Cats have a reputation for being independent, it’s well known that they seem to enjoy their own space but this doesn’t mean they don’t crave companionship and interaction.
Some cats can only be left alone for a few hours while others can be left for over a day.
There are key factors that play an important role in determining the amount of time you can leave your cat alone for, with this in mind, let’s take a look at the determining factors as well as the main things to think about if you are leaving your cat on its own for long periods of time.
Every Cat is Different
Before we get into more detail about leaving your cat alone, it is important to note that every cat is different.
Some cats are very social and more attached to their owners, some are more prone to anxiety and others are more independent.
Even if you think your cat doesn’t even notice when you leave to go to work, they probably do.
While one cat may be able to handle being left for 24 hours, another may find it very stressful and suffer from separation anxiety.
Therefore, it is ultimately down to you to determine what is suitable for your cat, their habits and personality.
Important Precautions to Take When Leaving Your Cat Alone
While you are away from home it is important your cat has access to:
• Food – An automatic cat feeder is a great way to provide your cat with food while still controlling their portion sizes and access times. We all know a cat who would eat a whole bag of food if given the opportunity so to avoid your kitty from overindulging while you are away an automated feeder is a great option. An automated pet feeder can also help to keep up your cat’s feeding routine while you’re not there which will help them feel less stressed.
• Fresh water – Your cat needs to have access to fresh water while you are away. If you are going to be away for more than 8 hours then you should ensure your cats regular water bowl is filled but also provide a couple of extra bowls or a water fountain.
A cat water fountain is a good option as they help to keep the water fresh and topped up and offer a more enticing option for your cat than a bowl of standing water.
• Litter trays – It is best to leave more than one litter tray when you are not going to be home for a while as your cat will be discouraged from using the litter tray if it is dirty, a second litter tray will encourage them to keep the rest of the house clean.
• Toys/ enrichment – You should leave some of your cats favourite toys, scratching posts and perches out to keep them busy while you are away. You may also want to leave the radio on as the sound will help your cat to feel less alone, your cat may also like watching TV (if you put something that stimulates their prey drive on).
It is important to make sure there is nothing left out and within reach of your cat that is potentially harmful, from sharp objects to poisonous plants.
How Many Hours Can I Leave My Cat? Guidelines Based on Age
There are several considerations to take into account when you need to leave your cat alone, one of these is age. Age, combined with your cat’s personality, health, habits and the environment it is being left in will help you figure out the amount of time it is safe to leave them alone without causing unnecessary stress or issues.
If your cat is still a kitten then they can only be left alone for a few hours, below is a general guideline for the maximum amount of time you can leave your cat alone solely based on age; if your cat is under 4 months old it can only be left for 2-4 hours at a time, if they are between 4 and 5 months old they can be left for a maximum of 5 hours and by 6 months old they can be left for 8 hours.
You can only really leave a healthy, adult cat alone for a day or two providing it has a safe space and enough food and water.
Remember, each cat is individual in their preferences, needs and habits so what works for one cat may not work for another.
Can I Leave my Cat Overnight?
If your cat can cope with being left alone during the day while you’re at work etc. then they should be ok to spend a night alone.
Generally, a healthy adult cat who is in a secure environment and has access to food, fresh water and litter boxes can be left overnight without any issues.
If your cat has health problems or gets anxious when alone you may decide to get a pet sitter to keep an eye on them while you are away.
A lot of pet owners are also investing in cameras that allow them to watch over their pets while at work or away so if you are looking for additional peace of mind this is a way of checking in no matter where you are.
Can I Leave my Cat for a Weekend?
A weekend away should be treated with caution, it is recommended that you have a petsitter or friend check on your cat while you are away.
The person checking in will be able to refill the water bowls with fresh water, top up food bowls if needed, clean out the litter trays, spend some time with your cat and make sure they are ok.
If you are leaving your cat for 24 – 48 hours and you think they can cope with being on their own you may decide to use an automatic pet feeder, water fountain and maybe even a pet camera to ensure your cat is ok while you are away.
However, it is important to remember that technology can malfunction/ break which is why it is highly recommended to have someone check in on your cat, for their well-being and your peace of mind. The other consideration is that your cat could become unwell or injured while you are away so having someone check on them is very important.
Can I Leave my Cat for Longer than a Weekend?
Leaving a cat alone for this long without someone checking in on them, refilling their food and water and cleaning their litter trays is not a good idea for many reasons.
• Your cat will likely become stressed, lonely, anxious and depressed.
Your cat may also become bored, destructive or depressed if they spend too long alone. This can be avoided by having a friend or petsitter stop by to check on your cat and play with them.
Also leaving toys, scratching posts and perches around the house will help keep your cat busy. Do not leave any string or string toys around as your cat could become tangled up while you are away.
• The food may go bad and the water will become stale.
Offering dry food in an automatic feeder and using a water fountain may help to combat this but it will be better for your cat to have someone pop in every now and then to freshen things up.
• Your cat may run out of food and water entirely.
This can be avoided by using an automatic feeder and a water fountain but there is a risk of the technology failing and your cat not having access to food because of this.
• Once the litter boxes are full your cat will most likely start house-soiling.
When the litter trays are used and dirty your cat will probably stop using it which means they will do their business elsewhere in the house.
To avoid this use more than one litter box and have someone come in to clean the litter trays each day.
• Your cat may become ill or injured while you are away.
A number of things could happen while you are away, for example your cat may fall from a worktop or eat food that has gone bad.
If you notice differences in your cat’s behavior when you return home it is important to get them checked at the vet. Your cat may have eaten something they shouldn’t have or the behavior changes may be an indication that they are upset at being left alone.
It is better to be safe and have them checked over by a vet if you are concerned.
What if I Get Another Cat?
You may think that getting another cat to keep your current cat company is a problem-solver but unfortunately, that is not the case. While this may help your cat with any loneliness (providing the cats get on with each other) it may cause issues with sharing space, food, litter boxes etc. as cats are naturally territorial.
If you do decide to introduce another cat into the household, it is important this is done way in advance of your trip and is done very carefully.
For more information on this see our article about loneliness in cats. It is also important to note; the above information still applies whether we are talking about one cat or two. Someone should still come and check on your cat(s) each day to clean the litter boxes and provide fresh food and water.
Signs Your Cat is Suffering from Separation Anxiety
Cats can suffer from depression and separation anxiety when they are being left alone for long periods of time and their needs for attention and interaction are not met.
It is often difficult to tell whether or not your cat has separation anxiety as they do not display the same destructive behaviours as dogs, so it is important to keep an eye out for small changes in their behavior such us:
• Being more clingy
• Excessive meowing
• Not using the litter box
• Urinating on your belongings
• Behavioural changes such as changes in eating patterns, grooming habits and uncharacteristic aggression
How Long Can I Leave My Cat Alone – Summary
In summary, you should be able to leave your cat alone; with access to food, water, litter trays and toys, for 24 hours. Any longer than that and we would recommend having a friend or pet sitter check in once or twice daily on your cat.
This is really just to keep your cats needs for companionship and interaction met, keep their stress and anxiety levels down and ensure they have everything they need in a clean and safe environment.
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