While we may think of cats as being independent and self-sufficient, the truth is that all domesticated pets need a lot of care and attention. If you plan on going on vacation or even just spending a lot of time away from the house, you may be asking yourself, "How long can cats be left alone?". While there's no definitive answer to that question, there are certain guidelines to make sure that your cat is as comfortable and as safe as it can be while you're away from home. From managing your cat's food and water to how often the litter box needs to be changed, here are our best pet owner's tips on how long you can leave your cat alone.
Leaving your cat alone
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer on how long you can leave a cat alone at home. While they are indeed independent animals, cats are known to crave attention, affection, and love, just as we humans do! There are a lot of factors that decide whether your cat is the type that is happy to be left alone, including its age, personality, breed, history of anxiety, medical conditions, and even its environment. If the cat or kitten is new to your household, it's important to slowly test its tolerance for being left alone. The first few days or weeks in a new environment may be stressful for a cat, so immediately leaving your cat alone in a strange place might cause even more anxiety. Try to leave your cat home alone for brief periods at first, slowly building up to longer blocks of time as the cat starts to feel more comfortable in its new environment.
If you return home and something has changed - perhaps the cat has made a mess, acts despondent, urinated outside the litter box, or shows other obvious signs of distress or protest - you may have reached the cat's limit for the length of time it wants to be left at home alone. No matter what, vets and feline experts agree that the absolute maximum a cat should ever be left alone is 24 hours, although 12 hours is more realistic for most cats. If you need to be away from home for that period of time, make sure someone else is checking on the cat at least once; you never know when injury or illness will strike. Again, how long you leave a cat alone is going to be dependent on many factors - every cat is different - but the goal should be to never leave your cat home alone for too long. And of course, any cat that requires extra medical attention or care should never be left alone for long periods of time.
How long can you leave a kitten alone?
Kittens require much more care and attention than full-grown cats, and they are much more likely to become stressed or anxious when left alone. They also require lots of mental stimulation and playtime on top of access to fresh water and food. While adult cats should manage being left alone for a day at the office or out running errands, kittens should only be left alone for a few hours.
How long can you leave an elderly cat alone?
Similar to kittens, elderly cats usually require more care, especially if they are on medications or need help using the litter box. They are also more prone to sudden illness or injury such as a broken bone. Elderly cats should not be left alone for long periods of time.
Do cats get lonely?
Even if you have a cat that never seems to want to cuddle, chances are your cat craves your companionship and playtime much more than you think; cats are social animals that enjoy being around people! If cats are home alone for too long, they can definitely get lonely, making them stressed, anxious, and/or depressed. As a pet owner, it's your responsibility to make sure that your cat is as happy as it can be. Whether that means limiting long periods of time that you leave it alone, or perhaps hiring a cat-sitter to check in on the cat, it's up to you to make sure your cat never feels too lonely.
What happens when you leave a cat alone at home?
Leaving your cat home alone can feel scary at first, especially if you are a first-time pet owner! Thankfully, most cats are content to be left alone for a few hours and will usually just nap or look out the window while they're alone. After a few hours, however, cats can feel anxiety or stress if they don't know when their owners will come home (especially if you've been gone for a longer period of time than usual). This is why it's important for cat owners to arrange to have someone check in on the cat, whether that's a neighbor, friend, or cat-sitter.
How long can cats go without food and water?
Providing fresh water and food is a basic requirement of being a pet owner, and leaving cats without either is not only dangerous, but it's also cruel. Cats need and prefer a feeding schedule, and may become stressed if that schedule is suddenly changed. It's also not advisable to leave a bigger portion of food in the bowl if you're going to be away for a long time; the cat may eat the entire bowl all at once and then feel sick. Similarly, water bowls can easily be knocked over or finished quickly. If you're going to miss a mealtime or are worried about your cat's water consumption, it's a good idea to invest in an automatic feeder and/or a cat water fountain. It's not a long-term solution and shouldn't be used as a replacement for a cat-sitter, but it's useful if you need to be out of the house for a bit longer than usual!
How long can the litter box be left without changing?
Pet owners know that a cat's litter box can become very smelly very fast. Cats are just as sensitive to the odor and lack of hygiene as we are, so regularly changing the litter and cleaning the litter box is a necessity of cat ownership; changing the litter at least once a day is recommended. If cats start urinating outside the litter box and around the house, it may be a sign of anxiety.
Can you leave a cat alone for a night?
As mentioned previously, the absolute maximum you should consider leaving a cat alone is 24 hours. Most cats should be OK for one night alone, but it's important to not make it a regular habit. If possible, have someone check in on the cat while you're gone for the night, even for a brief period. A lot can happen in 24 hours - cats may experience illness and injury, for example - and so it's only fair to take care of your cat as best as you can.
Can you leave a cat alone for a week?
No. Leaving a cat alone for more than 24 hours is not recommended, and to do so would be risking the cat's life. Even if you have an automatic feeder and water fountain, there is so much that can go wrong in a week, not to mention how depressed and anxious your cat may become. It is highly advisable to get a cat-sitter if you have to leave your cat alone for a week.
How can I make sure my cat is happy if it's at home alone?
If you need to leave your cat for longer periods of time, making sure it's as happy and healthy as possible while you're gone is the least you can do to help your cat feel comfortable. Some tips include:
- Invest in a pet home camera to check in on your cat while you're gone; this might be especially beneficial if you have a new kitten and are feeling anxious about leaving it alone.
- Purchase a water fountain to guarantee your cat always has fresh drinking water.
- Have someone check in on the cat regularly.
- Invest in toys that will keep the cat busy (the best toys for cats home alone include automatic toys, puzzles, and climbing towers).
- Make sure the cat has a spot to sit near a window so it can lookout.
- Make sure your house is cat-proofed so that it can't escape; if you're going to be away, make sure to keep your cat indoors.
- Consider getting your cat a buddy for company, either another cat or a cat-friendly dog!
- Ensure your house is comfortable enough for the weather, including adequate heat or air conditioning.
Should I get a house-sitter and/or pet-sitter for my cat?
If you know you're going to be leaving your cat alone for longer than 24 hours, it's crucial to arrange for a pet-sitter to visit and check on the cat. Leaving cats behind while you go on vacation or spend time away from the house can be nerve-racking, but finding a fantastic pet-sitter is a great way to calm those fears. A pet-sitter can take care of all the basic needs of the cat - changing the litter, providing fresh food and water - but can also make sure the cat gets lots of playtime, cuddles, and extra attention. The added bonus of hiring a house-sitter means your house or apartment is taken care of when you're away, too. Ultimately, even if you're only gone for a day or two, hiring a pet-sitter can make a world of difference to your cat.
So, how long can you leave a cat alone? We hope we've made it clear that each cat is different, but in order to make sure your cat stays happy and healthy, you should aim to never leave it alone for too long.
Nomador is an international home-sitting platform. The Nomador community puts people in touch with home-sitters and home-owners they can trust. It is dedicated to people who need to find a solution to leave with peace of mind by entrusting their house (for family holidays, trips abroad or business travels), and people who travel through the world in exchange for lodging (watching over a home).