Cats may seem indifferent, but evidence suggests that cats can get lonely without company. Here, our Santa Barbara vets explain how long you can leave a cat alone, and give tips for keeping your cat safe and content while you are away.
The Myth of the Independent Cat
Cat parents know that our feline friends are much more sociable than their reputation might have us believe.
So, do cats get lonely? Like people, our feline friends have a diverse range of personalities. While some cats may be consistently aloof and prefer their own company, other cats happily greet their owners at the door when they get home from work each day and then follow their owners around the house meowing. So, some cats will likely adjust better to time alone than others based solely on their personalities, but all cats need their people and some more than others.
Your Cat's Age Matters When Leaving Them Alone
Very old and very young cats tend to be more vulnerable and need more attention than middle-aged cats. As do cats with health concerns. So be sure to take extra care when leaving cats with health conditions, kittens, and senior cats alone.
Young Cats & Kittens
Kittens typically need to be fed 3 or 4 times a day until they are about 6 months old. Young cats also tend to get into mischief when left unsupervised. Kittens under 4 months old should not be left on their own for more than 4 hours at a time.
If you know that your lifestyle means that your cat will need to get used to time alone, begin training your kitten by gradually increasing the amount of time you are out of the house. Speak to your vet for instructions on how best to get your kitten used to being left at home alone.
Once your kitten is 6 months old, if you need to be away for an extended amount of time, it may be best to have a friend or family member take your cat to their house to care for them. If that's not possible, have someone pop by your place once or twice a day to check in on your young cat to make sure they are safe, have plenty to eat, and get some social interaction to relieve boredom.
If you have a young kitty and need to be away from home for more than 2-4 hours, pet boarding is the ideal solution. Many boarding facilities offer fabulous care for cats of any age, complete with lots of love and attention.
Senior Cats & Cats With Health Issues
Older cats can be very sensitive to routines, which means that changes to their normal day can be stressful for them to handle. Stress can lead to an increased risk of health conditions and tummy issues. It's also common for senior cats to require extra feedings or medication throughout the day. For these reasons, it may not be a good idea to leave your senior cat alone overnight.
Many pet boarding facilities provide round-the-clock care for animals in need of a little extra TLC while their owners are away, making pet boarding an ideal option for senior or unwell cats. If your cat must stay home alone, have someone visit your house twice a day to check on your senior cat.
Your vet knows your senior cat best, speak to your vet about how long they believe your cat can safely be left alone.
Under some circumstances, it may be ok to leave your healthy, adult cat alone for 24-48 hours. Of course, this will depend upon a number of factors including your cat's personality, your living conditions, and whether they are used to spending time alone. If your cat is going to be left on its own for a day or two be sure that your home's temperature isn't too hot or too cold, that there is enough (dry) food and water left out for your cat while you're away. It's also a good idea to make sure that the litter box is completely clean before you leave.
You can help to prevent your cat from feeling lonely or getting into mischief by taking them to a trusted pet boarding facility in your neighborhood. Pet boarding offers you the freedom to leave home knowing that your kitty is safe and being well cared for while you are away.
Tips for Leaving Your Cat When You Need to be Away
If you are planning to be away from home, here are a few tips to help ensure that your cat stays safe while you're gone.
- Speak to your vet to find out if they have any concerns about your cat being left alone. Your vet knows your cat's health concerns and is in the best position to give you advice on your cat's wellbeing.
- We strongly recommend that you have someone check on your kitty once or twice a day while you are gone, to ensure that your kitty is safe and has enough food and water for the duration of your absence.
- Check the weather and be sure that your thermostat is set so that your home will remain at a comfortable temperature while you're away.
- Provide your cat with enough food for the duration of your time away. You may want to invest in an automated pet feeder to ration the food and keep it fresher.
- Ensure that your cat has plenty of clean water in a bowl that will not tip over and spill. Cat water fountains are available from pet stores. These handy devices can help to help your cat's water fresher and cleaner while you're gone.
- If your cat is particularly fussy about their litter box you may want to leave 2 fresh clean boxes of litter for them.
- Consider leaving a radio or tv on so that your cat hears voices while you are away. It may help to relieve your cat's boredom.
- Take your cat to a local pet boarding facility. Cat boarding facilities can offer your kitty a clean and bright place to stay where they will be well cared for, and provided with plenty of human interaction.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.