Monday, April 9, 2012

How Do Pets Find Their Way Back Home?

By Linda Cole

There's no shortage of stories about pets that become lost and then somehow were able to find their way back home. Some of these pets had to travel thousands of miles in order to get home. They had to navigate over rough terrain and cross obstacles many humans couldn't handle, yet they were able to survive and find their way back home, even if it took a year or longer to get there. The 1993 remake of “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” was based on a true story of the survival and determination of two dogs and a cat to find their way home through 250 miles of the Canadian wilderness. We know some pets can find their way back home, but how do they do it?

This is a topic I've always found intriguing. It's one thing for a pet to find their way back home over short distances, but it's another thing when they set off to find their owner in a completely different state or town they've never been in. One story recounts how an Irish Terrier dog named Prince went searching for his owner, a soldier serving with the British army during WW I. Prince had grown so depressed when his owner was shipped overseas to France that he stopped eating. Finally, he ran away from home. No one knows how Prince was able to cross the English Channel, but once he was in France, he started searching for his owner in the war torn land with bombs and bullets whizzing all around him. Prince found his owner in Northern France in a foxhole.

How lost pets can find their owner or their home remains a mystery to scientists. There is, however, one interesting theory: the homing instinct, which is broken up into two types. The first type is when a pet finds their way home using something other than the usual five senses. A sixth sense, if you will. It's known that animals have the ability to make a sort of “map” in their mind of landmarks, scents, sounds and familiar territory. It's believed pets are sensitive to the earth's magnetic fields and this gives them the ability to know which direction they're going by using an inner compass. But the question still remains, how do they know which way to go? No one knows, but researchers do know if magnets are attached to a dog or cat, the homing ability is taken away.

PSI trailing is the second type of homing ability and is based on the ability of a dog or cat to find their owner hundreds or even thousands of miles away when the pet has been left behind or is being cared for while the owner is away. PSI trailing is when a pet strikes out on his own in search of the person he loves, no matter how far it is.

This theory is interesting and points to the connection a pet has with his owner. The bond we share with our pets is the most important part of our relationship with them, and the bond between some pets and people is so strong it can actually help guide the pet to their owner no matter where they are. Whether or not it's a psychic connection, no one really knows and no one completely understands the theory. For some pets, it's possible they develop a special bond with their human and it runs so deep they feel a rhythm. When the rhythm is thrown out of balance by distance, the imbalance helps the pet hone in on where his owner is.

There is some scientific evidence to back up the theory of a psychic connection. In the early 1950's, parapsychologist Dr. Karlis Osis conducted an experiment with kittens he had developed a bond with. He put them in a T-shaped maze and then tried to convey the direction he wanted them to go (right or left) using only his mind. What's interesting about his experiment was the kittens that had a stronger bond with him were the ones that followed his directions most often. And the one that did the best was a kitten that was fond of sitting on his shoulder as he worked. There have been similar experiments over the years trying to prove PSI trailing as the most logical explanation to explain how a pet can find their way home, but so far, it's still a mystery.

Skeptics will say it's all a bunch of hooey and the pet just got lucky and found their way home by chance, and maybe they're right. However, animals have been navigating the lands for centuries and it's possible there's more to our pets than meets the eye.

Photo by Dave Baker

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Interesting. I have wondered about this as well. I just don't believe it's a bunch of hooey and luck - can't be so!

  2. This was a very interesting post!!! I think about this often!!!

  3. We find our way home because that's where the love is!

  4. It's so amazing that they always know how to find their way home! I think lucks play nothing here!

  5. It’s definitely not luck! But whether it’s psychic? Hmmmmm! The jury’s still out, I think lol

  6. The Incredible Journey is one of my favorite movies. I hear stories all the time of pets who traveled great distances to get back home. Definitely don't think it is luck or hooey. A combination of sixth sense and instinct are more likely.

  7. Dr Otis's psychic connection is very interesting. I am praying that cat's do find their way home. I had 2 ferel cats show up at my house about 7 years ago, one gray and one black. The gray cat was the leader and protector of the other one. 3 days ago the gray one was killed by a car and I haven't seen the black one since.

    We have searched and called for her, she was always at the front door when I arrived home from work, and after eating would enjoy jumping in my lap for a few minutes of rubbing and attention.

    She was so dependent on the gray cat, I'm afraid she doesn't feel safe without her, but I will continue to pray and look for her.

    Thank you for this post, it brings me comfort.


    1. My mom had a cat, workers truck was in her drive way. Her cat climbed in the back of the truck (full of supplies to drop off). Awhile later the truck left. Then she realized her cat was missing. She searched everywhere. Her beloved cat was gone. She lived in Michigan and the company was in Missouri. Months later her came walking up the driveway the pads on her feet with dried blood on them and very skinny. My mom saw her coming and ran out the door. Her cat came to her purring and stayed at home and out of any vehicle from then on.

  8. Homeward bound was not based on a true story. Yes, it was based on animals a family had, but they did not travel anywhere

  9. My dog was given away some were his never been about 4miles away I cried all day the next day about 3:00am my dog was at my door how he did it amazes me I live in a very hevey conchest area lots of freeways lot's of traffic but he did it he smell like @#@!@# but he made it


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