My cat comes from two home cats: an English short hair father and Russian blue mother. I live in an apartment, and he enjoys walking through the corridor and sniffing everything.

The problem I have is that sometimes he wanders to another floor and goes at the wrong door there. (Same location to mine vertically).

I can pick him up and bring him back with relative ease, but he gets extremely stressed during the process and I can feel his heart thumping rapidly.

How can I teach my cat to navigate between the floors and return home on his own?

Answers to comments:

I am nearly certain that no feeding occurs with my upstairs neighbour as he seems extremely scared and he tends to get lost in either upper or lower floor compared to mine though I'll check on them to make sure.

My cat is three years old, and he's not spayed, as I thought that it wasn't needed since he never meets with other cats, and if I remember right, I got him when he was 3 months old. (Might be off a month.)

I also occasionally pick him up for some cuddling, and compared to our cuddling time, his heart is much faster when I pick him up in front of another door.

  • 3
    What if instead of carrying your cat, you had him follow you home a few times? He might make the connection that he can try another floor when he gets lost himself this way.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 17:37
  • 1
    By any chance does the person above have a female cat? Cat's can find their way home even when dropped off miles away. It is very odd that your cat can't find his own home. It seems more likely that he isn't looking to find his home at that time.
    – Dunk
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 18:51
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    "I can feel his heart thumping rapidly." Cats have a higher heart rate than humans, fyi.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 20:32
  • 2
    Huh, I'd never thought about this. Is our recognition of which floor we're on, in cookie-cutter buildings with identical corridors on every floor, a factor of innate pathfinding that might be shared by other animals like cats, or a product of our so-called "higher intelligence"? To the science cave! Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 1:10
  • 5
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - I wouldn't call it innate. Someone in my town recently shot a person in their own residence, having entered the wrong apartment; assuming they were being robbed. The only thing we can prove is the capability of all animals to be idiots.
    – Mazura
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 1:25

2 Answers 2


This is hard to answer. I think you will have to do some experiments.

If your cat has a toy or object he likes, you might try to put this outside your door so he can smell his own scent to make him recognize he is at home.

Cats in general do know their area by sight and by scent, There are many examples of cats living in an multi-apartment building and not having any problems in finding the right door to where they live.

I think one of the things you need to do is to visit the vet to see if your cat has any problems smelling or if it might have eye problems. This is to be sure it is not a physical problem.

If nothing physical is wrong with your cat, you can try to mark your apartment by putting up a visual marker and/or a scent marker for your cat outside your door to help him locate his home. You can simply move the welcome mat from inside to outside your door or hang one of your cat's toys on the door so he can reach and smell it.

  • 3
    +1, Good advice. I'd also add that scent might be problematic in residences with common hallways that are maintained by the landlord, reason being cleaners tend to use different (e.g. cheaper) detergents to those that the residents might use. Any smells that the owner puts around the place to guide the cat home may be temporarily masked by these chemical smells. Not sure how to solve that problem mind you. It's a tricky one. I think that trying many things simultaneously would be the key here - scent, visual cues, sound even (a clock that ticks loudly hanging on the inside of the door!).
    – Wossname
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 18:52
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    Not a cat owner, but would it maybe make sense to put those marks on the start of the corridor? I would personally try to put a small black plate on cat eye level on the right floor a the start of the corridor. The building maintenance will more than likely ignore it and it's less temporary than smell based solutions. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 10:54
  • I would add a suggestion to this answer. Maybe use something similar to mark the floor in the stairwell.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 14:07

Our cat had the same problem.

We had only two apartments per floor and we happened to live all the way up; so you'd think there was some visual aid to go on. Still, whenever she went exploring downstairs and eventually entered panic mode when she stopped feeling comfortable, she ran only 1-2 floors up, mistook the door, and either had to be picked up or chased up another floor, only for the procedure to repeat.

Like you describe, this visibly stressed her out. Nobody was opening the door to her presumed home, right? She wasn't very clever to begin with, though. Regardless, the staircase was quite sterile and from a cat's viewpoint, everything may have looked the same.

We never tried to find a solution, but perhaps you should get a unique looking floor mat and give it a strong, unique scent - preferably something she already knows. Also, perhaps there is some way to mark the right floor at the staircase, should it be far apart from your door.

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