How Long Can I Leave My Cat Alone?

Published: 7/8/2021
Whether working long hours, or getting ready for a trip, if you share your house with a feline furiend, you may be wondering how long you can leave them alone. Often, we think that cats are aloof and independent creatures who barely notice our existence, but they often show us how much they really do care that we are there.

The fact is that domestic cats can’t be left alone for too long, and need our help with their physical and emotional needs on a daily basis. So just how long can a cat be left alone? In this guide, we’ll answer that question, but first, let’s take a look at the most misunderstood aspect of a cat.


The Independence Myth

In the great debate between cats and dogs, cats are often thought to need less attention since they clean themselves, and don’t usually need as much exercise as their canine pals. But the idea that all cats are truly independent is just a myth, as cats do, in fact, need us.

While wild cats of all sizes are primarily solitary creatures, domestic cats have learned to live in groups, and bond with other animals and their humans. They’ve also given up the hunt and patrolling outdoor territories for safe homes and food that’s handed to them daily, and have become intricately tied to our lifestyles.

Cats not only rely on us for their survival, but they also look to us for companionship, and can become lonely when that is taken away. From half-closed eyes when they are cuddling with us or purring next to us when we are sick, to bringing us their kills, it’s obvious that our kitties consider us a part of their pack and care about us deeply.

When you are gone for too long, your cat suddenly loses access to food, fresh water, a clean litter box and you! Cats thrive on routine, and may get anxious if that is disrupted. And cats can also become bored or experience separation anxiety which could lead to destructive behaviors like scratching furniture or eliminating outside their box


How Long Can I Leave My Cat Alone?

While it’s clear that our cats want us around, when life pulls us away, how long can we safely leave our felines alone? On average, most veterinarians would say that a cat can safely be left alone for no longer than 24 hours, with 36 hours being the absolute max limit. But there are several factors than can reduce this time.

  • Age: While a healthy, adult cat can be left alone for a day, a kitten should never be left by themselves that long. In general, a 1 to 3-month-old should only be left alone for 2 to 4 hours, a 4 to 5-month-old could handle 5 hours, while a 6-month-old can do 8 hours.
  • Health: If your cat has any health issue that needs attention, 24 hours may also be too long. Diabetic cats may need medications throughout the day, an elderly cat may have mobility or memory issues, and cats with an injury or recovering from a surgery may need additional care throughout the day.
  • Number of pets in home: Cats who have another cat to play with may be able to entertain themselves for longer than an only cat could, but they’ll still need their physical needs met.
  • Seasonal considerations: If you’ve got a heat wave or a freeze in your area, you don’t want to risk your cat getting overheated or too cold while you are away. Whether you don’t have central air, or the weather changes abruptly while you are gone, leaving a cat trapped in a potentially hazardous situation can be deadly.
  • Individual personality: Some cats really are self-entertaining, while others may need you in their space every moment. A cat’s own purrsonality can give you a clue as to how they may behave if left alone.

Even if you have a well-behaved, healthy, adult cat that rarely looks to you for entertainment or cuddles, you’ll still need to take into consideration their basic needs. You may think that if you leave for an entire weekend, your cat will be fine with some extra food and water. But what happens if the food goes stale too fast or gets eaten on the first day? Or if your cat tips over the water dish and then has no more to drink, risking dehydration? And if that litter box gets too dirty, it can even make good cats decide to go elsewhere.

It’s best to find a pet sitter to check in on your cat while you are gone. Not only can they feed and water your cat, and clean their litter box, but they can also provide some attention and comfort while you are away.


Tips For Leaving Cats Alone

If you have to leave your cat home alone for longer than 10 hours, here are some tips to help make their time on their own safe and relaxing.

  • Get a refillable water bowl, or water fountain for fresh water.
  • Get a refillable food bowl, or spread several food bowls around the house for a “treasure hunt” to slow down your cat’s eating.
  • Leave the TV or radio on for some comfort.
  • Keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature for your cat. Be aware of weather conditions and adjust accordingly.
  • Make your home kitty safe by removing chemicals, cleaners and poisonous plants, as well as plastic bags, strings and plugged-in electrical cords that are accessible.
  • Leave your cat some entertainment by providing toys, puzzle games, window seats and scratching posts to keep your cat busy. Just sure to lock up the feather and string toys.

These strategies are purrfect if you are working late hours or need to be away from home for a day. But if you are going to be away for a weekend or longer, it’s best to ask a friend, neighbor or family member to check in on your cat once to twice daily. Even with all the food and water they could handle, your cat could still injure themselves, the power could go out, the refillable bowls could malfunction, the dirty litter box or boredom could drive them to be destructive, and any number of other unforeseeable things could happen if no human is there to protect your precious pal. Or you could get a professional on the job!

Hiring a cat sitter is a furbulous way to ensure your cat’s safety while you are gone. A pet sitter can feed and water your cat daily, clean the litter box, play and cuddle with your feline, and keep an eye out for any injuries or hazards during each visit. Your cat will love having some companionship and attention, and you can enjoy your time away without worrying about how your cat is doing.  

No matter what takes you away from your furry bestie, you can ensure that your kitty stays safe and well taken care. They’ll be sure to purr their approval when you return!


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