Leaving Your Cat Alone: 9 Things You Need to Know (2023)

Leaving Your Cat Alone: 9 Things You Need to Know (1)Leaving Your Cat Alone: 9 Things You Need to Know (2)


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Do Cats Like to Be Alone?

By Elizabeth Xu

Chances are your cat likes to stay to him or herself most of the time, so you might think they don’t even notice your absence each day after you head to work. Actually, you’d be surprised at how much they do notice.

If you’re a cat person, it might appear pretty easy to set things up for your cat while you’re away, and in general, for a lot of cats, it is pretty easy. However, there are special considerations to keep in mind if you leave your cat every day to go to work or school, or plan to head out of town for a few days. Sure, your cat is pretty self-sufficient in most ways, but that cat litter box won’t clean itself.

Here are nine things you need to know before you leave your cat alone during the day,with a pet sitter or at a boarding facility.

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Reconsider the Boarding Facility

If you don’t like the idea of leaving your cat completely alone while you’re away for an extended time, you’ve no doubt considered taking them to a boarding facility that specializes in cat care. After all, that way you’ll have someone to watch over and feed your cat, and your cat will have someone to interact with, too. Turns out that actually might not be the best move for your cat.

“Cats are territorial and it’s typically much more stressful for them to be placed in an unfamiliar environment, especially if that environment contains the sight, scent, and sounds of other animals,” says Pam Johnson-Bennett, cat behavior consultant and owner of Cat Behavior Associates, LLC. “When cats are placed in a boarding facility, they get the double whammy of not having the cat parents around as well as losing their territory.”

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Remember to Scoop the Litterbox

No matter how long you’ll be gone, cats need a clean litterbox, says Kelly Meister-Yetter, animal advocate, blogger, and author of Crazy Critter Lady. If the litter box has not been cleaned, you won’t like the results.

“They will often go just outside the box to let you know that it needs cleaned, or they'll find some out-of-the-way place in the house to use,” says Meister-Yetter, noting that sometimes cats will go outside of their litter box when they’re feeling unwell, too. Before you get frustrated, it’s a good idea to look into all of the possibilities, especially if your feline’s usually good about using the litter box. Unless the cause your cat’s “accidents” is obvious, make an appointment for a health evaluation with your veterinarian.

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Cats Need Stimulation Even While You’re Gone

People think cats can be left alone because they sleep so much and tend to be independent, but Johnson-Bennett says they need interaction and enrichment, too. This will help your cat to alleviate any boredom issues, and the behavior problems that can develop as a result.

“Create a little fun for the cat before you go off to work,” she says. “There are so many simple ways to create activity and entertainment for a home-alone kitty. Puzzle feeders, a cat tree, cat perch, open paper bags, interesting and safe cat toys, and even a cozy bed near a sunny window can make a difference to a cat who spends the day alone.”

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Cats Get Lonely, Too

You enjoy spending time with your cat, whether you’re playing or just cuddling up on the couch. But sometimes you have no choice but to leave your cat alone—especially if you work outside of your home. Even if your cat is used to you leaving daily, they can get lonely and you should know the signs that there might be a problem.

“Because cats appear very stoic, it can be easy to miss signs indicating that all is not happy in kitty’s world,” Johnson-Bennett says. “Changes in behavior, appetite, litter box habits, or grooming could be signs that a cat is having trouble with too much time spent alone.”

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Try to Ease Your Cat’s Anxiety

If you discover that your cat doesn’t do well when you leave even for short periods, there are things that can help their anxiety. Meister-Yetter suggests using a pheromone plug-in, which uses artificial pheromones to help your cat to stay calm. She says that having some background noise, such as a TV, might help with anxiety, too.

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Cats (Probably) Notice That You’re Gone

Even if your cat isn’t the most loving creature, rest assured that he or she will eventually realize you’re not home. You are the source of their food, after all.

“My own cats’ reactions to me going on vacation range from glad to see me again to, ‘Oh, were you gone? I hadn't noticed!’ to ‘Who are you and where have you been?’” says Meister-Yetter, who has four cats.

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Your Cat Might Need a Friend

Sometimes lonely cats just need a friend—a feline friend, that is. If you leave your cat alone every day, consider whether you have the time and energy to give to your cat. If the answer is in the negatives and your cat clearly needs more interaction, another cat can fill that need.

“Many cats who spend time alone may actually benefit from having a feline companion,” Johnson-Bennett says. But never get another cat solely for the benefit of your current one. You must be fully committed to your new pet and to working through any issues that might develop between your pets.

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Cats Crave Routine

A pet sitter or friend should always be called if you’re going to leave your pet for a long period of time, Johnson-Bennett says. Cats should never be left for more than 24 hours without having someone check on their well-being. In addition to helping with unexpected illness or injury, the caregiver will help keep your cat on a routine, which is important because “cats are creatures of habit,” she says.

“It will be less stressful for the cat if a normal routine is maintained in terms of having the litter box scooped regularly, food served at the normal times, and some degree of normal activity in the home,” Johnson-Bennett says.

Meister-Yetter agrees, and regularly employs a professional cat sitter. “The sitter should check the food and water bowls and refill accordingly. The sitter should also administer any medications, scoop out the litter box, and spend a good 15 to 30 minutes either interacting with the cat or simply being present in the home.”

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Keep Feeding Routines Regular

You’d never leave your cat without food and water, of course, but when they get that food is very important. Because cats like routine, Johnson-Bennett says that any friend or pet sitter should visit your cat at least as often as the times you give your cat meals.

“If the cat is normally fed on a schedule, you would want to keep as close to that schedule as possible to reduce stress,” Johnson-Bennett said.


Can I leave my cat alone for 5 days with food and water? ›

Most adult cats are fine being left home alone for up to 24 hours, under the right conditions (more on that below). If you need to leave for two or three days, a full week, or longer, you should make sure someone is coming over to care for your cat daily.

How long is it safe to leave your cat home alone? ›

The length of time you can leave a grown-up cat alone depends on the cat, his diet, and your environment. Cats who eat dry food that you can make readily available may be left on their own for 24-48 hours as long as fresh water is accessible as well.

What happens if a cat is left alone too long? ›

Even though they may play it cool, they will notice you're gone and they will miss your attention. If your cat starts meowing loudly when you leave the room, that's one sign they miss you. Other symptoms may include clinginess, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety, vomiting and diarrhea, and house-soiling.

Do cats feel sad when left alone? ›

Because of the attachments they form, the answer is yes; cats can feel lonely! While each kitty has a unique personality and needs, the following signs could indicate a lonely cat: Destructive behavior. Loss or increase in appetite.

Do cats feel sad when left home alone? ›

Whether to leave your cat or kitten home alone and for how long is a question on every cat parent's mind, especially for the first time. Cats and kittens can get separation anxiety like children do, so here are some tips to help identify it and how to help your furbaby deal with you being gone.

Should I leave TV on for cat? ›

You can keep your cat active by providing toys like a cat tree, a brain game or open cardboard boxes which can provide your cat with a daily dose of fun. To make them feel less alone, simply leaving the TV on for background noise or using a pheromone plug-in can help your cat to stay calm.

Should you leave a radio on for your cat? ›

Some pets can develop separation, especially if they have had past trauma or have previously been abandoned. Leaving the radio or TV on may or may not work; it really depends on your pet. If you do leave them on, it may allow your pet to relax, thinking that there are people around and they're not alone.

Is it better to board cats or leave at home? ›

Unless you have someone you trust to visit your cat or stay in your home, your best option is to find a licensed boarder that has space to accommodate your cat. In this environment, you can at least trust that their physical health needs will be met.

Will my cat be okay alone for 3 days? ›

While some people think of cats are solitary animals, cat owners know that kitties form close connections with their human caretakers. Plus, our cat friends benefit from the care of responsible humans. To be safe, you shouldn't leave your cat alone for more than 24 hours at a time.

Do cats miss their owners? ›

Cats are very social creatures and crave attention. They will miss you when you're away because you're the source of their love and affection. Kitties love to play and interact with their owners. They will miss playing with and chasing you when you aren't at home.

How do I know if my cat is lonely? ›

What are the tell-tale signs of a lonely cat?
  1. Decrease in Energy. ...
  2. Destructive Behavior & Litter Box Issues. ...
  3. Clingy or Needy Behavior. ...
  4. Change in Grooming Habits (or lack thereof) ...
  5. Excessive Weight Gain or Loss. ...
  6. Changes in Sleeping Habits.
Jul 14, 2022

What to do when leaving cats alone? ›

You're also responsible for keeping a safe environment for your cat while you're away.
  1. Leave Toys & Entertainment. Cats are extremely social creatures that require lots of love, attention, and playtime. ...
  2. Set Up Food And Water. ...
  3. Set Up A Camera. ...
  4. Keep Doors Unclosable Or Closed. ...
  5. ​​Cover/Hide Electric Cords. ...
  6. Hire A Cat Sitter.
Feb 8, 2021

How do you help your cat when you go on vacation? ›

A good option for when you have to leave your cat at home is to have a cat sitter come in every day to clean the litter box, make sure your furry friend has food and water, and provide them with some quality one-on-one playtime and cuddles.

Is it cruel to leave cats alone? ›

Every cat is unique, but most healthy adult cats are fine to be left alone for the average eight-hour workday, says Koski. However, if you're regularly gone for 10 to 12 hours a day and don't have much time to spend with your cat when you are home, your cat may need supplemental care.

Why do I feel bad leaving my cat alone? ›

You may experience guilt because you love and care for your pet and do not like the thought of them being home by their self without you. You may think that your pet is sad, depressed, or dejected when you leave, and this causes you guilt.

How do I get my cat used to being home alone? ›

Make Leaving a Fun Activity

Hide some treats around the house that your cat will have to hunt to find when you leave. It can help distract her from the initial discomfort she might feel when you walk out the door. Don't forget to leave your cat plenty of water, food, and clean litter boxes.

Is it normal to have separation anxiety from your cat? ›

Your cat might not be the only one experiencing anxiety when the two of you are apart. It's not uncommon for people to have anxiety when away from their pets, especially if you're going out of town or your cat is going to be boarding or hospitalized for multiple days.


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