Cats are independent creatures, but how long can you leave a cat alone?
Cat owners know that their feline friends like to spend time alone. Even if you have one of the most loving, cuddly cats, they still like to have "me time." Leaving a cat home alone for a short period of time is no big deal, and many are used to being alone during the workday. Pet parents find that as long as an adult cat has a clean water bowl, some cat toys, and access to their litter box, most will be fine during the day. But what should you do when you're planning to be gone for extended periods of time? Even the most low-maintenance cat needs some human interaction so they do not get lonely or have separation anxiety. Here's how long you can leave a cat alone before you need to get a pet sitter.
How Long Can You Leave a Cat Alone?
While cats do enjoy alone time, they should not be left alone for too long. Your furry family member will be fine at home alone for 8 to 12 hours while you're working or running errands. However, that does not mean they will not get bored. Having some cat-safe toys around the house will encourage playtime and keep your kitty occupied. You can also pick up some enrichment toys and activities to discourage boredom and bad cat behaviors.
As long as an adult cat has a clean litter box, food, and fresh water, they can stay at home alone for about 24 hours--but that is the maximum amount of time they should go without human interaction. If you'll be gone for any longer, a pet sitter should come and check on your cat to ensure that they have enough cat food and water. Your cat's litter box should also be cleaned out every couple of days too. Having a cat sitter ensures your cat's overall well-being and gives you peace of mind when you're gone for longer periods of time.
Kittens should not be left home alone if they are under six months old. Kittens can get themselves into a lot of trouble, even when you are actively watching them. They also eat more often than adult cats, so they will need a little extra supervision if you head out of town. If they cannot be watched all day, create a kitten-safe area in your home with their toys, litter box, water, and food.
Similarly, older cats may have a hard time if you leave them alone at home. As cats get older, they become more sensitive to changes in their routines. Not seeing anyone during the day or being checked on by someone they don't know may be too stressful for a senior cat. If you use a cat sitter, set up a meet and greet so your cat can become familiar with their new human friend.
If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, you should bring them inside no matter how long you will be gone, since it is a change in routine. Whenever we go out of town, we make sure to keep our cat inside. She knows the routine at this point, so if she does not go outside first thing in the morning, she usually knows we are leaving.
How Often Should a Pet Sitter Visit a Cat?
RELATED: The Best Cat Toys for Bored Cats: This Definitive List Keeps Felines Frisky
Before you head out of town for more than a day, be sure to hire a pet sitter for your cat. It may be better to have a family member or close friend check in on your cat if they're picky. Most of the time, cats know family members and friends who visit, even if they do not interact with them directly. Our cat isn't super friendly with our friends and family members, but when they are her only option, it's amazing how fast she warms up to them. It helps that they are giving her food and water too! If you choose a cat sitter from a service like Rover, set up a meet and greet with your potential pet sitter to ensure that they will get along. Regardless of who is watching your cat, they should visit at least one to two times per day.
If you have a local cattery, you can board your cat overnight there. Most catteries will let you pack up some of your cat's favorite toys so that Felix will be comfy during his stay.
How to Socialize Your Kitten
Cats react more positively to new people if they have been socialized as kittens. Food is the best training tool for cats. According to the ASPCA, kittens 8 weeks and younger are fairly easy to socialize. However, as cats get older, they get a little less trusting. Shelter workers spend a lot of time conditioning kittens to interact with people. If your kitten did not come from a shelter, or if your cat has a hard time with new people, you can use these tricks too.
Start with some soft food. The ASPCA recommends baby food in chicken or turkey flavors, but if you have an older cat you can always use small bits of chicken and tuna. Use the food to get your cat to interact with you or with someone new. The tasty treat acts as a reward, and kittens love to eat--so you will have plenty of opportunities to keep trying.
Have new visitors give your kitten some food to lure them over. They should be able to pet them while they eat, and eventually can move toward picking them up. This practice will help socialize your cat or kitten to a new pet sitter before you head out of town.
How to Keep a Cat From Being Bored
Keeping your cat entertained while you are gone during the day is a big part of keeping them happy. Toys and treats are always popular for entertaining cats. Scratching posts are also a good investment, especially because cats will take out their boredom on your furniture. Still, keeping your cat entertained isn't the only thing you need to do when you are gone. Cats need to be well fed and watered, which can be more difficult when you're not home. Here are a few products to help:
The stainless steel automatic fountain is perfect for daily use or setting up ahead of vacations. The pump keeps fresh water circulating, which is perfect for those picky kitties who only like to drink fresh-looking water. (Shout-out to cats who only will drink from the sink!)
Automatic Feeder Food & Water Combo
A great way to make sure your cat has enough clean water and food is to use an automatic water and food dispenser. Cats will generally graze and not try to wolf down their food in one sitting, so you shouldn't have to worry about your kitty overeating and running out of food.
This multi-tier cat tree and scratching post will keep your kitty occupied throughout the day no matter how long you leave your cat alone. While you are gone, they are sure to keep busy and not become destructive. There are even balls to play with at the very top and a built-in hammock for lounging.
What's the longest you've left your cats alone? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page.
READ MORE: Finding Good Pet Sitters Starts With Asking The Right Questions
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