How Lost Animals Find Their Way Back Home

Heartwarming reports of lost dogs trekking miles back home regularly make the news. Now it’s a cat’s turn. Most recently: Holly, an indoor cat who bolted from her owners’ RV at Daytona Beach.

Two months — and 190 miles later — an emaciated Holly arrived a mile from her West Palm Beach home. A woman took her to a veterinarian who found a microchip with the owners’ information.

How do missing animals return home? “One could say their sense of direction is in their genes. Some animals seem to be able to navigate by light, birds especially by magnetic field, and odor — it smells like Palm Beach,” says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., at Cornell. “Unfortunately, for every cat like Holly, hundreds do not make it home because of a poor sense of direction or because they are hit by cars or killed by other animals.”