How Long Can You Leave Your Cat Home Alone?

Even if they ignore you when you're home, your cat does miss you when you leave. Here's how long you can safely leave them alone before they become distressed.
Jacqueline Anders/Moment/Getty Images (cat), Jon Mayer/Mental Floss (thought bubble)
Jacqueline Anders/Moment/Getty Images (cat), Jon Mayer/Mental Floss (thought bubble) / It's easy to forget that cats are social creatures.

Cats are known for being aloof and independent creatures. It takes time to win their trust, and once you do, they often still like their space. Despite being lower-maintenance than dogs—they groom themselves (though can sometimes benefit from help) and don’t have to be taken for walks—they still need regular care. So if you need to make a trip away from home, how long can you safely leave your cat by themselves?

The Maximum Time a Cat Can Be Alone

According to experts, the answer is a lot shorter than you may think. Veterinarian and cat behaviorist Michael Thompson told Reader's Digest that cats can be left alone for only 24 to 48 hours.

Without enough stimulation and with their humans gone, cats can experience boredom, anxiety, loneliness, and even depression. They may meow more than usual, go to the bathroom outside of the litter box, or hide—all signs of a stressed-out kitty. Luckily, however, there are some things you can do to make their time alone less stressful.

How to Make Your Cat Comfortable

For one, make sure the bare necessities are covered. As always, the litter box should be clean, and they should have plenty of food and water. If their feeding times can be kept the same as usual, that’s even better, as cats love a reliable routine. Mental stimulation is important, too; they should have things to play with, scratch, and explore, such as toys, a cat perch, or even things like a cardboard box. And finally, if your cat is particularly prone to separation anxiety, you could play a video for cats (yes, they exist) on the TV or splurge on a calming spray or diffuser.

If you’ll be gone for a longer period of time, it’s recommended that you have someone pop by to check in on your cat every once in a while. Even with amenities like automatic feeders and self-cleaning litter boxes, cats are inherently social creatures. Having a person pay them a visit can help fill their needs for play, exercise, and socialization, as well as give you peace of mind that they’re not experiencing any health issues while you aren’t around. Just think twice about using a boarding facility. Cats are very territorial, and being placed in a new environment will likely only cause them more stress.

Exceptions to the Guideline

Of course, as any cat owner could tell you, every cat has their own personality. It’s important to consider your cat’s individual needs when planning time away from home. Ideally, for example, cats with health issues as well as kittens less than a year old really shouldn’t be left at home overnight. And newly adopted cats should be given plenty of time—potentially a few weeks—to adjust to their new home before being left alone. Each individual is different, and owners know their pets best.

For most cats, though, a day or two on their own with the proper preparations won’t do any harm, so don’t feel guilty about that weekend away. Adult cats can sleep up to 20 hours a day, too—meaning if you're gone for two days, they may only be awake for 8 hours of it. But don’t be surprised when they make it known how much they missed you when you come home.

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