Leaving a Cat Home Alone: How Long is Safe?

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Since most cats sleep 13 to 18 hours a day, leaving them home alone while you're at work is usually no problem. Although, if you have a kitten, an elderly cat or a cat who was recently adopted, there are some additional precautions you should consider. How long can your cat safely be left on their own? If you're leaving a cat home alone, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your pet stays physically and emotionally healthy.

Little kitten playing with feathers

How Long Is Too Long?

How long you can leave a cat home alone really depends on the individual cat and your relationship with your feline friend. If you've just adopted a new cat, they will need time with you at home to learn your schedule, get into a daily routine and know what behaviours are appropriate in your home. Battersea notes that you should introduce a new cat to existing pets gradually and very carefully to make sure your fur family is adjusting to the addition. The first few weeks are also a crucial time for you and your cat to bond and develop a relationship.

Cats who have been in your household for a few months or years may be perfectly happy being home alone for 8 or 10 hours, but they may also become bored, lonely or stressed. Keep an eye out for signs like overgrooming or going to the bathroom outside the litter box, and talk with your veterinarian if your cat's eating or litter box habits change.

Cats need a steady supply of food (always within their recommended daily feeding amount) and fresh water just like any animal, so any pet left alone will need access to both, as well as a clean litter box. In addition to these basics, your cat will appreciate safe ways to amuse itself like jingle toys, a cat tree to perch on or even a rustling paper bag.

Looking Out for Kittens and Senior Cats

Age plays into how long you should be leaving a cat home alone as well. Kittens are curious creatures, and they can endanger themselves by scratching, pawing or eating dangerous objects like wobbly vases or poisonous houseplants. It may be a good idea to kitten-proof one room and equip it with a litter box, food, toys and fresh water if you need to leave young cats unsupervised.

If your kitten has to be alone for more than 12 hours, it's best to find someone to stop by and check on them. Have that person check on your pet's food and give them fresh water. If your cat has access to multiple rooms, your cat sitter should also walk around your house and make sure your kitten hasn't gotten stuck in any small spaces or closed itself in a room or closet.

Although older cats may be less likely to get into mischief, they may struggle more with environmental factors. If you're leaving your cat alone during hot summer days, make sure they have a cool place to nap and can access several bowls of water in different spots around your home while you're gone. Since older cats are more susceptible to illness, find a pet sitter who can stop by at least once a day and play with them if you're going to be away for too long.

How Your Schedule Changes Impact Your Cat

It's important to pay attention to your cat's behaviour during changes in your household's schedule. When children return to school, for example, some cats might enjoy the extra alone time while others might experience separation anxiety. Consider adding new toys and scratching posts, leaving the radio on as soothing background noise, or adopting another pet to keep your cat company. If you do welcome a second pet into your home, be prepared to be home for the first week or two to supervise your pets' interactions before leaving them alone for extended periods of time.

Finally, remember that even the most sophisticated automatic feeders and water dispensers are no substitute for human interaction. Your cat needs the attention and exercise they get from spending time with you, so find a reliable cat sitter who will give them daily playtime and cuddles if you're going to be out.

It's normal for any pet parent to be a little concerned about leaving their feline friend alone. By planning ahead, you can give your cat freedom in the house while also keeping them safe and happy while you're out.

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.

Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA