What makes indoor cats go rogue?

The other day, a friends of mine, through a course of unfortunate events that unbeknownst to them, left their door able to be pushed open if the bolt wasn’t locked. This led to the door, either through wind or through cat, opening at some point during the night, so when they woke up, one of their two strictly-indoor cats was missing. The other one apparently had no desire to explore. There was no prior indication that the cat ever wanted to see what else was out there. The cat, as far as I know, is sadly, still missing, although she does have a microchip so if she is picked up for any reason, they’ll be notified. And they’ve alerted the neighbors, canvassed, put up signs, etc.

So what’s different between cats?

My cat at my mom’s, Fatty, LOVED to run out the damn door when he was younger. I would get up at 5am, open the front door to get the paper, and WHOOSH! Cat bolted. At the time, I didn’t have glasses and had never put in my contacts yet so I blindly and barefootedly had to run out in the dark yard to chase after him. He usually only made it to halfway around the house, where he would then turn and haul ass back inside. Sometimes it went on a bit longer than this, maybe under a car, maybe all the way to the backyard, but he usually didn’t venture much further even though a large, blind human was chasing him. I think it was just him screwing with me. Nothing is funny at 5am, especially not chasing a cat while stepping on slugs.

Long ago, when we were just a one-cat household, I didn’t quite latch the door when I left for work and the boyfriend woke up to a wide open door. He ran out to find Moosh sitting on the porch chair. The porch is not enclosed, and he could have gone anywhere. It seems the porch was enough for him.

There was one other time we woke up to a wide open front door. Neither Taco nor Moosh had any interest and in fact, seemed to be as far away as possible from the door. My assumption is that they associate fresh air with the vet, because they only start howling in the cat carrier when we step out the door. Neither of my cats are chipped. This is probably very bad on my part, but since we only have two doors, and they are TERRIFIED of the sliding glass door and run away whenever it’s opened, and they don’t have any desire to go out the other one, I figure they’re not going anywhere.

But what governs cats’ desires? Why did Fatty rush to get out while Taco has never set foot? Taco’s mom was, as far as I know, feral. If anything, he should have more internal desire to roam. And all the cats I speak of are fixed. So it’s not a desire to mate (that would speak for itself).

You cat people reading this…what are your experiences with indoor cats and the outdoor world?

Clearly, he would not last long in the harsh reality of outdoor life.

Clearly, he would not last long in the harsh reality of outdoor life.


  1. aimee

    Oh, I have many similar stories. Oddly enough, all three of my cats came from the “wilds of Florida” (i.e. outside). Lily and Lucy were about a week old when someone “found” five kittens under a porch. Lucy has wandered much farther than Lily over the years. Lily gets a little nervous about outside and prefers to look with slight disinterest into the yard, through the safety of the glass door. Lucy, on the other hand, has bolted a couple of times during the canine mad dash out the door and, when my husband has left doors open (I just don’t get it), she has greeted me on the front porch, at the end of the driveway, in the garage, etc. Now Zoey…she would run around outside like a mad woman if I let her. She would chase and kill bugs, birds, etc. She was most assuredly running with a feral tribe when she was attacked and captured by the dog that ultimately left her paraplegic.

    • MEOWhearthis

      Hahaha I don’t know how you can do cats AND dogs. I’m not really a dog person, per se, but even if I was, it would be way too much energy for me to handle! Hubz leaving doors open…mine is anal about closing because he gets irate when bugs get in. Mostly because the cats will mow over everything in their path to try and catch.

      • aimee

        Yeah…a trucker stopped and rescued her from the mouth of a dog. That’s how she ended up at the shelter I was working at.

      • MEOWhearthis

        Oh that breaks my heart…even though she’s in the best possible place she could be now! I have this deep depressy feeling about things like that. I accidentally killed a bee because I thought it was a wasp and had to convince myself it was an africanized honey bee so that I would stop dwelling on it. And don’t even get me started about the time I was watching a perfectly nice documentary about a cheetah mommy and her kittens…I have a deep empathy for animals despite my fully functioning understanding of the food chain. So even when it’s animal on animal…my heart hurts. So glad she ended up with you!

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