Get the facts: How long can you leave a cat alone?

11 August 2020

Need to leave your cat home alone? Read on to learn the most important factors to consider when leaving a cat alone, plus how long is too long for a cat to be on their own.

tips for leaving your cat home alone

You’d probably love to stay home and cuddle your cat forever – but this can’t always be the case with human responsibilities to attend to. Somebody has to put the cat food on the table, after all! So you might be wondering, how long can you leave a cat alone? Which factors need to be considered? Is it possible to let your kitty outside while you are gone? What about physical activity, or loneliness?

We’ve answered all these questions and more below:

How long can you leave a cat alone?

You’re probably wondering if you can leave your cat alone while at work. What about for the weekend, or while you’re on vacation? How long is too long for a cat to be left alone? According to Psychology Today, there is no conclusive answer, due to the lack of research on the subject.

The answer is not so clear for a number of reasons. Cats are known to be independent creatures. But still, they are domesticated and likely crave affection just as much as dogs, or even us humans. Some cat breeds might be better suited to being left alone than others, but ultimately each cat must be treated as the unique individual they are. Moreover, age, health condition, personality, history, activity requirements, environment and other pets all have an impact on how long you can leave a cat alone.

🐈 Ultimately, each cat is different when it comes to how long they can tolerate being left alone.

How to find out how long your cat can be safely left alone:

To find out how long you can safely leave your kitty home alone without you, we recommend doing the following:

  1. When you first start leaving your cat alone, don’t stay away for very long. Up to 30 minutes is a good test for a new kitten or cat in your home.
  2. When you must leave, try staying away a little longer each time and monitor your cat’s reaction.
  3. If you notice that your cat’s behavior has changed, or they show obvious signs of protest, you have found their maximum tolerance. Try to keep the time your cat has to spend alone shorter than that.

While the number of hours a cat can remain alone might vary, experts advise against ever leaving a cat on its own for more than 24 hours. If you need to leave your cat for extended periods of time, then check out the alternatives to leaving your cat alone.

Which cat breeds are best suited to be left alone?

Some cat breeds may be better suited than others when it comes to being left alone. According to DPVHS, the following cat breeds are generally easy going, well-behaved and low maintenance, and therefore may be better suited to being alone.

  • Ocicat
  • Persian
  • Norwegian Forest Cat
  • American Wirehair
  • American Shorthair
  • Maine Coon
  • Russian Blue
  • Scottish Fold

Keep in mind, all cats are different and just because they fall into one of the breed groups above, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be happy spending hours without you.

What happens when you leave a cat alone?

Every cat will have a different reaction to being left alone. Some will enjoy the freedom and maybe even relish the time that you’re away. Others might not notice you’re missing – they’re too busy sleeping. And some cats might suffer – especially if left alone for too long.

To get clues on how your cat reacts when you are away, we recommend the following:

  • Invest in a pet home camera; you can literally watch and observe your cat while they’re home alone.
  • When you return home, check for signs of activity. Is your cat’s bed still warm? Or did they tear up a piece of furniture?
  • Look for changes in your cat’s behavior, litter box use, appetite, or grooming habits, as these could be a sign that your cat is suffering from loneliness or otherwise having trouble being left alone.

Look out for the warning signs of separation anxiety, which could indicate that it is not healthy to leave your cat alone for too long.

how long can you leave your cat alone

What factors to consider when you leave your cat alone?

When you leave your cat home alone for any period of time, you’ll want to consider the following six important factors to ensure that your feline friend will be well-taken care of while you’re away.

Food & water

In general, your cat needs just as much food when you’re gone as they need when you’re at home. It can be either dry or canned food, depending on what your cat is used to. When leaving canned cat food out, keep it cooled to avoid the risk of it going bad. You can do this, for instance, by leaving a cool pack under the feeding dish.

Usually, pet parents find out very soon if their new friend will binge on all the food they are given or if they can save some for the next time they get hungry. If you don’t know yet, you can try doing the following:

Give your cat twice their regular amount for their next meal. If they stop eating when full – congratulations! You can just put all the food your cat needs during your absence into one bowl. If your cat keeps on eating and eating, consider getting an automated food dispenser that will dish out your cat’s food in perfect portions at designated times.

Also, don’t forget to provide enough clean water for the duration you’ll be away. Ideally, place a couple of water bowls or dispensers in different places throughout your home for your cat.

Litter box hygiene

This may be convenient to overlook – but cats need a clean litter box. If you forego cleaning the litter box for too long, cats might go to the bathroom outside of the box. We recommend not letting it get to this point, and aim to ensure that the litter box is emptied once a day.

Safety

It’s no secret that cats can get themselves into all sorts of trouble. To avoid dangerous situations:

  • Ask a friend or neighbor to check in from time to time, to ensure that your feline is not stuck, locked somewhere or injured.
  • Leave the contact details of your veterinarian somewhere visible, in case of emergency.
  • If there’s a chance that your cat might get outside on their own and run away, consider attaching a Tractive GPS tracker to their collar or harness to ensure that you’ll always know where your cat is.

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Activity & entertainment

While you’re gone, your cat will still need plenty of activity and entertainment. Leave enough exciting toys around to keep kitty from scratching your furniture. You could consider the following items for your cat to enjoy (from PetMD):

  • puzzle feeders
  • cat tree
  • cat perch
  • open paper bags
  • cat toys
  • cozy cat bed

This way, your furball will at least be able to manage their boredom while you are away.

via GIPHY

Can I let my cat go outside while I’m gone?

If your home is equipped with a cat flap or door and your cat is already used to being outdoors, you may want to consider letting them come in and out while you’re gone. However, keep in mind  that their chances of encountering danger, or never returning home, are much higher if let outside on a regular basis. We recommend to keep your cat indoors if you live near busy streets, and keep a close eye on your cat with the help of a Tractive GPS CAT tracker.

How can I ensure my cat gets enough physical activity while left alone?

With the newest Tractive GPS trackers, you can track both your cat’s real-time location, and the amount of physical activity they get each day. From the companion app on your smartphone, you’ll see how many minutes of rest and activity your cat gets per day, plus calories burned. Finally, you’ll know the answer to if your cat is running around the house like crazy while you are gone; or simply sleeping all day!

See how Tractive GPS works in action in the video below:

Socialization

If your cat is used to having people around, she needs company every now and then. Ideally, that of people she already knows and likes. But sometimes even spending time with strangers is better than loneliness. Some cats also like to have the TV or the radio on when their humans are gone, so they don’t have to sit in silence all day. You might also consider getting a second cat to keep your kitty company when you’re not there. A pheromone plug-in can help to calm your cat’s nerves while you’re away.

Routine

Most cats don’t like change too much. Which means they’ll get through long stretches of your absence better if the rest of their daily routine changes as little as possible. That includes feeding and play time, but also regular litter box cleaning.

Finally, if you have recently moved with your cat, try to spend more time with them at the beginning, since this does count as a major change in their universe. Allow them a bit more time to get used to your new home.

What are the alternatives to leaving my cat alone?

Leaving your cat home alone is obviously not the best idea in every circumstance. If you need to go on holiday, or for any other reason leave your cat for an extended period of time, consider the following alternatives to leaving your cat alone offered by Cats.org.uk:

Cat sitter

This option is perhaps the simplest – ask a friend to come over every day and spend at least 15-30 minutes at your home to clean the litter box, play, cuddle or just be there and bring some life into the place. Or, you can find a pet sitter who gets paid to spend an agreed-upon amount of time with your feline. That way, your cat can stay in their comfortable home even even while you’re away.

Cattery or boarding facility

You may also consider taking your cat to a boarding facility where they can stay until you get back. But remember: Cats are generally very territorial, so their home is just as important to them as you are. Separating them from both at once should only be your last resort.

Foster home

In some cases, it may be possible to let your cat stay with a friend or relative while you’re away. Since this can come with its own complications, be sure to only use this option in rare or emergency cases.

Travel with your cat

Are you going on an adventure? Traveling for a few days, weeks or months? Then consider that your cat might enjoy coming along! Start out with short day trips to see how your cat reacts to being on the go. If they handle it well, you can start taking longer trips with your puurrfect travel companion. Before you leave, make sure that you pick up a GPS pet tracker to be sure that you never lose your furry friend.

Last words on leaving your cat alone

While the research on how long can you leave a cat alone may be limited, there are some tried and true guidelines offered above, which can help you to make the best decisions when it comes to how long you can leave your cat alone. You can’t always be sure what to expect when you come home after being away from your kitty.

Some cat owners are welcomed by a purring, clingy cat that shows you how glad they are that you’re back. Others will find a kitty snoozing on the sofa, barely noticing that you were gone at all. Cats often have very different ways of showing their affection. That makes it difficult to tell if they even miss you. But rest assured: they do.

Bonus: Leaving your cats during vacation

The following video offers more tips for leaving your cat home alone while you’re on vacation. Check them out:


If you like what you’ve read, share it with your cat-loving friends!

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