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My cat returns to our old house!

Q My neutered five-year-old cat, Stanley, recently went missing for ten days, which was very out of character. He'd gone back to my old house two miles away, where we lived until ten months ago! I bought him home and kept him in for five days. Four days after being allowed out he disappeared again, and two days later I found him back at my old house!

Stanley lives with his sister and two kittens I got aged eight weeks. They all play and sleep together and show no signs of being visibly stressed. When I first moved they were all being bullied by a neighbour's cat, but I hadn't heard any fighting for several weeks before Stanley disappeared.

Why did he wait ten months before making his way back to the old house? Wouldn't he have gone sooner if he was unhappy? I feel upset that he may not want to live with me any more.

Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini replies: You say your four cats get on well with no visible signs of being stressed. Unfortunately, cats don't generally show such signs unless they are very distressed and/or develop problem behaviours.

However, a common indicator of inter-cat tension can be cats starting to roam and returning to a previous location. By now, your kittens must be of an age when, in a natural situation, they would be spreading their wings or already be off establishing their own territories, so I suggest you critically examine their interactions with Stanley.

There is often pressure for resources in multi-cat homes. Cats each need a variety of refuges, some high up and some dark, in all areas of the home. When we have more than one cat, we need to provide lots of these resources and several feeding and drinking areas, lots of toys and so on, both indoors and out. This reduces pressure on the pets and avoids competition.

Locate these items where each individual spends time, providing as many core areas as is necessary (where cats eat, sleep and play). Sometimes that means providing as many core areas as there are pets.

Look carefully at what is going on between the cats, remembering that staring is intimidation and indicates tension. Your attention can be a source of competition if they all enjoy close contact, so handle this carefully. You may well be able to resolve this situation with sensitive handling, but it takes a lot of effort to maintain a happy four-cat home that gives each individual what he or she needs.