". I wanted no part of it and told my gf that this was the worst idea on earth and we can buy them some food but shouldn't get involved with fostering from this non-legit crazy-woman place because all the cats were sick and needed hundreds of dollars worth of vet work and we have literally zero money.

But once I saw all those half-feral cats in that tiny cage, eating horrible ultra-cheap kibble and tinned food from the supermarket and drinking stagnant water, shitting themselves senseless (there were two litter trays in the cage and both were filled with green, watery feces) I said "Okay we are getting these cats out of here, we will have to do it one at a time as we are already at cat critical mass and aren't even allowed to have any cats where we live anyway" but, yeah, happy story, we fostered, repaired, and adopted out all of those cats except this last one who is named Roberto and hates men. LOVES the gf but simply won't have anything to do with me (although he WILL allow me to throw him expensive bits of kibble down the hall as a chasey-fun game but if I try and give him a pat he rockets away).

So I'm not actually a cat owner by choice and they are costing me thousands of dollars in cat-medicine and cat-therapy and none of them like me (except the first one, Bella, but she is just a hissy old grouchbomb) and I clean up their shit and actually have the strongest fingers in the world from all the expensive cans of cat food I am constantly opening.

So when I read about a cat trotting 200 miles to get back to somebody's house, I know it is because the cat has found its precisely-calibrated, carefully researched "comfort zone", the place where it can be an enormous asshole to the people showering it in riches and love, and where it is guaranteed that treatment will continue.

Fucking cats, man.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:02 PM on January 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


My recently departed cat (RIP Lily) fortunately never escaped while on trips, but her kitty GPS always went off when we were within a mile of home or (her second home) my parents' house 250 miles away.

Hmmmm. Bear with me on this:

1. We know that, if you take a person and implant under their skin a sensor that produces some kind of detectable effect in response to some ethereal stimuli, like perhaps a small device that buzzes in the presence of magnetic fields, that eventually the person comes to recognize the effect as being like an additional sense. There is no reason that a cat wouldn't be able to do the same thing.

2. What if this device were a GPS, supplied with a home set of coordinates? And it produced maybe a very quiet ultrasonic beeping once it gets more than 300 yards away from home, that gets louder the further away it is? And you implated this into a cat? Once it gets used to the device, you might end up with a cat who can find his way home reliably over longer distances.

3. OMG BIONIC KITTY.
posted by JHarris at 2:03 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thus happened with my cat, Bozo. I moved out of the family home when I was 18 and moved in with a bunch of musicians and hippies. Bozo hung around for 3 or 4 days, and then vanished. I did the usual, posters up, neighborhood searches, checked with the shelters, etc.

Now this was one smart cat. She figured out how to use the spring in a tree branch to land on a ledge outside my second floor window that she'd never otherwise have been able to reach. She learned to hunt in the woods outside our house, and would vanish for a week at a time in the summer-time, only returning home for 1/2 a day or so untill winter set in, when she'd deign to live full-time with us.

So I knew that she was resourceful, but was still pretty upset all the same. Fast forward to 2 years later when I was visiting my mother. We were chatting away when she suddenly got a funny look on her face and said "You're never going to believe this, come upstairs!" Up we go to my old room, and there curled up in a chair, all fat and sleek, is Bozo. "I was sitting at the desk working," my mom says "when suddenly there was a thump at the window upstairs that sounded exactly like when Bozo used to land there. No! I thought, it couldn't be," she said. "Thinking I was imagining things, or out of my mind, I wandered upstairs, and there she was, sitting at the window waiting to be let in, just like she'd never left. "

So somehow this cat managed to navigate her way 30 miles or so across a city, over two bridges, and through a forest, to find her way back to her old home, over a two year time period. Still a total mystery.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:21 PM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I hope whatever mysterious magic exists in this world to guide a cat back home persists in the afterlife and I can be reuinted with my beloved and departed cats. I miss them so much.
posted by loquat at 3:23 PM on January 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is pretty much why I lived in the same apartment for eight years. My cat was born in a box behind that apartment, and her mother was friendly with us. Baby came in to the apartment (no pets allowed, of course) from an early age, and would stay over, but always demanded to go out. Every year, she'd disappear long enough for me to accept that she wasn't coming back, and then I would come home and she would be sitting in front of the door, waiting for food.

Finding an apartment that takes cats in Japan is ridiculously hard (dogs are no problem, even though dogs are demonstrably more annoying and dumb than cats). I can honestly say that my cat was one of the main reasons we started thinking of buying instead of renting.

When we moved, we decided she didn't get to go out anymore, simply because I figured she'd do some Incredible Journey shit and end up back at the apartment. When she managed to get out (opened the screen on the second floor, hopped from the balcony to the roof over the door, then down to the neighbor's fence), I papered the neighborhood with 'have you seen this cat' posters. It took two hours (I put posters everywhere), and when I got home, she was sitting on a wall, looking at me as if I'd been rude to keep her waiting.

She stays inside now.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:35 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


So somehow this cat managed to navigate her way 30 miles or so across a city, over two bridges, and through a forest, to find her way back to her old home, over a two year time period.

And, I'm hoping, said something like: "Who's the bozo now, people? Yeaaaaa, that's what I thought."
posted by slkinsey at 4:05 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh Ghidorah, that's a good story.
posted by JHarris at 4:31 PM on January 20, 2013


So I'm not actually a cat owner by choice and they are costing me thousands of dollars in cat-medicine and cat-therapy and none of them like me (except the first one, Bella, but she is just a hissy old grouchbomb) and I clean up their shit and actually have the strongest fingers in the world from all the expensive cans of cat food I am constantly opening.

You forget the bit where they shed fur all over the clothes you wanted to wear :)
posted by ersatz at 4:59 PM on January 20, 2013


Cat got trapped in RV for two months, finally escaped, was looking for someone to feed it and was dragged back to the people that locked it in the RV...


You know thinking about that, I've decided that the cat got trapped in the RV for two WEEKS, faked a phone call from the Hooters in Daytona (as was mentioned in the story), then spent the next 6 weeks hanging out, then roughed itself up, and then casually made sure it got picked back up.

Yes, this is ridiculous, but, to me, seems just about as reasonable than a cat traveling 200 miles home. However, my take on this may be colored by the fact that I've been considering getting a fire safe for our cat treats and cat nip because of the devious nature of the beasts living in my home.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:38 PM on January 20, 2013


“Are you sure it’s the same cat?” wondered John Bradshaw

Has this guy MET a cat? If he's ever owned one I'll eat my hat, because in that case he'd never say something so silly.
posted by clavicle at 7:12 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


(I said Ghidorah's story was great, but PareidoliaticBoy's is great too.)
posted by JHarris at 7:56 PM on January 20, 2013


Personality and expectation, and upbringing can both matter a fair bit. On one hand I have a gorgeous black fuzzball who has never lived outside a day in his life, who was sent back to the shelter by his first owner for not being affectionate enough. And I've had him for four years now (as of last week) and I don't fully blame his first owner. He's a good natured and interactive animal, but he only wants to be petted at arms reach, or entirely under his own terms. Never mind laps or such. In three of those intervening years, I've actually tamed a feral cat. He still has a nervous edge and a mistrust of strangers, but in spite of a properly feral upbringing he's a very sweet cat who likes to be petted and is experimenting with laps. And then there is Karl, a cat whom years later prompted a stranger who had once lived with him to tell me: I hate that cat. An improper eliminator a few days from the pound when I grabbed him. And I'll grant that if you expected to live with a well behaved animal, Karl would drive you nuts. But if, as I did, one expected a cat he's a teddy bear incarnate (fuzzy, brown, cuddly, naughty), and curiously if his litter box is kept even vaguely clean and there isn't another cat punishing him for using it, he does.
posted by wotsac at 8:16 PM on January 20, 2013


The people across the street moved about 2 miles away, and their two cats made it back so often that the new people took them in.

My roommate's cat made it back to my apartment after she moved and took Smudge with her. It would take him 2 days to make the just over a mile journey, but he'd show up at her old window going crazy. When we let him it, the confused howls got even worse.
She kept him inside for longer periods, but as soon as she let him out--even after being in for 8-12 weeks--he'd bolt. He got it down to about an hour or so, until his last trip, when he was hit and killed a block away. It was late and our dirt was too hard, so we buried him in the front yard of the Doctor's office next door.

I live on a river, so I figure he's just heading for the river smells or sounds, then went left or right depending on smell or a hunch...then self-corrected that first time, if he got it wrong.
posted by whatgorilla at 9:53 PM on January 20, 2013


My old cat Toots (Best cat Ever) wasn't the best navigator. When outside, where she had an open window to get in through, she'd still come to the window closest to me, that couldn't open. Then it would take a bit of effort to get her to come around the corner of the house to the other window.

Clearly, visual cues were important. She once was late coming home. We lived in a complex of similar buildings, and I found her one building over. She was very confused, because there was no stairs up where she expected them to be. She was happy enough to jump into my arms, and when we came in view of our own building, she leaped down and ran up the steps. I caught up and there she was, in front of our door, DEMANDING to be let in, as if it was me who was tardy. :-) She was a complete and total sweetheart, and lived with me in Michigan, NYC, Long Island, and LA. Then northern Wisconsin saw her end at 9 years. She was a beauty, too. Silver-grey (that is, grey with white underlayer, causing amazing shinny silvery look).
posted by Goofyy at 12:41 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the cat is the real deal, my next question is if if really got lost.
posted by zouhair at 1:15 AM on January 21, 2013


My cat can be brilliant, and he can also be astonishingly stupid. He has figured out how to get up on a chair and work doorknobs, but when I turn on the sink for him to drink water he still looks up into the sky like he's waiting for it to rain.

The way I think it works is, cats are incredibly dumb, until they need to be smart. Just hanging out around the house, they are dopey as hell. But if there is anything between them and something they really want, they absolutely cannot be stopped. Suddenly they can do math and work with power tools, and they will get the thing.

We can conjecture about magnetic fields and whatnot, but what really happened was that Holly was at point A, and she wanted to get to point B, where her house and her monkeys were. If there were 200 miles between point A and point B, so be it.

She would get the thing.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:29 AM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


nobody’s going to do an experiment and take a bunch of cats in different directions and see which ones get home.

Challenge accepted. I had no plans this weekend anyway.
posted by pete_22 at 1:37 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cats have guardian angels too.
posted by watercarrier at 5:36 AM on January 21, 2013


one glimpse through the factual fog comes on the little cat’s feet.

groan
posted by caryatid at 3:21 PM on January 21, 2013


All these comments, and not one reference to The Cat Came Back?
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:48 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cats have guardian angels too.

From the roadkill I've seen, I can only assume they are negligent ones. I never get used to seeing those sad piles of fur.
posted by JHarris at 6:25 PM on January 21, 2013


But, he said, “nobody’s going to do an experiment and take a bunch of cats in different directions and see which ones get home.”

AND A GOOD THING TOO. harrumph.

Glad others have called out "is it the same cat?" Even without photos, could I tell the difference between one mostly-white-with-calico-patches cat and another, or between one mostly-white-with-tabby-patches cat and another? Yes, yes I could. Penelope the Melodious is not interchangeable with any other cat, any more than Bella the Toughie is.
posted by Lexica at 8:10 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since I have been threatened with the banhammer by non-mods, here's a crappy phone cam (but much more recent than the other one in my stream) of my little buddy, the couch gargoyle.

(And, FWIW, he does answer to "Little buddy", "troublemaker", and "poop monster.")

I am afraid, since I recently discovered he really doesn't understand English well, that I suspect he might be an illegal alien here to steal U.S. kitteh jobs. This hypothesis is born out by the possiblility that he is a ChiCom cat, who reaffirms this by saying "Mao" all the time.
posted by Samizdata at 7:37 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Oh, I would have better facial pictures of him, but he insists on staring at the camera when I get near him with it and the flash keeps triggering leading to those less than charming "I AM CATHLUHU - TREMBLE BEFORE MY AWESOME POWER" can't see the face for the eyeglow shots.)
posted by Samizdata at 7:39 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen hundreds of cats in my life, so why do I always fall into meeping and cooing when I see another one?

Because meow.
posted by JHarris at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samizdata: "(Oh, I would have better facial pictures of him, but he insists on staring at the camera when I get near him with it and the flash keeps triggering leading to those less than charming "I AM CATHLUHU - TREMBLE BEFORE MY AWESOME POWER" can't see the face for the eyeglow shots.)"

Oh, let me clarify that he is singlehandely the least threatening feline EVER ANYWHERE.

Unless you are phobic of soft downy yellow bundles of amazingly goodhumored love.

In which case you are fucked in so many ways I don't even know where to begin.
posted by Samizdata at 9:31 PM on January 22, 2013


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