In this article we can going to look at how long you can leave a cat alone. This will help you to decide whether it’s okay to leave your cat for short breaks or while at work. As well as letting you know how often someone needs to check in on them during the day, depending on factors like their age and health.
Cats seem like quite solitary creatures. But, they actually love company, and can suffer from separation anxiety just like dogs. Learning how long can cats be left alone will depend on a number of factors, including their age, how often someone will be checking on them, and how prepared you are.
Leaving Cats Alone – The Quick Links
- How long can cats be left alone while you work?
- Leaving cats alone for one night
- Maximum time to leave a cat alone
- Leaving cat alone for 3 days
- Leaving cat alone for a week
- Can kittens be left alone?
- Leaving elderly cats alone
- Do cats get sad when you leave?
- Helping your cat stay happy when home alone
- Leaving cats alone safely
- Alternatives to leaving cats alone
Even experienced cat owners may wonder “How long can cats be left alone?”, especially since there are so many different opinions on this particular topic! 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, nearly any pet 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.
So How Long Can You Leave A Cat Alone?
So, what’s the simple answer? How long can cats be left alone without someone checking up on them?
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 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.
So, you should only ever leave a kitten alone for a maximum of a few hours. If you are working full time and raising a kitten, you should go home at lunch to check up on your kitty. If you cannot do so, arrange for someone else to go over whilst you’re at work to care for your kitten.
Leaving Elderly Cats Alone
As our beloved feline friends get old, they become a little more vulnerable. Like kittens, senior cats can benefit from regular check ins. They are more prone to injuries such as falls or broken bones, and more likely than younger cats to suffer from health problems.
If you have a sick elderly cat, you will need to make sure you aren’t leaving them alone for too long. And, you must make sure you can regularly check on your cat to ensure he or she is not injured. They will have the same high social needs as cats of any other age.
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.
It is also worth considering that an outdoor cat left home alone outdoors could very well decide to adopt another family in your absence – in which case you may come home to find that you are the one who has been abandoned! One additional word of caution: there are some cat breeds of sufficiently high value that you also risk cat theft by not securing your cat indoors while you are away.
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 one of the following options.
Alternatives to Leaving A Cat Alone
There are a number of options available to you if you need to leave your cat alone for a long period of time. This includes:
- A pet sitter
- A cattery/kennel
- Working from home
- Take your cat on vacation with you
Let’s take a closer look at these options.
A Pet Sitter
A sitter can just come in twice per day to check food, water and litter box facilities or may stay in your home with your cat. Either way, a human checking in is a good way to minimize stress to your cat during your absence.
They will be happy to offer you regular updates, and will be able to provide care needs pretty much as soon as your cat needs them. Make sure you choose someone that you trust, and that you know your cat gets along with.
If arranging for a visiting pet sitter is simply not an option or you can’t find an available sitter on short notice, the hands-down safest choice is to kennel your cat. Most veterinary clinics offer some type of kenneling service for clients.
Catteries may also offer a similar service where you can board your cat with a selection of her favorite toys, her food and treats, her own bedding, and even playtime instructions. If you elect to kennel your cat at your vet or at a local cattery or pet hotel, be sure services include daily free time and interactive play as well. It is okay to leave a cat in boarding kennels for up to two weeks once or twice a year.
Any pet sitter or kennel you select should be willing to provide updates daily and on demand, including pictures or videos or both. This way, you will have the means to verify that your cat is receiving great care and lots of attention while you are away!
Working From Home
Over the past year, working from home has become a more feasible option for most people.
As we know, most adult cats will be fine if left alone whilst you’re at work, as long as you take the proper precautions.
But, if you can work from home a few days a week, this can be a great way to keep your cat company and avoid leaving them alone too much.
Take Your Cat With You on Vacation!
Now, this option is probably going to be the hardest for most people. But, depending on where you’re planning on going, you can sometimes take your cat with you on vacation.
If you are not travelling far, your cat is pretty chilled about adjusting to new places, and the accommodation is cat proof, this could be an option.
Bear in mind the potential stress of travelling on a cat. It may be kinder to them to hire a pet sitter, or take them to a cattery.
How Long Can You Leave A Cat Alone – Summary
We hope this article has answered all of your questions about how long can you leave a cat alone!
Take care to ensure that your cat is happy and healthy, if you have to leave her behind for any length of time.
Have you ever left your kitty home alone? What type of pet cat care do you recommend?
References and Resources
- Ways to keep your cat happy
- Outdoor vs indoor cats
- Friedewald, C. ‘Leaving Your Cat Home Alone’, Kennesaw Mountain Animal Hospital (2017)
- Almand, S. (et al) ‘Leaving Your Cat While On Holiday’, Pharr Road Veterinary Clinic (2017)
- ‘Cattery, Cat Sitter or Travelling Cat?’, Cats Protection Charity (2018)
- Buffington, T. (et al) ‘Separation Anxiety’, Indoor Pet Initiative-Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine (2018)
- Cook, E. ‘Home Alone: Leaving Pets Behind on Vacation’, Ontario SPCA (2016)
- Foote, S. ‘Feline Friends – How to help your Cats get Along’, Okaw Veterinary Clinic (2018)