How long can you leave a cat alone? From days to weeks, where do we draw the line?
But even experienced cat owners may wonder “How long can cats be left alone?” especially since there are so many differences of opinion on this particular topic!
When tackling this important question, it is also vital to remember that leaving a cat alone overnight is a quite different issue than leaving Cat alone for a week or longer.
Your cat will need different things from you depending on how long you will be gone. We will cover that thoroughly in this article.
So how long can you leave a cat alone? Read on to find out!
Leaving a cat home alone
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 or a few, you will need to do a little more planning.
If you plan to leave Cat alone for 5 days or longer, it is time to do some serious pre-planning to ensure your cat’s wellbeing and safety while you are away.
The confusion about leaving cats home alone arises from their rather solitary-seeming presentation.
Cats can do a really great job of pretending to be self-sufficient!
Your cat might seem to answer to no human, to deign to permit you to cuddle her, to wander about as she pleases regardless of the household rules – clearly, those so-called “rules” only apply to the other family members.
Cats Love Company
But cats are not really the loners they often appear to be.
For example, did you know that cats can suffer from separation anxiety just like dogs?
Destructive behaviors, excessive crying, effusive return greetings and other similar behaviors can indicate that your cat gets anxious when you are gone.
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.
Cats can also get into a surprising amount of trouble when left home alone.
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!
Leaving a cat alone while at work
While the remote workforce is growing across the globe, 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.
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 should also be watchful for signs your cat is not faring well in your absence.
Changes in appetite, marking outside the litter box, weight loss, disinterest in grooming or favorite cat toys, odd behavior and other signs can let you know your cat needs more companionship.
Leaving a cat alone for a weekend
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 cats 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 do decide to leave your cat alone for a weekend (2 days) or a long weekend (3 days), these three to-do list items are safety musts!
1: Keep your kitty 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.
2: Arrange for a pet sitter
A sitter can just comes 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.
3: Kennel your cat
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.
Leaving cats alone for 4 days or longer
All of the same precautions apply when you are planning a longer absence that will separate you and your cat.
Here, it doesn’t really matter whether you are leaving a cat alone for 10 days, leaving cats alone for 2 weeks or leaving for a month or half a year.
Your cat will need the same basic things to survive and thrive while you are away for a longer period of time.
The following are some things to consider.
Why not just get a second 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.
How long can you leave a cat alone with a pet sitter
If you plan to hire a pet sitter or recruit a willing friend to come in to check on your kitty, be sure that individual can come at least once and preferably twice per day to refresh food and water and clean out the litter box.
This is an okay 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!
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!
How long can you leave a cat alone?
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?
- Friedewald, C., DVM, “Leaving Your Cat Home Alone,” Kennesaw Mountain Animal Hospital, 2017.
- Almand, S., DVM, 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., DVM, PhD, DACVN, 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., DVM, “Feline Friends – How to help your Cats get Along,” Okaw Veterinary Clinic, 2018.
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