Cats are famously independent, and many people believe their cats can, to some extent, fend for themselves. Leaving your cat home alone for an extended period isn’t something frowned upon, whereas it is for dogs.
While the latter have been studied extensively, there is much less research on cats. This leaves cat parents with few guidelines on how long is too long to leave their cat home alone.
Some think one night or weekend is ok. Others may stretch this to a week or more. Can you really leave your cat alone with nothing but an open window and pet technology like an automatic feeder and water fountain? Or a friend popping in to dispense some dinner?
Questions to ask before leaving your cat home alone
You know your little fluffball’s personality best. So as the cat parent, it’s you who needs to make the final call. But to help you, here are some questions to ask yourself before you leave your cat home alone.
- Are they indoor or outdoor cats?
Outdoor cats may have an easier time being left alone than indoor cats because they have more sources of entertainment to keep them busy. Plus, they often tend to be more independent.
Having said that, please consider this: wildlife may be at risk because your moggie has free rein day and night. Is there another option?
If you’re just doing your research before you get a cat (well done for being responsible!) then read our guide on an indoor cat vs outdoor cat and what’s right for you.
- What’s their personality like?
Some cats are really attached to their owners. Others are content to act more like distant family members. If your cat is the former type, you’ll need to be more careful about leaving them alone.
- How big is the feline family?
If you have multiple cats, they can stop each other from feeling lonely. It’s something we’ve noted in our One or Two Kittens: Which is Best article, if you’re interested. However, they may get up to some serious mischief together!
If your cat is a much-loved only furkid, they’ll feel your absence much sooner. Will you leaving your cat home alone lead to pet separation anxiety? That’s no fun for you or your puss.
- What’s their health like?
kitten, old cat, or cat with health issues can’t be left alone for long. They need to be watched carefully and regularly.
If your cat is in the prime of their life and healthy, they need less attention.
How long can I leave my cat home alone?
So let’s say you’ve decided your cat will cope with being home alone for a while. They’re independent, well adjusted, and healthy. But how long is too long for them be without their parents?
Here are some guidelines.
Leaving your cat for up to eight hours
While research suggests dogs become lonely after four hours without their human, most cats are fine on their own for the length of an average workday.
Kittens or highly bonded cats may need more attention. Is your cat is used to having you around 24/7 (especially after lockdowns)? It might be a good idea to slowly transition back to leaving them for the length of a workday before you consider going any longer.
Leaving your cat home alone for one or two days
Many cats will be fine on their own for up to two days. However, you need to ensure they have access to fresh food and water.
For a one-day trip, filling up their food and water before you leave should be sufficient. But for anything longer, you’ll probably want an automatic feeder and waterer.
You’ll also want to provide more than one litter box. Lots of cats won’t use a soiled litterbox. So, you could come home to some nasty surprises if you leave them with only one.
A long weekend, but less than a week
Depending on your cat’s personality, they may be able to get by. However, you should ensure a friend or neighbour pops in. This person can feed them, provide fresh water, clean their litterbox, and play with them for an hour or two each day.
A highly bonded cat may need more affection. If this is the case, you’ll need to look at a pet care arrangement. A pet sitter can spend a few hours per day with them or even sleep over at your home to give them enough company.
Leaving your cat home alone for over a week
Most people would agree that over a week is simply too long to leave your cat alone. Yes, even with someone popping in to take care of the basics.
Despite the stereotypes about cats, they are highly social creatures and value human companionship…even if they might not act like it.
For long trips, you’ll need to have a petsitter or friend stay over to take care of your cat. Whether they live in or just visit daily for a few hours is up to you. Alternatively, a kennel or cattery is a good option too.
Not sure which one to pick? Read our advice on kennels vs petsitters for holiday pet care.
Why can’t I leave my cat home alone for long periods?
There are so many reasons why your cat shouldn’t be left alone for long trips. From loneliness and anxiety through to plain poor treatment.
Here are just a few of the things that can happen while you’re away:
- Your cat could run out of food and water or their food could spoil
- Your cat could get injured or sick
- A full litterbox may force them to use your bed, couch, or favourite rug
- Your cat becoming anxious or depressed can lead to behavioural problems including becoming destructive or peeing and pooping in the house
Experts can’t agree on exactly how long a cat can safely be left alone. However, there is a point where it becomes animal abuse to leave your pet without access to human contact and clean food and water.
We know cats are quite independent, but they still need your care and love.
Cat insurance for your furkid
Give your cat the best care for your trip away and beyond with one of our cat insurance plans. Starting from as little as a dollar per day, pet insurance is the perfect way to take care of them even when you’re not there.
Over to you
Have you ever left your kitty alone while you went away? How did they cope? Let us know by weighing in over on the PD Insurance New Zealand Facebook page.