KITTENS

How Long Can a Cat Be Left Alone: Guidelines & Tips for Busy Cat Parents

Little kitten hidding under the pillow
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Before we talk about cats, consider putting ourselves in their place and ask this question: How long can we stand staying alone in our house? With no one to talk to, food placed outside for so long that it gets stale, water that now has a layer of slime over it, and a toilet that cannot be flushed. No one wants to spend more time than strictly necessary in this state.

However, we understand that sometimes we have to leave our babies at home since we need to work and there may be no one back home to look after them. We will tell you exactly how long can a cat be left alone so that you can make arrangements accordingly.

People think that cats consider their hooman to be nothing more than a food and water dispenser, so it’s okay if you leave them alone, but you will be surprised at how much they do notice your absence. So that your fur baby will not suffer as much in your absence, you will have to do everything in your power to keep them comfortable. Applying our tips on how to ease your cat’s separation anxiety while you’re away will benefit the both of you—your cat will feel less lonely and miserable whereas you can focus better on completing your task so you can go home to your baby sooner.

cat-looking-out-window

This article has all the information about a cat’s level of tolerance to staying alone, how long they can stand being alone, and what important tasks you need to do for them before leaving your house. You don’t have to worry—we’ve got you covered and will tell you everything you need to know on how to keep your cat comfortable over a reasonable time frame while you are away.

For How Long Will Your Cat Stay Calm in Your Absence?

The accurate answer will depend on many things, such as your cat’s personality, whether you keep other pets at home, etc., but the general rule is that your cat should be okay being left alone for no more than 24 hours. That means it’s usually fine to leave your cat at home whenever you need to embark on a short weekend trip, and you can’t bring them with you. However, that time frame only applies if you keep the following points in mind:

Prepare a Clean Litter Box

If you will be gone for more than 24 hours, you may have to call in favor with one of your friends or neighbors so they will visit and help clean your cat’s litter box. If the litter box is not cleaned, even for a single day, the results will not be so likable.

A cat and a Self-cleaning litterbox

Cats may start going outside the box if it is not cleaned in time. If you can keep more than one litter box around the house, it can also work out during those times when you have to be away for longer than a day.Although, be prepared to come home to a potent, pungent smell.

Prepare Regular Stimulation

Many people believe that cats can be left alone since they tend to sleep a lot and are independent. However, they need regular interaction and enrichment from their parents.

Cute funny cat playing with owner while lying on carpet at home

Before you leave for work prepare some fun activities for your cat. Puzzle feeders, cat trees, cat perch, open paper bags, interesting and safe toys, and even keeping a cozy bed near the window can make a difference to a cat who has to spend or will be spending hours alone at home while you are away.

This will help reduce the level of boredom that your cat will inevitably feel. It will also help prevent behavior problems that may develop in your absence.

Try to Keep Their Feeding Routine Regular

You will not leave your cat without food and water, naturally, but have you taken their regular feeding times into consideration? If you usually follow a strict feeding schedule, your cat may get anxious really quickly if there’s a sudden shift in this routine.

Young kitten eating from blue bowl

Therefore, your cat’s caregiver should visit your home as often as your cat requires. Apart from a caregiver, an automatic feeder can also serve this purpose.

Provide Distractions

If your cat is really affectionate and they cling to you all the time, they will really feel the loss of your presence. For these cats, simply appointing a caregiver that will take care of them and keep their routine alive will not be enough. You need to provide better distractions.

There are artificial pheromone sprays available on the market to help these cats stay calm. Similarly, having some white noise playing in the background such as that of a TV or a sound system might also reduce their uneasiness.

Image showing pheromone sprays for cats

Once they get used to listening to it, their anxiety upon seeing you leave will be lessened. There are also many videos of birds, bees, and mice available for cats and will keep them entertained for hours.

Your Cat May Need a New Friend

If you often have to be away from home, consider getting your cat a friend. A feline friend. If you only plan to leave them alone for the occasional business or weekend trip, then it can be okay for you to maintain a single-cat household.

However, if your job demands long hours and frequent travels, consider getting your cat someone of their own kind. Cats in a multi-cat household are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety since they can fill each other’s need for interaction.

Two cats meeting for the first time

But before you go ahead and adopt a new cat, realize that you need to be there for the new pet during the first several weeks to help them adjust to their new home. Both cats may develop issues initially, so you need to be there for them to sort things out.

Having the cats neutered can also help. Not only it will enhance their lifespan and prevent any unwanted breeding, but it will also make them calmer and help with anxiety.

Be Gentle with Your Cat

We know that leaving your fur babies alone is really hard—not only for your cat but you too. You might feel even more exhausted than usual as you attend meetings far away from your fur baby. Now, what will be your first reaction when you come home after a long and stressful business trip only to find the house in a state of disarray?

There are strong chances that a toilet accident will be waiting for you at home or there will be spilled water on the floor waiting for you to clean up. If the accident has happened for the first time after you were away from home, realize that it’s not your kitty’s fault. Don’t scold or be hard on him/her. They were only scared and lonely. As a result, this happened.

ginger cat feeling comfortable into her owners arms

Spend some time with them and show them that you love them. After they get their daily dose of affection and interaction from you, they might get used to being separated from you for a specific period of time and won’t feel as anxious or jittery anymore. The accidents will then start to happen less and less.

Now, even if you come home and you see that the house is mess-free, don’t think that you’ve gotten away with leaving your cat alone scot-free too soon. Some cats get angry about being left alone and may start to ignore your presence.

Woman-playing-with-cat-at-home

Don’t feel sad or insulted. It’s just their way of showing that they care. The cat’s reaction upon seeing you home will differ based on their personality.  They may behave as if they didn’t even notice that you were gone. Other times, their happiness will be evident upon seeing you enter the house after a long day. Make sure you show them how happy you are to get back home and see them. They can act cold, but they sure love to get attention from you.

Does Your Cat Suffer from Separation Anxiety?

If you follow the aforementioned tips and prepare everything your cat needs to adjust well before the actual departure, your cat should be able to stay calm provided you do not leave them alone for too long, and you appoint a caregiver to take care of them. However, there are cases when cats develop separation anxiety.

Signs of a Cat with Separation Anxiety

You can easily tell whether your cat suffers from separation anxiety or not by observing them a little. These cats tend to show their overwhelming attachment to you by:

  • Following you all around the house even when their appetite is full

  • Crying, sulking, wandering, or stop eating when you leave even for a short period of time

  • Urinating outside the litter box

  • Spraying urine around the house or on your beds and clothing

  • Throwing up a lot

  • Grooming themselves so much that bald spots start appearing on their bodies

  • Scratching furniture or other objects

Cats usually appear to be very patient, so there are chances that you will easily miss the signs that all is not well in their world. Some cats are more sensitive than others, and they can easily develop depression so you should be very careful with their changing behavior and habits.

What to Do with a Cat That Has Separation Anxiety

If you have to leave a cat with separation anxiety alone at home for an extended time that will last more than 24 hours, consider leaving your cat in a boarding facility that specializes in cat care.

This way they will be monitored 24/7, so you don’t have to constantly think about what they could be doing and how they are handling the separation while you’re busy attending your meetings or visiting your family. Boarding facilities will watch over your cat and keep them healthy. Your cat will also have someone to interact with, so they won’t feel as lonely.

cat in a boarding facility that specializes in cat care.

On the other hand, if your cat is extremely territorial, then a boarding facility might not be as fruitful as you think. A cat who is already stressed because their parent is away will be stressed out even more by an unfamiliar environment—especially if the environment is permeated with the scent, sound, and, sight of other animals.

In this case, as a last resort, you might have to beg someone your cat is on friendly terms with to stay over and take care of your cat while you’re away. It could be a friend or a neighbor. If they are okay with it, this could be the ideal solution because your cat will feel at ease in the presence of someone they already know.

Wrap Up

For sure cats are pretty self-sufficient and can stand to live on their own, but as you may have noticed, cats do love to cuddle, and if they do not appreciate your companionship, they will not greet you at the door when you come home from work.

Whether you have to be away for work or a weekend vacation, if you are leaving for a long period of time, you should call a pet sitter or any of your friend who’s good with cats. Cats should not be left alone for more than 24 hours without having anyone to check on them.

Even if they have food, water, toys, and a clean litter box (for now) they can still get unexpectedly injured or ill. The caregiver can help your cat follow their usual routine—which is important since cats are creatures of habits.

Little kitty playing along with a toy

They will be responsible for checking the food and water bowls regularly and will refill them accordingly. If your cat needs to be taken to the vet, the sitter will take care of that and will clean the litter box as well. Along with that, they will spend around 20 to 30 minutes at your home keeping your cat company and interacting with them.

On long travels, you can take your kitty with you provided they love the outdoors. Otherwise, consider hiring a pet sitter or send them to a boarding facility or the vet’s if they provide such services. Thinking that ‘everything will be alright; it is only a day’ can prove to be very unfavorable for you in case things go wrong unexpectedly.

How long do you plan on leaving your cat alone at home? Will you delegate their care to a caregiver while you’re away? Or perhaps you have some other handy method for keeping your cat healthy and happy in your absence that we didn’t mention. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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