Moving Back Home Risky

Question:
We have an eight-year-old cat who is an indoor-outdoor cat. He continually, even after we moved two years ago, goes back to our other house. The house he goes to is our neighbor’s house which is about a mile away. They trap him for us, then we take him home. We try our best to keep him inside but to no avail. He goes missing and ends up at their house. In the process he gets into fights with other cats; he came back with an abscess on his face. We have another cat at home which he hates. But the cat is not new. The first time he went back to our old house we didn’t even have the other cat. Should we leave him there?

Dr. Nichol-
Your single-minded kitty is breaking your heart. His history of spending significant time outdoors at your old house had the unintended consequence of bonding him to that location. He is certainly attached to you but he has a stronger innate feline need to live in the “home” he has known for so long.

This is hard for everybody. The sad truth is that some cats are even more bonded to their territory than they are to their people. Another important influence is that as cats age they become generally more resistant to change. The new house, with its sporty new cat, just isn’t the same. Your 8 year old homing kitty could have been a pigeon.

Despite your strong connection with this boy I urge you to allow him to live where he feels most comfortable. It would be highly unlikely that he could be successfully taught to accept your new house with that feline interloper whose guts he hates. He is who he is. He’ll do better without the stress and the risks of crossing roads and blundering into other cats’ territories.

Your old neighbors have been good sports. I suggest springing for the cost of an Invisible Fence to keep “their” 8 year old cat around home. You can order cat food to be shipped directly to their house. I’d buy them dinner too.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.