Cats are known to be creatures of solitude, but that doesn’t mean they don’t crave quality time with their humans, even if they don’t always seem affectionate. It might be a surprise to know that cats can be social animals. Of course, bringing your pet cat everywhere with you is quite impossible, so you will have to leave it home alone occasionally, which means you will likely be asking, “Can cats be left alone at home?”
Many pet owners are reluctant to leave their cats alone, especially within the first few weeks of bringing the animals home. There are plenty of opinions online, with half saying that leaving your cat alone is cruel and the other half believing it’s perfectly fine, so it can be difficult to know which side is right on this issue. Thankfully, this article aims to explain if leaving your cat at home alone is acceptable and, if so, how long for.
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Can Cats Be Left Alone?
Simply put, cat owners can leave their pets alone on occasion. These animals like to have their own alone time, enjoying their independence to explore and relax without the pestering presence of people and other pets around. It isn’t uncommon for a cat to spend time in quiet rooms that are unoccupied by their owners.
However, cats can become unhappy when left alone for too long. Although they won’t display this emotion as clearly as dogs, felines might become destructive or very vocal when they are upset. As this can be an unpleasant experience for the cats and their owners, it’s best to find your pet’s limit when leaving it alone.
Do Cats Feel Lonely?
Just like humans, cats do feel lonely at times. They have become known as solitary creatures, but pet felines have developed a need for and do enjoy companionship from their owners and other cats.
Some signs that can indicate your cat is feeling lonely include:
- Change in litter tray habits
- Destructive behaviour
- Grooming more or less than usual
- Increase or decrease in appetite
If your cat does display these symptoms, you should book an appointment with a local vet, as there could be a different underlying cause than severe loneliness.
How Long Can Adult Cats Be Left Alone?
Although most cats will be fine left alone for a day or night, roughly around 12 hours, some adult cats can be left unattended without any issues for up to 24 hours. This depends greatly on the cat itself, though. They all have their own needs and personalities, and this will affect how long they can be left alone.
Certain factors, such as the cat’s age and health, will impact the length of time a cat can be left on its own. For example, an older cat might require regular medication administered, which can be risky when leaving the cat alone. Cats with specific needs will need to be checked on more often; if this is the case, you can ask a friend or neighbour to stop by when you are unable to. Hiring a professional pet sitter could be a good idea if leaving the adult cat alone is a regular occurrence.
However, despite this information, it is important to remember that leaving a cat for more than 24 hours isn’t encouraged. Cats need food, fresh water, and interaction with their owners.
How Long Can Kittens Be Left Alone?
As they are younger and require more care, kittens cannot be left alone as long as adult cats. Young kittens between two and four months of age can be left by themselves for up to six hours at a time. Most kittens will require attention every four to six hours, so they will benefit from short periods of alone time.
When a kitten reaches six months and older, you can increase the time it is left alone in increments as it ages. This is encouraged to prevent separation anxiety and ensure the kitten becomes self-sufficient. If you are leaving your kitten alone for longer periods, you could invest in a camera for observing pets over a mobile phone.
What to Do When Leaving Your Cat Alone
If you leave your cat alone regularly, it is best to take measures to prevent boredom, and there are numerous ways to keep a cat entertained. As a bored cat can become destructive, meeting its basic needs and providing it with mental and physical exercises will ensure it stays out of trouble.
The steps mentioned below can also help to make the cat or kitten feel more comfortable without their owner’s presence.
Ensure the cat has plenty of food and water
Before leaving your cat home alone, you must ensure it has enough food and fresh water that will last the duration of your absence. Although you might think one water bowl is plenty, it might be wise to have several throughout your home in case the cat knocks one over.
For pet owners who feed their cats multiple times a day, investing in an automatic feeder can be useful if you’ll be gone most of the day or night. You can set the cat’s feeding times on the device, and it will pour out the measured food at the stated time. This works best with dry food, not wet cat food.
Freshen up the litter tray
Most cats prefer cleanliness, so a dirty litter tray can cause the cat to use another area of the house as a toilet. The cat’s litter box should be spot-cleaned daily, while the litter should be changed weekly, although some cat owners need to do this more regularly depending on their cats’ toileting habits.
If there are multiple litter boxes in your home, they will also need to be spot-cleaned and filled with clean litter often. These litter trays should be accessible to prevent any accidents. For owners that have multiple cats, this job might need to be completed several times a week to ensure the areas are clean and tidy.
Provide some toys and treat-puzzles
To keep the cat, or cats, entertained when left alone for an extended period, provide them with different mental and physical stimulation. You should leave cat toys out to prevent boredom. There are various cat toys on the market that many cats seem to enjoy, but you should avoid leaving toys out that have string or require batteries to work; these can be dangerous to cats without proper supervision.
Some of the best items to have when leaving cats alone include balls, faux mice, and a scratching post. The latter is essential for enriching your cat’s life. You should take into account the position of the cat tree if your cat enjoys watching the outside world through the windows. Scratching posts provide your cat with a safe area to relieve its need to scratch while also giving your cat adequate exercise, stretching its limbs and burning excess energy.
Cat trees have various ledges and bed areas, which can be used to provide cats with hiding places, which is important to create a comfortable environment for them.
Clear away potential hazards
Tidying up your house is a chore very few people enjoy, but it is essential to do when you plan to leave a cat alone. Anything that could be dangerous to your cat should be cleared away to keep the animal safe, and this is even more crucial if you own a kitten. Kittens can be overly curious and may chew things they shouldn’t, like letters and wires, or scratch curtains and other soft furnishings. Items that could be broken, such as bowls, glasses, and plates, should be stored away, too.
Additionally, when cats feel stressed, they can act out of character. A well-behaved adult cat might begin scratching the furniture and walls because they are uncomfortable being left for long periods. Some pet owners create a safe space in their houses for the cats to stay in, which might be a good idea if you find it difficult to tidy up the entire house. This is often easier to do with an indoor cat.
To Sum Up
Pet parents will understand how difficult it can be to leave a cat alone, especially when you first bring it home. However, your feline friend needs to learn to be comfortable in an empty house for a few hours daily. This is why building up the time the cat is left alone is so important, but you must also remember that no cat should be left alone for more than a day. They must still receive the attention and care pets require.
If you do have to leave your furry friend, you should follow the tips outlined in this article to ensure it is comfortable and safe in your absence. These are territorial animals, so they appreciate their own space and being able to come and go as they please, and this should be considered when leaving cats home alone.
However, if you do need to leave your cat for more than 24 hours and a family member can’t check in, you might want to contact a professional cat sitter or book your cat into a cattery.