How can a lost cat find its masters several hundred kilometers away?
The cat is one of those animals whose memory remains active for a very long time. Many examples of cats being reunited with their masters after traveling hundreds of miles have made headlines
around the world. Let’s find out how behaviorists explain this surprising phenomenon and see why a cat’s sense of smell is much more developed than that of a man.
The cat’s attachment to its master
The stronger the cat’s attachment to its master, the longer the latter remains etched in the animal’s memory. At this level, the master is like a surrogate mother. This phenomenon is usual in the kitten from the age of 2 months, when his mother begins to educate him, and teaches him to detach himself from her little by little. But in a bottle-fed kitten, that is to say, one that has been fed too early by a human, the latter replaces its mother. The animal then begins to create a new and extremely strong attachment to compensate for the maternal absence.
How does the cat recognize its master?
The cat recognizes its master by voice, smell, and attitude. He may be a territorial animal, but he can be as loyal to his master as a dog, or even more. He will therefore manage to find his owner if he is immensely attached to it, especially if the separation between man and animal is not desired by the latter. The case is a little different in the case of running away.
A lost cat finds in itself an incredible mental strength.
A lost cat finds in itself an incredible mental strength. He is then very motivated to find the trace of his master. His associative memory helps him to recognize a landscape, a district, a house… and his flair also plays a big role.
Territory marking: a crucial act for cats
The cat also finds its way thanks to the pheromones that are odorless to humans that it diffuses throughout a journey to mark its territory. He does this through his urine, which he deposits in different places, but also thanks to glands located at the level of his pads, his lips, his forehead, his chin, as well as at the birth of his tail and in its genital area.
However, the olfactory markings deposited by a cat remain for several years, in particular when they have been left on tree trunks for example, and have penetrated the bark.
The sense of smell in cats:
Bowman’s glands and olfactory cells in large numbers
If he manages to get his bearings, it is thanks to his associative memory mentioned above, but also and above all thanks to his overpowering sense of smell. Its power of perception of odors is carried out through the Bowman glands which are located on its nose.
In certain situations (hunger, thirst, alert situation, etc.), his nose becomes wet since it is only at these precise moments that his Bowman’s glands produce a secretion. When the latter is active, the ability to perceive odors in cats is 70 times greater than in humans.
In parallel, the cat has nearly twenty million olfactory cells against only five million as far as we are concerned. It is not surprising that the small animal is so sensitive to many odorous stimuli that its master is unable to perceive.
Are all cats able to find their master?
Are all cats able to find their master several hundred kilometers away? Alas, the answer is no. This faculty ultimately concerns only very few cats. All of them certainly have a much more developed sense of smell than ours, but it varies according to the race to which they belong. The flair of a Persian – flat-nosed cat – is much less developed than that of breeds with longer noses.
You should not rely solely on his ability to find his way around and it is better to take the precaution of attaching a medallion with a telephone number to his little companion’s collar to be notified if the cat goes astray and is taken in by a family. This will save him from having to travel the entire earth to find his master… if he manages to do so.