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How Long Can You Leave A Cat Alone?

Written By
6 min read

Updated - Dec 8th, 2022

Key Points

  • Healthy adult cats are typically fine at home alone for 8-24 hours so long as you kitty-proof their environment and prepare food and water.
  • Kittens or senior cats who need daily medication need a bit more attention, and generally shouldn’t be left alone for more than 8 hours (at most!)
  • Consider a cat sitter or boarding facility if you’re planning on leaving your kitty alone for 24+ hours.

While we are keenly aware of the importance of leaving our dogs alone for too long, we tend to think of cats as independent creatures able to survive on their own. However, domesticated felines may not as independent as you’d think.

In fact, a study conducted in 2020 suggests that cats, like their canine counterparts, can suffer separation anxiety, depression, and loneliness when left alone for too long.

But sometimes life happens, and we have no choice but to leave our cats home alone for a few hours. If you’ve never done this before, you might be wondering – Just how long is too long?

How long can you leave your cat alone?

Most healthy adult cats are fine being left alone for a typical 8-hour workday and sometimes, even longer 10-12 hour schedules. A 24-hour span can be fine as well so long as you prepare their environment, but much longer than that, and you’ll probably want someone checking in on your kitty.

Kittens on the other hand require a bit more attention. If you have a kitten under four months old, you shouldn’t leave them alone for any longer than 2-4 hours. Similarly, if you have a kitten five to six months old, you shouldn’t leave them alone for any longer than 5 hours. After a kitten reaches six months old, you can usually leave them for eight hours. 

Tip: A bored kitten can learn destructive behaviors like curtain climbing, scratching furniture, getting trapped in cabinets, and eating plants they shouldn’t when no one’s looking. Sequestering them in a large kennel or a small kitten-proofed room with no hazards can help keep them safe.

Ultimately, how long you can leave your cat home alone depends on their age, health, and personality. A cat requiring medication or a new kitten adjusting to your home generally shouldn’t be left to their own devices for more than a few hours.

How to keep your cat busy while you’re away

We assume our cats spend their time sleeping on the bed while we are away, but if you have a pet camera, you know that this isn’t the case! Here are some ways you can keep your cat’s boredom to a minimum and avoid mischief.

Fresh food and water to hunt: Leave bowls of water or treats around the house for your cat to “hunt”. There are also many inexpensive puzzle feeders available to entertain your kitty. Their normal food and water dishes are fine, but not as fun as hunting for treasures.

Toys: Leaving cat toys around the house offers pleasant surprises for your cat to capture as they wander the house. While your cat may have a favorite toy, new toys can be a fun distraction from you being away from them.

Cat trees: Cat trees, perches, and window hammocks placed near windows. The sights and creatures outside the window will provide hours of entertainment.

Scratching posts: Give your cat an appropriate place to stretch and keep those claws healthy with a scratching post.  Multiple scratching posts with different scratching substrates (sissel rope, carpet, cardboard) located around your home will keep your cat guessing and spare your furniture.

Music or TV: Some cats will be more comfortable when there is background noise, such as soft music, or a TV on. 

Someone to drop by: If your cat is lonely or and you’ll be gone longer than usual, have someone drop by to visit your cat for playtime and some cuddling.

Signs your kitty is being left alone for too long

Signs your kitty is being left alone for too long can be a clingy cat, soiling outside their litter box, diarrhea, refusing to eat while you’re away, or even excessive meowing when you return. If you see these, consider a pet sitter when you are away. Someone coming in to socialize and check on your cat may solve the problems.

FAQs

Can you leave your cat alone overnight?

Yes, if your cat is provided with enrichment activities, fresh food and water, and a clean litter box, an overnight trip is perfectly fine. However, if you have a young kitten or a cat that needs medication while you’re away, it is better to hire a pet sitter or board your cat.

Can you leave your cat alone for a weekend?

Yes, healthy adult cats do fine alone for a weekend every once in a blue moon. However, there are a few things to consider:

  • Dry food will be fine over the weekend, but wet food will spoil. This can present some issues if your kitty is a wet food eater. 
  • Some cats won’t drink stagnant water, which may become the case if water is left in a water bowl for too long. Cat water fountains can help you solve this problem by keeping water fresh.
  • A fastidiously clean feline may not appreciate an unscooped litter tray for 24-48 hours. You may want to recruit a friend to scoop your cat’s litter while you’re away, or provide a second box.

Tip: If your cat devours any food you leave out in on sitting, consider a timed automatic feeder if you plan on leaving them for longer than 24 hours. Too much food too quickly can cause tummy problems.

Can you leave your cat alone for a week?

A week is too long to leave your cat alone without someone checking in on them.

When I leave my cats for anything longer than a weekend, I either hire a pet sitter or have a neighbor, family member, or friend “visit” them daily to keep the litter boxes clean, provide fresh food and water, and spend some time playing with them. Pet sitters and boarding are better options for your cat if you need to leave home for extended periods. If you are boarding, ask to inspect the cat boarding area to ensure cleanliness, good ventilation, no sounds of barking dogs, and enriched cat kennels.

In sum, if you have to leave your cat home alone, providing an environment full of enrichment activities, having someone check in on them when you’re gone for longer than usual, or hiring a pet sitter can give you and your feline friend peace of mind while you’re away.

Lynn Guthrie

Writer, Mom of a Fab Fur Fam of Five
Lynn is a writer and long-time Learning & Development Manager at a large PNW retailer. She's also mom to 3 dogs & 2 cats!
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