A Tabby cat left all alone at home.

How Long is Too Long to Leave Your Cat Home Alone?


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Cats are famously independent, and many people believe their cats can, to some extent, fend for themselves. Leaving your indoor cat, and even your outdoor cat, home alone for an extended period isn’t something frowned upon whereas it is for dogs.

While the latter situation has 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

Questions to ask yourself that is; your cat can’t answer this one! And you know your little fluffball’s personality best. So as the cat parent, it’s you who needs to make the final call.

To help you, here are some questions to ask yourself before you leave your cat home alone.

A gray cat home alone, standing in a doorway.

Q: Are they an indoor or outdoor cat?

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. Read our Prowling Pets: How to Keep Cats and Dogs from Wandering article for some shocking stats on how much wildlife falls prey to pets every year. So, 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 fur kid, 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.

Q: What’s their health like?

A 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.

A Bengal cat peacefully sleeping on a white couch.

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 potentially want to provide more than one litter box. Lots of cats won’t use a soiled one. So, you could come home to some nasty surprises if you leave them with only one.

Feline sits on a wooden table in a kitchen waiting for their pawrent to return from work.

A long weekend, but less than a week

Depending on your cat’s personality, they may be able to get by flying solo for this length of time. However, you should ensure a friend or neighbour pops in. This person can feed them, provide fresh water, clean their litter box, 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. Read up on how to find a good pet sitter in NZ.

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 pet sitter or friend take care of your cat. Whether they live in or just visit daily for an hour or more 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.

A black kitty looking out a window.

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 litter box 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. Put what you know about your cat to good use in making an ethical decision on the extent of your absence.

A cat home alone sits on a window sill, looking out into the world.

What can I do to entertain my cat when I’m away?

Leaving your cat alone doesn’t have to be a guilt-ridden experience. Through these paw-some solutions, you can keep your indoor cat engaged, mentally stimulated, and content until you return home. Happy kitty, happy home!

1. Toy-tastic playtime

Cats are natural hunters and providing them with toys that mimic prey can keep them engaged and mentally stimulated. Interactive toys like puzzle feeders or treat-dispensing balls help simulate the thrill of hunting and provide a rewarding challenge.

You can always rotate their toys regularly to keep things fresh and exciting.

2. TV time for Whiskers

Did you know that some outdoor and indoor cats enjoy watching telly? There are even specially designed YouTube episodes that feature birds, fish, and mice, all tailored to entertain your discerning fluffball. So, simply set up a cosy spot for your cat near the TV, adjust the volume, and let them indulge in some virtual hunting. Read our lowdown if you’re curious about how your cat will respond to cat TV.

When you’re about to head out, perhaps play this purrrr-fect YouTube video below to tickle your pet’s senses:

3. Window world

Create an enticing view of the outside world for your indoor cat by setting up a perch near a window. Birds, lizards and other critters passing by can provide endless entertainment for curious kitty.

4. Catnip craze

Ah, catnip! This magical herb can work wonders when it comes to entertaining your cat. Sprinkle a little on their scratching post, inside a toy, or in a designated play area to release its irresistible aroma. Just remember that not all cats respond to catnip, so if pet seems unaffected, there are other alternatives like honeysuckle, silvervine, or valerian root to explore.

Ever wondered if a cat revelling in a bout of catnip is akin to downing a double—scratch that—triple espresso? Read why cats love catnip and it’ll paw-sitively blow your mind.

Fluffy pet sitting on a couch watching TV.

How to keep tabs on your cat when you’re away

Whether it’s a demanding work schedule or a quick weekend getaway, ensuring your cat’s safety and well-being becomes a top priority. That’s where the wonders of modern technology come to the rescue!

Here are some nifty ways that’ll allow you to keep a watchful eye on your furry friend even when you’re miles away…

1. Indoor security cameras

Indoor security cameras have become increasingly popular for their versatility and ease of use. These handy devices allow you to monitor your indoor cat’s activities in real-time through your smartphone or tablet. Basically, with just a few taps on your screen, you can ensure kitty is safe, entertained, and not wreaking havoc on your favourite furniture.

For giggles, watch this opinionated cat, Toby, talk back to his pawrents when he wasn’t ready for bedtime via their security camera.

Pet tech in NZ is booming with lots of new gadgets on the market. Check out more tech-savvy info on pet gadgets that keep your cat safe when they’re home alone.

2. GPS trackers

If your fur kid is an outdoor adventurer or an escape artist, a GPS tracker can be a game-changer. These lightweight devices attach to your cat’s collar and allow you to track their whereabouts in real-time. With geofencing capabilities, you can even set up virtual boundaries and receive alerts if puss strays beyond their designated area.

3. Smart pet feeders

If you’re worried about kitty’s feeding routine, a smart pet feeder is a blessing in disguise. This automated device can be programmed to dispense a precise amount of food at specified times, ensuring your cat’s diet stays on track even in your absence. Some models even offer features like video monitoring, allowing you to observe your cat’s mealtime behaviours and make sure they’re eating properly.

4. Pet cameras with treat dispensers

If you’d like to take it a step further, consider pet cameras with treat dispensers for when your cat’s home alone. Basically, these cameras allow you to keep tabs on your mastermind (we’re talking about live streaming, recording and photos), listen to their meows, and even dispense a tasty treat as a reward for good behaviour. It’s a fantastic way to bond with your pet, even when you can’t physically be there.

Become a top notch paw-rent with more research

Keep learning by reading some of our other cat related articles:

  1. Cat Enclosures to Keep Cats Safe: All About the Catio
  2. Diabetes in Dogs and Cats – What You Need to Know
  3. The Cat Purr: Everything You Need to Know
  4. New Cat Allergy Vaccine Stops Itches and Sneezes at Source
  5. Arthritis in Cats: What Do Vets Recommend?

Award winning pet insurance for a soft landing

The next time you’re planning a trip or find yourself away from home for an extended period, consider our multi award winning cat insurance for a soft landing. After all, your cat’s health and safety is worth every purrrse string!

Did you know when you buy online pet insurance with PD Insurance, you can get one or more months of FREE pet insurance. This can help you pay for surgery, prescribed medication, unexpected vet visits, X-rays and much more. Our fast claims turnaround means you can focus your time and attention on kitty in tricky times.

Click below to get a quote.

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