No matter if you’ve just adopted a cat or have had them for years – leaving them home alone to head outdoors can always be a bit heartwrenching! But have you ever wondered: how long can you leave a cat home alone? And is it possible to safely let out your cat while you’re gone?

(Also, well, don’t cats…get lonely without our company?)

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? Short answer: it can depend on factors like your cat’s age, temperament, and health.

So here’s what the vets recommend1:

KittensNo longer than 2-4 hours alone
Healthy adult cats24-48 hours
Senior catsNot recommended without supervision

Because when you think about it:

  • Kittens need more supervision and regular feeding times.
  • Senior cats might be vulnerable to health issues, needing regular medication timings.

With all these factors in mind, it’s always a good idea to ensure there’s someone (even a friend or neighbor) who can prevent your cat from being alone for too long.

But aren’t cats…well, more independent than dogs?

You might think your cat is an aloof little creature that doesn’t need a ton of attention (especially compared to dogs) – but that’s not entirely true! Cats come with unique personalities and temperaments – and these play a role in how much attention and affection they need as well.

So while some cat breeds might be better suited to being left alone than others, ultimately each cat is different when it comes to how long they can tolerate being left alone.

Meaning before you head off outdoors, it might be a good idea to test out how your cat responds to being alone.

⚠️ Because left unsupervised, there’s no guarantee your cat might stay put – boredom, stress, and anxiety can drive them to make an escape attempt the minute you leave them to their own devices!

Why leaving your cat home alone is a bit of a big deal

Leaving your cat home alone can come with a bunch of risks. Because if yours has gotten used to you being around, a change in routine can majorly stress them out! (Especially if they’re vulnerable to separation anxiety.)

Which might mean you now have to deal with:

  • A shredded couch, carpet, or curtains
  • Your cat peeing all over the house (outside of their litter box)
  • Your cat hiding more than usual – or, on the other hand, getting clingier than usual
  • A chance your cat might eat something potentially toxic from your kitchen or fridge
  • An escape attempt from home (maybe to explore – or even find you!)
A bored cat sitting on a white fence

💡This is why cat parents around the world are investing in pet GPS trackers – meaning you can monitor your cat’s movements in real-time, no matter where you are in the world.

Or you could set up a “safe zone” around your home and backyard and get an escape alert the minute your cat tries to sneak past it.

Read more:

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

Now we don’t want to deal with a missing cat or a house full of shredded slippers. So it’s smart to figure out how your cat responds to enjoying their own company for a change:

  • 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.
  • When you must leave, try staying away a little longer each time and monitor your cat’s reaction.
  • 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.

And of course, once you’re back home, make sure to spend some quality time with your cat – just the two of you. With time, this can help reassure them you haven’t suddenly abandoned them out of the blue!

A woman cuddling her cat next to a bed

💡 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!

Many of these cat breeds also tend to be highly curious, inquisitive, and love to explore – including Norwegian Forest cats, American Shorthairs, and Maine Coons.

A Norwegian Forest cat sitting on a pile of leaves

They’re also comfortable being outdoor cats and have a high prey drive, meaning you’re likely to find them chasing down smaller woodland animals (like the squirrels in your backyard.)

⚠️ Which can be bad news if you live somewhere they can wander too far from home chasing down a bird or chipmunk – and run into worse dangers if they get lost.

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How to figure out what you cat is up to alone at home

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.

So to figure out how your cat reacts when you are away, you could:

  • Invest in a pet home camera, especially to monitor if they’re raiding your fridge or venturing a little too close to your front door or past your property fence
  • When you return home, check for signs of activity. Is your cat’s bed still warm? Or did they claw up your latest IKEA masterpiece?
  • Look for changes in your cat’s behavior, litter box use, appetite, or grooming habits. These could be a sign that your cat is suffering from loneliness or otherwise having trouble being left alone.
A cat inspecting a row of indoor plants

💡If you’ve invested in a Tractive device, you’re in luck! With yours, you can track both your cat’s real-time location, and how much exercise they’re getting each day.

(Perfect for introducing them to some new toys and scratchers if you notice they’re being a bit too much of a couch purr-tato.)

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!

What you should 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.
A cat sitting by a food dispenser

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.

⚠️ Haven’t left your cat enough to eat while you’re gone? Don’t be surprised if they end up hunting outdoors instead! Where they might end up running into danger in the form of predators, poisonous plants, passing cars, or even pet thieves.

Read more:

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. (Whether by you, a friend, loved one, neighbor, or cat sitter.)

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

💡Your trusty Tractive device also comes equipped with an Activity leaderboard – so you can figure out how active your cat is compared to other, similar cats around the world! Perfect for a little healthy competition to keep you motivated.

Discover Activity Tracking

Safety

It’s no secret that cats can get themselves into all sorts of trouble. So to avoid that:

  • Ask a friend or neighbor to check in from time to time, to ensure that your cat isn’t stuck, locked somewhere or injured.
  • Leave the contact details of your veterinarian somewhere visible, in case of emergency.
  • Get your cat microchipped – this will act like a permanent ID tag for your cat in case they do get lost. (Meaning a vet or a shelter can scan it, find your contact details, and inform you they’ve found your lost cat.)

⚠️ Just watch out: relying on friends, neighbors, or strangers to keep your cat safe might not always be ideal. A microchip can’t track down your cat in real-time or help you take an active role in finding them in case they get lost.

Read more: Is A Microchip Cat ID Enough To Find Your Lost Cat?

A cat sitting by an open window

💡Rather, that’s where a cat GPS tracker can be a lifesaver.

Because with one strapped to your cat’s collar – you’ll always know where they are, with just a glance at your phone. (Even if they’ve jumped into the back of a van and are now traveling down the road – like with this cat parent here:)

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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.

Just keep in mind that their chances of encountering danger, or never returning home, are much higher if you let them outside on a regular basis.

⚠️ Plus, setting up a physical fence around your property might not always be an option. Besides being expensive to set up and maintain, you cat could just easily leap over it and sneak outdoors!

A cat escaping home by jumping over the fence

💡So why not set up a Virtual Fence from the comfort of your couch instead?

Infographic Tractive GPS VIrtual fence

No need to set up an expensive physical fence or have to monitor your cat 24/7. Just the peace of mind knowing your cat’s safety is just a glance at your phone away.

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Set Up A Virtual Fence

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, here are a couple of alternatives to leaving your cat alone.

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.

A pet sitter looking after a cat

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.

Just make sure to inform them about your cat’s:

  • Feeding schedule
  • Any grooming requirements
  • Medical history or if they need any medication at certain times of the day

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.

A woman sitting with a cat next to indoor plants

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.

A woman enjoying a cup of coffee with her cat

For example, if you’ve recently shifted homes 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.

Read more: Your 100% Stress-Free Guide To Moving Cats To A New Home

Other tips to keep your cat occupied at home

  • 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. 
  • pheromone plug-in can help to calm your cat’s nerves while you’re away.

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 purr-fect travel companion.

Read more: How To Travel With A Cat: Tips For A Fun, Safe Road Journey

Wrapping up: How long can you leave a cat alone? (Safely?)

You can’t always be sure what to expect when you come home after being away from your kitty. It could be shredded curtains, pee all over the house…or a missing cat. (Whether from running away from home or some other misadventure.)

So if you’re still wondering – how long can you leave a cat alone? – keep in mind that you:

  • Don’t leave a kitten or a senior cat alone for longer than 2-4 hours.
  • Don’t leave an adult cat alone longer than 24-48 hours.
  • Always leave your cat an enriched environment to stay busy and occupied. (Like with toys, food puzzles, and scratching posts.)
A cat playing on a scratching post indoors
  • Make sure you’ve left your cat enough food and water while you’re gone.
  • Get someone to check up on your cat periodically to ensure everything’s okay.
  • Invest in a cattery or foster home in case you’re gone for longer – else take your cat along with your for your journey!

And most importantly…

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Tractive CAT Mini GPS tracker with a safety collar

Know everywhere your cat goes

See where they are in real-time, no matter how far they go. Get alerts if they roam too far home. Find out where they’ve been and discover their favorite spots. Let others track with you.

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Want some more tips for leaving your cat home alone while you’re on vacation? Check them out here:

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.