How to prevent your pet from running away?

A runaway cat or dog is an owner’s worst nightmare. Runaways can be explained by many factors and can be corrected with several methods.

Reading time : 8 min

Pets who like to unexpectedly leave their home are a great source of concern for their owners. It is therefore essential to understand the cause of such behaviour.

A runaway cat or dog can come from the pet’s bad habit but also an owner’s inadequate behaviour, even if it seems harmless at first. It can cause anxiety but can also have serious consequences. In this article, we will aim to explain why dogs or cats run away, as well as tell you about the ways to prevent any escaping attempts.


The risks of a runaway pet

Having a pet run away is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. It is important to train your dog or cat not to run away because while the runaway dog or cat is at risk, the owner is also responsible for their actions.

  • Even if the dog is microchipped, it can still be stolen. Indeed, when most people find a lost dog, they will go to the vet to try to find the owner. But some ill-intentioned or dishonest people may decide to keep the dog or resell it, especially if it is a popular and sought-after breed.
  • When a pet wanders, it can get seriously injured or even killed. It can get hit by a car or intentionally killed by a malicious person. If it has been in an accident, its injuries will result in veterinary costs which can be substantial.
  • According to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, if a dog or cat is responsible for an accident, or assaults or injures someone, even if unintentionally, the owner is responsible for the animal's actions and can face having their animal put down.
  • Similarly, if the dog or cat is responsible for an accident causing the death of one or more people, the owner of the animal will be held criminally responsible and face up to 14 years in prison.

Having your cat or dog repeatedly run away can undoubtedly be discouraging for the owner. However, considering the risks to the animal and the owner, it seems wise to correct this behaviour as quickly as possible.

The different reasons a pet runs away

Before trying to eradicate annoying and potentially dangerous pet behaviour, it may seem important to understand the causes. There may be many reasons for running away.


Hunger can be a factor in running away. Indeed, if the weight of a dog or cat is judged to be problematic by the veterinarian, the owner will be advised to adapt or reduce its diet. This is undoubtedly a very good thing for its health.

However, unless the veterinarian advises otherwise or there is an emergency, this readjustment of food must be done in a completely painless way for the pet. In other words, if a certain dog breed has obesity tendencies, like Labradors, the owner must provide a suitable diet. If a cat is greedy, it will be necessary to reduce its portions little by little so that it does not suffer. Otherwise, both dog and cat may be tempted to run away to go eat around the neighbourhood or to chase field mice.

Predatory instinct

Even when domesticated, most pets obey their primary instincts. Dogs and cats both have a predatory instinct that is developed and that can therefore cause them to run away. This is very true for hunting dogs, for example, who may become excited at the sight of a running cat. It is partly for this reason that it is not advised to encourage your pet's predatory instincts, even when a puppy.

Lack of exercise

Cats and dogs have a lot of energy to spend. An indoor cat will be quite happy to go sit on an open window or balcony. An outdoor cat or a dog, however, will not be satisfied with this.

For dogs, it is also important to differentiate between potty walks and exercise walks. Most dogs need physical exercise and mental and olfactory stimulation. This is important for their physical and mental health.

Similarly, most outdoor cats need to get out, discover their territory and hunt.

Boredom and loneliness

The outside world is full of exciting noises, enticing smells, children playing and many interesting solicitations. A curious cat or a bored dog may be tempted to run away and go discover the world as soon as the door opens.

To counteract this bad habit, owners can establish a routine of playing with their cats or taking their dogs for a long walk every day when they come home. Some breeds of dogs are particularly keen on exercise and walks. The hound will likely run away if not sufficiently exercised.

Hot weather

Hot spells can be critical for runaway dogs or cats. Some dogs run away exclusively to join females in heat that they sense in the neighbourhood. The same is true for cats, which can get involved in very violent fights with other cats. Similarly, females in heat may run away when they sense smell males nearby. Neutering and spaying of both males and females almost systematically overcome this problem.


Thunder or fireworks can be all it takes for a dog and a cat to be terrified and run away. In their disoriented state, it may be difficult for them to find their way back home. A simple solution is to not open any doors or windows and to reassure your pet. Cats can become aggressive, so it is better to let them find a hiding place in the house until the noise stops.

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The solutions against runaways

Sometimes, identifying the causes of runaways is unfortunately not enough to solve them. It is then possible to resort to solutions that will help contain the desire of cats and dogs to run away.

The efficiency of fences

Fencing your property can be effective for a dog. Of course, the height of the fence should be chosen according to the size of the dog. While a one-meter high will hold back a small dog such as a Chihuahua or a Maltese, it will not prevent a Boxer or a Doberman from running away.

Fortunately, fences are usually between one and three metres high. This can easily deter puppies or some dogs from going for ambles. That said, other freedom-loving dogs will not hesitate to dig under the fence to get away.

As for cats, the installation of a fence around the property does not represent an obstacle. They are perfectly capable of climbing the fence to find freedom, no matter how high it is. Fences with a return at the top can prevent the cat from climbing over the net and are easy to put up but the garden feels enclosed in a cage.

Anti-runaway fences

Anti-runaway fences, also known as electric fences, are invisible fences meant to deter any pet from going outside the garden. But how does an electric anti-runaway fence work?

The kit consists of an antenna wire, a transmitter box, a receiver box, and an electric collar. Anti-runaway fences are invisible. The link between the anti-runaway fence and the collar is through a receiver. The price of an anti-runaway fence is around £150.

The owner will have to mark out the area that the pet is allowed to cover. To do this, the owner simply buries the transmitter and the antenna wire in a closed circuit around the perimeter of the garden. The electric collar with the receiver attached to the pet's neck receives the waves emitted by the transmitter.

The dog or cat can walk around the perimeter at will. However, when the pet approaches the anti-runaway fence, the collar emits a beep and then sends an electric shock if the pet continues to approach. The dog and cat associate the proximity to the virtual fence with an unpleasant experience, this is called negative reinforcement.

The use of an anti-runaway collar in dog training

The anti-runaway collar is mainly used for dogs, as cats are not very well suited to such treatment. These wireless dog collars are suitable for all sizes of dogs and can be adjusted. They consist of a box containing a battery and a radio receiver attached to the collar and remote control.

These anti-runaway collars are used in recall training. When the owner calls the dog back, the dog must return to the call. If the dog does not return, the owner activates the remote control which triggers sound or electrical stimuli. The owner can also activate the remote control if they think that the dog is wandering too far away. For a few days, the dog assimilates the separation from its owner as an unpleasant, painful experience.

While fences and anti-runaway barriers can be permanent solutions, this is not the case with anti-runaway collars which must be temporary.

The limitations of these anti-runaway systems

If the anti-runaway fence or the anti-runaway collar were to malfunction for one reason or another, the dog and cat will soon want to run away without looking back. But they will not have learned anything about what is expected of them.

Moreover, it appears that the apprehension of electrical shocks can be the cause of behavioural disorders. Psychological imbalances, aggressiveness, lethargy, or compulsive licking are likely to occur. A cat is likely to then run away at the first opportunity and never return.

Using a GPS tracker

GPS trackers for dogs or cats seem to be an interesting alternative for pets and reassuring for their owners. There are various GPS trackers for animals; some are integrated into the collar; others are attached to the animal's collar. The latter is a good solution because some dogs and cats do not like to wear a collar and prefer to wear a harness. But what is a pet GPS tracker?

GPS Tracker

A pet GPS is a small, lightweight device that does not interfere with the pet's movements. It is made of resistant materials and is of course waterproof so that it can follow the animal in all its wanderings. It usually works with a smartphone application, which makes it extremely convenient and easy to use.

There are GPS with and without a subscription, but GPS with a subscription are undoubtedly more efficient when it comes to tracking living animals on the move. Some GPS collars can send the position of the dog or cat in real-time (every 10 seconds) without any distance limit.

GPS tracker as a training tool for cats or dogs

Unlike other devices, GPS trackers do not work against the education of the dog or cat. Some GPS devices have a training programme that is similar to conditioning. This consists of vibrating the GPS tracker from the smartphone app as soon as the cat eats. Over time, the cat will associate the vibration of the GPS collar with its meal. When the cat is late returning, simply trigger the collar vibration to see it return.

And if the cat runs away during training, the owner can track it and find it very quickly. Furthermore, if the lost dog or cat is found by a third party or picked up by the dog warden, the GPS tracker is an unequivocal indicator that the stray dog has an owner. A tool that offers an additional chance of finding your pet.

In any case, it is important to remember that, for its safety, a pet must be vaccinated, identified, and sterilised. First, because sterilising a dog or a cat is an inexpensive option compared to the risks involved and can put an end to runaways. That said, if runaways persist, identification is a valuable aid in the process of finding the pet, which is not insignificant. Educating your pet can help reduce the number of runaways.

While there are physical solutions, it is important to choose a durable device that is not intrusive to the animal. There are many options, but the causes of runaways associated with the GPS tracker seems to be an enlightened choice for both the pet and its owner. Discover the functionalities of dog and cat trackers and never lose your pet again!