How Long Can Cats Be Left Alone?
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Those of us who choose to adopt a cat should always do so with the appropriate sense of responsibility. This not only means we provide them with food and shelter, but we commit ourselves to spending time with them and forming strong bonds. Fortunately, meeting this responsibility is also one of the most rewarding parts of cat guardianship. Playing, cuddling and simply being around each are mutually beneficial to health and wellbeing. This doesn't mean there won't be times when we have to leave the home to meet other responsibilities. When we do leave the home, this does not mean we stop caring for our animals.
At AnimalWised, we ask how long can cats be left alone? We look at what we need to consider when leaving cats home alone, as well as what we can expect in terms of the feline's wellbeing.
How many days can a cat be home alone?
One of the most enduring myths about cats is that they are solitary and unfriendly animals. The truth is quite different. Cats are social animals which build strong relationships with their human guardians, something which they need to be happy in the domestic environment. Poor relationships between cat and guardian can seriously harm the health and wellbeing of our cat. This is the same when they live with other cats or pets.
With this in mind, it is important to point out that we can become overly attached to our animals or vice versa. Some may never want to leave their home alone, worrying their cat will be lonely. For this reason, they may want to know how many days can a cat be left home alone?
Generally speaking, we can leave a healthy cat alone for up to 2 days (i.e. 48 hours). Depending on the personality of the cat and their state of wellbeing, we may be able to leave them alone for as much as 3 days home alone. However, this is the maximum upper limit. We should never leave cats alone for 5 days or a week, let alone a month or more without regular contact with people.
The factors which can help determine how long an individual cat can spend on their own include the following:
- Routine and habits
- Physical and mental health
- Education and training
All of these determinants need to be taken into consideration when deciding how long we can leave a cat alone. When we leave, our cat still need to have their welfare needs met appropriately. One of the most basic is ensuring they have access to sufficient food and water, something which is difficult to do over a long period of time. Their litterbox also needs to be clean and they need sufficient stimulation for their cognitive needs.
If your cat has a territorial personality and requires access to the outdoors, it is best to have a cat flap installed. Although we may not be around to administer to the cat, we may be able to recruit a friend or family member to do so. As well as providing food and other practical amenities, they can pet the cat and engage in cognitive stimulation through play.
Under no circumstance should a cat be left alone for 5 days, a week or even months without appropriate levels of interaction. If you decide to adopt a cat into your life, you should know it is your responsibility to provide them a life full of love, affection and the appropriate care. Leaving them alone for prolonged periods of time puts their health and wellbeing into jeopardy.
Can you leave a kitten home alone?
We have already discussed some of the important factors when determining whether we can leave a cat home alone. Age is one of the most important. For those who have only recently adopted a young cat, they may wonder whether they can leave a kitten home alone for 2 or 3 days. The answer is a resounding no. Doing so can seriously harm their development. We look at how long you can leave a cat alone according to their age:
- Newborn cats: it would be counterproductive to leave a 1-month-old cat alone. They haven't even had the time to socialize themselves with objects in the home, let along know how to use a litterbox. Cats less than 4 months should not even spend 2 to 3 hours alone. As they grow, their personality will develop and they will better know how to manage your coming and going.
- Young cats: by this stage, younger cats may be used to longer periods of separation from their human guardians. For this reason, we should be able to go to work and fulfil our regular duties as normal. This is important as we do not want to make them overly dependent on us. We should accustom them to short absences and then incrementally increase the time until we can spend days apart. Younger cats especially will still need cognitive and physical stimulation when we are gone, usually in the form of toys and interactive games.
- Adult cats: fully developed cats are best able to manage our absences, especially if we have already taken vacations before. It is still advisable to leave toys and games, although they are not as active as kittens. We may even be able to leave visitations to every 2 days.
- Elderly cats: older cats may require more help, sometimes even requiring up to 2 visits per day. In these cases, our visitor can provide lots of affection and reassurance. This is because elderly cats can often require more assistance and have more issues with attachment. They also become even more needful of routine.
The cat's individual personality will be a very important factor to take into account. Adapting to their specific needs will be essential to ensure their wellbeing. There are cats who are excessively attached to us and others who demand a certain routine to be happy, such as being given a daily portion of wet food.
What happens when I leave my cat alone?
There are several factors that we have to consider to know what risks are involved when leaving a cat home alone.
It is common to buy a larger drinking bowl so that the water can last around 3 days. This will depend on the ambient temperature and other factors. Some cats may not accept a new drinking dish, although they will likely drink out of anything if sufficiently thirsty. In these cases, we can keep their normal drinking dish and then use additional dishes of the same design throughout the home. The same should happen with their food bowl.
Another important factor is to do with general cat behavior. Cats love to hide in various places around the home. If there is a possibility they can become stuck somewhere, then it poses a serious risk. Not only will they be unable to eat or drink, but the experience can be very traumatic. This is another reason it is so important to have someone pay a visit when we leave the cat home alone. We should also ensure any such potential traps are closed off.
In terms of emotional health, cats can have a hard time being alone. They may become frustrated or even aggressive, damaging the furniture, peeing all over the house or carrying out similar behaviors. This is also why it is very helpful to leave them alone incrementally. Sudden absences can also cause them to develop physical symptoms such as vomiting and or diarrhea.
As you can see, cats are social animals that can be harmed by the absence of their guardian. They need to feel accompanied, even those who appear to be more independent. If at this point you were wondering if cats suffer when they are left alone, the truth is that it will depend on the personality of each cat. Generally speaking, cats do miss their owners and it is for this reason they should not be left alone for more than 2-3 days at a time.
Recommendations for leaving a cat home alone
Now that you know how many days a cat can be home alone, there are some practical things you need to take into account when doing so. Below we provide some recommendations of what to do when you leave for a few days:
- Automatic water or food dispenser: these can dispense fresh food and water at increments throughout the day. However, we need to allow time before we leave to allow the cat to become used to it and ensure it will work for them. Don't only do it when you are leaving.
- Comfort: provide more shelters and sleeping places than normal. Place more cushions around the home and give them options to feel secure and comfortable.
- Interactive toys with sounds: in this way we stimulate their cognitive development while having fun. Also, they will make them feel less alone.
- Litterbox: when the litter tray is very dirty, sometimes they stop using it. We know that cats are very clean and demanding about their hygiene, so we can leave several trays in different places so that they always have clean litter. If we have someone visit, it may not be fair to ask them to clean the litter, but it might be the best option if they are willing to do so.
- Previous visits: the person who comes to visit our cat while we are away should have come to see them beforehand. This way, they can ensure they will get along and the cat does not become too upset when we leave.
- Avoid having dogs in the house: just as leaving two cats alone at home can be a good idea because they keep each other company, you must be very sure of the relationship between a dog and a cat is very strong. Even if the dog and cat get along normally, our absence may cause an upset of the balance in the home and some animals can react aggressively.
Obviously, we should not leave our cat alone at home if they have health problems which need administration or monitoring. Under no circumstances is this a justifiable practice, since the only thing we will do is worsen their health. In addition, it will also generate a feeling of guilt for ourselves.
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