Cats have a reputation for being solitary creatures, but anyone who has one knows that’s not entirely true. In fact, some cats are social butterflies who love to be kept company at all times! Cats form strong bonds with their human and animal companions and can get distressed or lonely if left alone for too long.
Of course, every cat is different. But there are some accepted guidelines for how long you can leave a cat home alone. Read on to answer the question: how long can you leave a cat alone?
Can my cat stay home alone while I’m at work?
Many people choose to have a pet cat instead of a dog because cats are known for being more low-maintenance. And in regards to staying home alone during the day, it’s true: cats can be alone for longer than dogs. After all, their bathroom is indoors, so they don’t need someone to take them out for a walk!
In general, adult cats are content being left home alone for 8-12 hours. But cats can get bored and lonely even in a short period of time. One way to help? Entertainment! When you go out for the day, leave some safe toys and enrichment activities for them to play with. You could even leave the radio or tv on a soothing station at low volume.
Can I leave my cat alone overnight?
In general, vets say it’s okay to leave your cat alone for up to 24 hours at a time. As long as they have a clean litterbox, access to fresh water, and a full meal before you go, they should be fine for a day. Any longer than that, though, is pushing it.
If you’re going to be gone for more than one night, arrange for a friend or pet sitter to visit your cat, scoop the litterbox, and refresh the food and water bowls. Think of it this way: would you want to be stuck in a room with stale food, dirty water, and a clogged-up toilet? I sure wouldn’t. And it’s not fair to put my cat through that, either.
Even more worrisome than messes is the possibility of a sudden illness or injury. Cats can get themselves into jams; just consider the mischief they cause when you’re home to supervise! And a sudden illness or condition like urinary blockages can become serious quickly (source).
Age makes a difference
Kittens and senior cats are vulnerable and may need some extra care when you leave them alone.
Kittens age 3-6 months generally need three feedings per day, every 4-6 hours or so. In addition, kittens are awfully curious and may try to climb up the curtains or eat something they shouldn’t while you’re away. You can set them up in a kitten-proof room, but it’s also a good idea to have someone check on them during the day.
As for older cats, they can be extra-sensitive to changes in routine. Stress can turn to illness in an older kitty. In addition, senior cats may need extra feedings or medication during the day. For these reasons, senior cats should not be left alone overnight.
Help your cat stay busy while you’re away.
If you’re going to leave your cat alone for more than a few hours, you can set them up for success while you’re gone. Feed them a meal shortly before you leave, and refresh their water bowl before you walk out the door. Finally, leave them with a clean litterbox.
Oh, and don’t forget the entertainment! One way to ease cats’ time home alone is with toys, scratchers, and other forms of enrichment to keep them busy. “Play-alone” toys like fluffy balls, crinkle/crackle balls, and catnip mice provide fun and distraction when you’re gone. You can also leave the TV on low volume with a nature program running.
If your cat is extra-curious or mischievous, set up a “cat-safe” space for them to hang out in while you’re away. Bathrooms and laundry rooms make great cat rooms, too. Set them up with a litterbox, food, water, and enough toys to keep them busy until you get home.
How pet sitters can help
As mentioned, it’s okay to leave your cat alone for part or all of one day. But it’s smart to prepare for delays and emergencies. What if there’s a snowstorm, or your car breaks down, or something else prevents you from making it home in time for your cat’s evening meal? Even if you plan to be home for your cat, plans can change.
The truth is, even the most solitary cats need someone to check in on them once a day. A reliable pet sitter can give your cat the care they’re accustomed to while you’re gone. For some cats, a quick stop-in to scoop the litterbox and refresh the food and water bowls is enough. Other cats may benefit from a longer visit with a play session and plenty of pets.
Whatever level of care needed, a professional Rover sitter can help. Or, you can ask a friend to fill in. The important thing is that your cat has someone looking after them until you get home.