It will vary depending on your cat’s breed, how prepared you are, and your cat’s age. But, for most adult cats, leaving them alone whilst you work, or leaving them alone for one night is the maximum. If you know you’re going to need to leave your cat alone for any longer than this, you will need to arrange for help. Get someone to cat sit for you, or at least to pop around and check on your cat for an hour or so.
Cats need company, social interaction, and plenty of mental stimulation as well as the basic needs of food and water. And, they can get themselves into a surprising amount of trouble when left alone for too long. So, more than anything, you need someone to check up on your cat to ensure they haven’t hurt themselves, or stressed themselves out to the point of illness.
- Leaving cats alone for a night
- What is the maximum time?
- 3 days to a week alone
- Can kittens be left alone?
Remember that leaving a cat alone overnight is a quite different issue than leaving cats alone during vacation for a week or longer. Your cat will need different things from you depending on how long you will be gone.
How Long Can Cats Be Left Alone While You Work?
With proper precautions in place, most pet cats can be left alone safely for a few hours or even for half a day without much worry. But when you start talking about leaving a cat home alone for a full day, whilst you’re at work, you will need to do a little more planning.
The remote workforce is growing across the globe. But, more than 60% of adults today still work at a job outside the home. If this describes you, you are likely gone at least four to five days per week for anywhere from eight to ten hours at a stretch, depending on your average daily commute time.
While this workday may seem long for you, at least you are occupied while you are away from home, which helps the hours to pass more quickly. But unless you set up enrichment activities for your cat to enjoy while you are away, your kitty will literally have nothing productive to do while she waits for your return.
If you cannot return home at lunch to check on your kitty and spend some time with them, try to arrange for someone else to pop by when you’re working. And, make sure your cat has food, water, and entertainment.
Cats can do a really great job of pretending to be self-sufficient! But, the reality can be quite different. Some cat breeds are known to be so dog-like that even leaving for a few hours can provoke intense anxiety – Ragdolls, Birmans, Scottish Folds and Sphynx Cats are just a few of the many cat breeds that really can’t tolerate much alone time. Signs that your cat gets anxious whilst your gone, even for a few hours at work, include:
- Destructive behaviors
- Excessive crying
- Effusive return greetings
- And more.
Leaving Cats Alone For One Night
We’ve briefly mentioned the social needs of cats, and the worries of leaving them alone when you’re working. But what about leaving them for one night? The same social concerns will apply – especially if your cat has also been alone in the day. But, there are some other issues to bear in mind.
Food and Water
Cats need regular meals. Some aren’t good at retraining themselves if you leave their food out, so they may eat it all as soon as you leave, and have nothing later on. This can cause stress and stomach upsets. And, a hungry cat is likely to go looking for food elsewhere. This can mean rooting through trash cans, any open cupboards, and more.
Cats can get sick eating something they shouldn’t, or could even hurt themselves or get trapped in their efforts to find food. On top of this, water bowls can spill or dry up more easily than many people think. And, leaving a cat without water can quickly become very dangerous.
If your cat uses a litter box, you will need to clean it out regularly. If you don’t clean it out often enough, your cat may start toileting elsewhere in your house. So, you’ll return back to a pretty smelly home. Cats that are feeling anxious, or that are not getting enough companionship may also start marking or going to the toilet outside of their litter box.
As we’ve said before, cats also need enrichment opportunities, even when they’re just being left alone for a single night. Cats can be very social creatures. So, they need plenty of toys and opportunities for mental stimulation. Without this, they can show the anxious behaviors that we listed earlier in this guide.
Leaving Cats Alone For Three Days
In earlier decades, leaving Cat alone for 2 days or longer wasn’t regarded as anything to really worry about. Cats can put up a good front of not needing or even wanting us around. They had us fooled for a good long time because of this! But now we know cats crave companionship too. They need it to stay healthy.
Today, leaving Cat alone for 3 days is considered excessive. There are simply far too many sad stories of well-intentioned pet owners who left their “oh-so-independent” kitty alone and came back to preventable heartache. If you need to leave your cat alone for 3 days, you must arrange for someone to check on your cat daily as an absolute minimum.
Someone will need to make sure your cat has fresh food and water at all mealtimes, to make sure they are safe and uninjured each day, to clean their litter tray, and to offer some companionship. For many people it’s easier to arrange for a proper cat sitter, or to take their cat to a cattery.
Can Cats Be Left Alone For A Week?
Leaving Cat alone for a week is, again, much too long. Like before, your cat will need someone to interact with every day, as well as daily fresh food and water. All of the same precautions apply when you are planning a longer absence that will separate you and your cat. But, there’s a higher risk that you will miss an accident or illness that is affecting your cat in your absence.
Leaving your cat alone for long periods, like a week, will increase your chance of missing issues like broken bones, deep cuts, lack of clean water, or consequences of eating something toxic. If you’re wondering what to do with Cat while on vacation for a week, skip to the end of this guide for some helpful options.
Leaving Kittens Alone
Depending on your cat’s breed, age, and health, this can drastically shorten the answer to “How long can you leave a cat alone?” You cannot leave kittens alone for as long as older cats. Kittens have higher care needs than adult cats. They will need plenty of mental stimulation, regular meals, and constant access to fresh water.
Do Cats Get Sad When You Leave
It’s natural to wonder, do cats get lonely when you go on vacation, or when you leave them alone? Cats have surprisingly high companionship needs, and can become withdrawn, stressed, or depressed when left alone for too long. Signs that your cat isn’t faring well in your absence include:
- Changes in appetite
- Marking outside the litter tray
- Weight loss
- Disinterest in grooming
- Disinterest in their favorite toys
- Any odd behavior
Do Cats Like Company?
Yes, nearly all cat breeds love and need regular company. This leads many people to consider getting another cat. One common error many new cat owners make when leaving for an extended absence is to assume the family cat will be just fine – so long as there is a second cat available for company. Unfortunately, this plan backfires as often as it succeeds.
The reason is simply that cats, like people, typically like to choose their own friends! Some cats haven’t had the early socialization required to get along well with other felines. Other cats may have issues with sharing food, litter box space or territory. Or, they just may not like one another!
If you do want to get your kitty a feline companion, this should be done well in advance of any planned absence. Ensure the two cats have complementary personalities and are able to live together in relative harmony without your supervision.
Help Your Cat Stay Happy When They Are Home Alone
The answer to how long can a cat survive without food and how long will a cat be happy if left alone are very, very different. Company, mental stimulation, food, and water are all vital things for cat health. From dry water bowls to empty food dishes, poorly planned leaps to tiffs with other family felines, the self-contained and suave feline you left behind may look and act quite different upon your return!
Luckily there are some steps you can take to help your cat stay happier whilst they’re at home. If you’re leaving your cat alone for more than a few hours, it’s a great idea to arrange for someone to come and check on them.
Make sure that someone can come at least once and preferably twice per day to refresh food and water and clean out the litter box, if you’re going away for more than one day. This is an okay, but not ideal, arrangement for up to two weeks. For any longer we recommend getting a house sitter to look after your cat.
Be sure to stock up on your cat’s favorite food and treats and replace any favorite toys that are getting worn. Cat-proofing your house will also be a safety must since your pet sitter will not know your home nearly as well as your kitty does!
Leaving A Cat Alone Safely
If you do decide to leave your cat alone for more than a day, there are a few safety musts that you should do.
- Keep your cat inside
- Pet proof your house
- Arrange for someone to check on them
Keep Your Cat Inside
Be sure your cat stays indoors during the time you are gone – even if he is an indoor/outdoor cat. This way, you know your cat is safe from passing cars, stray animals, other people’s escaped pets, and the many unknown pitfalls and perils that wait outside your doors.
Cat Proof Your House
Since your cat will be staying indoors, you must make sure that there is nothing around that could hurt them or injure them. This includes toxic foods and plants, places that your cat could fall from, or any sharp objects that could harm your cat. You must also make sure there’s nowhere that your cat could escape through, or any small places where your cat could get trapped and stuck.
Arrange for Company
Getting someone to come and check on your cat each day that you’re away does more than just provide company for your kitty. It is also a chance for you to ensure that your cat hasn’t injured themselves, caught an illness, or worse.
Arrange for someone trusted to visit your cat every day to care for them and check their health whilst you’re gone. Make sure it’s someone that won’t accidentally let your cat out of the house and not back in, too. More than anything, remember to stick to the maximum times we’ve already identified. If you’re going to be leaving your cat alone for more than 3 days, it’s a good idea to consider a cat sitter, cattery, working from home or taking them with you.
Sarah Cummings says
That’s a really good point about how a second cat isn’t the answer to the problem. Sometimes they can make the problem bigger!
Tim Ritz says
We have two 14 years old cats that grow up together. My 88 year old parents needed help and they couldn’t have cats around. Since we live a 12 hours drive away we had no choice but to leave them alone for long periods. We found with a little thought and planning we could leave them for up to 14 days with no problem. It’s been going on for 9 months now and when we go Visit them they seem to be happy to see us, they follow us around and sit in or laps demanding attention like we never left.
Destiny Stamper says
Do you have a sitter come check on them? I’m taking a 5 day trip soon so I’m curious
Nancy B says
I always have their care before I think of myself. I was in the hospital twice this October and it was critical that I get back to the hospital ASAP. I told them that I had fur babies that I needed to schedule care for them, then I would be there. My best friend came every day and fed, changed their water ( I change it twice daily and add ice) anyway she fed them kept their litter changed and give them lots of lovings! Man I sure missed my fur babies. They are brother and sister, tuxedo cats. BabyCat and Mouchie Boots!
Their birthday is the day after mine, we celebrate them together. !!! Lol
Ana Lee says
I have left my cat alone for 8 days with food & water feeders and extra food and water. He has been fine. I must leave him alone for 12 nights and will leave 2 litter boxes also. He cannot have a sitter as he is afraid of all people. Kennel is not an option as he vomits from fear when at vet.. Tim Ritz, do you think it will be okay. Thank you for answering me. Please answer soon.
In home cameras are nice to have. Some allow 2 way communication so you can talk to your cat also.
Missy Zane says
As a cat sitter, I’ve cared for cats whose people were gone for as long as three months! With two long visits a day, every day, the cats did great! Usually, my clients are gone for a few days or a week, at the most. Hate to tell you this cat parents, but the cats usually seem happy to have the house to themselves!
Thank you! I have a neighbor visiting her twice a day and following her routine. I was feeling guilty as it’s been about a month that I’ve been away. I was going to get her a companion cat, but she really doesn’t like other cats.
Thank you! I have a neighbor visiting her twice a day and following her routine. I was feeling guilty as it’s been about a month that I’ve been away. I was going to get her a companion cat, but she really doesn’t like other cats. I know she is in a safe environment, but I’m am still feeling so guilty.
I’m so happy to hear that. I have to be away next year for four months and my cat will be four years old by then. He doesn’t like a lot of people but he interacts with me all day long. So I’m really worried as I’ve never left him before.
I adopted a 16week old kitten i work 4 days out the week tonight will be the first night he’ll be home alone i made a nice spot for him in my basement. Food an his liiter box close so he can access it’s plenty of room for him to play down there as well will he be ok i didn’tt want him to be left in my room while im at work
I would have put him in a room he is familiar with and comfortable in. Your room would probably have been best. Put the litter box in there and he would have had your familiar scent to help him relax. Not sure a cool, dark basement is a great choice.
Glad to read this article and comments.
I have 2 cats and I never travel. But, I realized after working from home for a number of months a few years ago, that my male cat had an absolute fit when I got a job at a distance. Total separation anxiety and, heck, I felt it, too. I had to get up at 4:30, just to make it to work by 8:30 and I wouldn’t arrive home until 12+ hours later. He was OK after the first day. I did this for about 4 months and worked from home for the next 2 years, then had another long commute job for a few months.
The job I have now is only a 1/2 hour away. But today, my boss said that we need to travel soon and it would be for about 1-1/2 days. I don’t worry about feeding them. I worry about the anxiety. I worry about plane travel for myself, as well.
I think they will both be fine. Still, if I had a choice, I’d rather Skype than travel. Heck, I’d do that everyday, instead of be in an office. :^\
I am, however, prepared in a number of ways as,
I know that modern day jobs are purely insane.
I have cameras in different places in the house. Some are regular security cams and some are by PetCube. One pet cam automatically has a motion-activated laser that plays when it detects movement. The other dispenses treats. Please note that this is for treats – not meals! I can set it to automatically dispense treats or to donit from my phone. I also have a VAVAPet you. It is far from perfect, but it knows day from night and creates a feeling of some activity going on for a minute every 4 hours. Some of the toys are cat-activated interactive toys.
For feeding, I have a gravity waterer and a gravity feeder for dry food. While I realize that they make mechanical feeders, although I’ve worked quite a bit with technology, I wouldn’t have my pets lives actually depend on it! So the gravity feeder and waterer simply work by gravity. No worries.
My cats, however, do expect wet food – daily! I would not have my pets on dry or wet only. While I have 2 timed rotating feeders, to ensure that they are even fed if there’s an intercontinental disaster during the time I expect to be gone, I will leave both normal temperatures wet food open and I will also leave out frozen blocks of wet food to thaw on their own. It is not summer so, I’m not that worried. They may not like the texture as it thaws, but they won’t be hungry.
Keep in mind that, even if you have cameras where you can check on, converse and play with your cats remotely, that cameras are no cure all of something goes wrong, like you returning later than expected, them running out of or losing access to food or water. Unless someone can step in, you’ll merely be able to worriedly watch your cat be hungry and anxious from a distance, without being able to do anything for them. I don’t like saying that but, it is the truth.
Robert the Biologist says
There will always be an infinite number of “what ifs” but frankly, conscientious pet owners who put forth the right thought and consideration can leave their cats for up to two weeks if they properly control the environment and have someone check-in on the cat. Most cats are fine being left alone for a week. Of course, this all assumes that multiple sources of water, self-feeder and a backup source of dry food are available for the cat, plus multiple litter boxes. Granted, this may not be sufficient for cats who will over-eat, have medical conditions that require close observation, or tend to get themselves into trouble. Healthy cats aren’t fragile and will be just fine eating only dry food for a week.
Cats sleep most of the day and most will be just fine for a few days of solitude. If I leave for more than a week I always have someone come and check/play with them every couple of days.
Of course there are risks, they come with being a living organism. I know that my cat is just fine at home where it is comfortable for a week alone (no more than a few times a year). Boarding is expensive and exposes your cat to stress, pathogens, and restricts the cat to a tiny space.
Remote cameras are affordable and easy now if you’d like an additional sense of security.
Thank you this is awesome. I am leaving my 7yo for 8 days. I do this maybe twice a year to go on trips. My only issue is wet food going bad.
I have two cats who have grown up together and get along. They are 11 years old and we have done our share of traveling… 4 day weekends etc.. If we are gone more than 3 days, we have someone look in on them at least once a day, replenish food and water and clean the litter box. Last month, we were gone for 2 weeks. We had someone come in daily as we have in the past. One of our cats “pottied” on our bed almost every day when we were done. We purchased pheromones for the house and cleaned all of the bedding to remove the smell (including having the bed mattress steam cleaned). The behavior continued and we restricted access to the bedroom – he then started going on the couch. He has now destroyed an expensive mattress and couch and we don’t know what to do to stop the behavior. I took him to the vet and there is no medical condition. We also made sure everything was “as it should be” in his litter box area. We clean it daily and it has been in the same place for 4 years with no issues. HELP!
I have a 2 yr old female that has never been anywhere but in the house. She’s been left alone for 2-3 days many times.
I have always fed my cats the same( large pan of WELLNESS DRY is always available and a water fountain ( also since a kitten she discovered drinking from the toilets) NO COLOR OD DEODORIZERS in them.
I have NEVER had a cat that over eats by the way.
We have a lot of windows and a lot of wildlife for her to watch.
We have now been gone for 3 days home tomorrow and i’ll Be glad to see my pal, however after her drooling on me as she does when I get home I will get the cold shoulder for awhile.
PLEASE KEEP YOUR CATS IN THE HOME! There’s nothing but danger outside for them
We are going on vacation tomorrow and I’m really worried about my cat. He is about 6-7 months old and he usually does not like to be left alone, he’s very attached which is why I am so worried. We will be gone for 11 days and cannot afford to bring him to a catterie. We also don’t have anyone to come check on him which is 50/50 good and bad. Good because he likes to slip out and play in the yard every now and then and he’s very hard to catch when he does this and bad because he will be completely alone for 11 days. We have a huge makeshift litter box ready for him, we have automatic water and food feeders, and we are putting out his favorite blanket and also cat-proofing the house (i.e putting up things that could hurt him if he plays with them or things he can break since we won’t be there to stop him from doing so). Even though I know he will be safe inside, it is breaking my heart to leave him alone for that long. Do you think he will be okay? We have no other options and leaving him outside is definitely a big no.
Hi Chasity, I’m so sorry to say this but I highly recommend that your rethink your holiday – as awful as this would be. Leaving a cat with no one to check on them for 11 days could end very badly indeed. Especially for a cat that doesn’t like to be alone. Try phoning all your local friends and family and asking for a last minute favor, but if no one can pop in each day then going away for eleven days would be inadvisable.
I agree totally and, the cat is only a baby, 6-7 months.
Hi. We adopted a young cat eight weeks ago; she is almost a year old. We will be away for four days next week, and have a friend who will come in once a day to give her fresh water, feed her and empty her litter box. I will also leave a radio playing, to make her feel less alone. This is the first time she will be left by herself for so more than half a day. We can ask the sitter to give her half a can of wet food per day, or would it be better to keep her on dry food only while we are gone? We expect the temoeratures to be in the low 80s, but the house should remain fairly cool because it is a stone one. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
Christine Lynch says
We are going on a 3day trip to visit family a few hours away, and leaving the cats at home. Buying a gravity feeder is optimal as the cats eat at different times, but they don’t like the gravity water dish, the bubbling scares them. What is your recommended solution to this problem?
Laura Brown says
My cat is only 2 years old. When I leave her on her own, she has lots of dried food, and plenty of water. Her cat litter box is a portable one. I sometimes am away for 5 days a week. I am very concerned that zi am not here for her all the time. How would this affect her behaviour. Her health, would she be lonely develop stress problems. Should I consider getting her a new companion.
David M. Rivas Sr says
My name is David and I ‘m an animal lover. My plan is to babysit cats for people that have to travel. I will be be setting up a house shed in my backyard to keep the cats. My prices will be low and affordable. Do you do think, there is a clientele for this service?
Never leave your pets (cat or dog) alone for more than 24hrs. Every cat should have two Kitty litter trays which are cleaned twice a day. Fresh and dry food to be maintained daily and a minimum of two water sources. If you are one of those on this site who are abandoning your trapped and dependent cats for days, you should be ashamed of yourself. At the very least have someone you trust check on them twice a day and clean their poop trays etc. Cats should not be treated like indoor plants, they are vibrant sensitive sentient beings.
We have a beach house and Leave our cats home for about 3 days every other week. We set out gravity feeders and gravity water feeders with a couple extra bowls of water. We keep 3 large litter boxes in the basement. There’s a camera that keeps an eye on their food and I can see several rooms as well as our doors. Sometimes I talk to them and they perk up their ears. They seem to be content, and I think it would upset them to be periodically packed up and taken with us. If I should see a problem it wouldn’t take me long to get home, and I have neighbors I can call.
Regis Santonja says
Hi, I will be travelling from home (Arizona) to Europe for 7 weeks. Thinking to take my 13 years old cat (perfect health so far) with me, but the travel will be stressful. I’ve been advised to take a pet sitter. But 7 weeks…. that’s very long… What do you think ?
Lynda Hamblen says
Was looking for some takes regarding this topic and I found your article quite informative. It has given me a fresh perspective on the topic tackled. Thanks!
Kristi Brammer says
Hello, I have a friend of some 50 years that left her cat alone in her house while she went to help her parents for 2 months. She had someone coming in the check on the cat although I do not know how often. I’ve been trying to encourage her to give her cat away to my sister as she will be continuing to go and care for her parents. She is not able to take the cat with her. She is not willing to give the cat up. I became upset with her and told her she was abusing this animal that she says she loves. She’s not talking to me any longer. How long is too long to leave a cat? The above article did not answer that question. Thank you.
I have to leave my 15 month old cat home alone for 12 days to take care of my daughter out of state . I have hired someone to drop in once a day for a half hour to check in on him and provide company. Will this be enough? I am so worried my cat will get sick from being alone while I’m away. Thank you for any responses .