Home Cats Managing Work and Cats: Leaving Your Cat Alone at Home

Managing Work and Cats: Leaving Your Cat Alone at Home

by Vetic Editorial

“How long can my cat stay alone?” – That’s one question almost every cat parent has asked at least once. So, how long is too long? How long can you leave your cat at home? Can cats stay alone? Do they become sad and anxious?

Let’s begin by exploring cat behaviour to find the answers to all these questions.

Cat Behaviour: Is Leaving Your Cat Home Causing Your Kitty Distress?

Anyone who has had cats will know that although cats are solitary creatures and they behave like they own the house, they are extremely affectionate. Their emotions are not very different from ours. 

Cats are highly intelligent with emotional needs. They too require attention, care and love. Although, not all cats express their needs the same way. 

Orange tabby lying on black marbled floor looking into the distance. Your can may behave oddly if leaving them alone at home is causing them distress.

Your kitty might not like to cuddle with you or allow you to give them tummy scratches but they do demand your attention by mewing when you come home, running around when they want to play, bringing you their toys or leading you to their feeding bowls. 

Domesticated cats depend on their humans for food, water, clean litter and affirmation. It is common for cats to experience separation anxiety just like dogs. They are capable of becoming depressed and destructive too. 

So, as long as you are actively interacting with them when you are at home and fulfilling their emotional needs, you may consider leaving them home alone for short durations. 

Can I Leave My Cat Alone At Home When I’m Going To Work?

Most cats are fine when you leave them alone for 8 to 9 hours at home. Unlike dogs, cats do not like being dropped off at unknown places. Hence, you will not find the kitty equivalent of doggy daycare or puppy boarding for cats. 

Cats love their “naps.” You must have already noticed that your cat loves to sleep A LOT. Any healthy adult cat will sleep for around 16 hours per day. 

Orange and white cat sleeping on the bed. Cats sleep for at least 16 hours. Leaving your cat alone for 8 hours shouldn't be a problem since they are most likely to sleep through those 8 hours.

If you keep them active while you are at home by playing with them, there’s a good chance they will sleep throughout the day while you are at work. They will probably just get up to eat, drink, poo and pee a couple of times, groom themselves and go back to sleep. 

The idea is to interact with your cat while you are at home and not ignore their need for physical activities and mental stimulation. Cats are very curious and intelligent creatures, so investing in a cat puzzle, cat tree, and hammock is a good investment (bribe) if you have to leave them alone for 8 or so hours. 

What Will Your Cat Need When You Leave Them Alone At Home?

Here are a few things you may want to invest in before you consider leaving your cat alone at home –

Part of a hand holding purple feather toy playing with a grey and white cat. Play with your cat and tire them out before leaving them alone at home.

  1. An automatic feeder that will give your cat measured quantities of fresh food every couple of hours. 
  2. A water fountain because cats often don’t drink from static and old water bowls. 
  3. A cat puzzle that will keep them busy in case they wake up before you get home. 
  4. An automatic cleaning litter box or more than one litter box so they have a clean litter tray every time they need to go. 
  5. A cat tree since they have a paraphernalia of cat-friendly setups, including scratching posts, toys, perches and hideyholes. 
  6. Make sure they have a perch (hammock) attached to the inside of the window so they can look at the birds, squirrels and whatever they like to watch from the safety of the indoors. 
  7. Cat pheromones spray is a good idea for cat parents who are dealing with an overly anxious cat. These pheromones can calm your kitty while they are alone. Spray it on their cat tree, bedding and hammocks to keep your cat calm while you are gone. 
  8. Pick safe toys (no choking hazards) for your cat. Some cats prefer catnip-filled cat toys. However, catnip has different effects on different cats – so try it while you are at home before leaving your cat alone with catnip toys. 
  9. Also, do not forget to get a clean bill of health for your cat before you begin leaving them alone. Find an experienced veterinarian in your neighbourhood to update your cat’s deworming and vaccination status

Leaving Your Cat Alone: How Long is Okay?

Occasionally, it is alright to leave your cat alone at home for up to 12 hours when you have a late meeting or a strict deadline. However, our veterinarians do not recommend leaving cats alone for longer than 8 or 9 hours if you go to the office every day. 

Tortoise shell cat sitting by closed windows looking outside. While leaving your cat alone at home ensure that you have cat-proofed your home completely.

You can only leave your cat alone at home for long hours if you have cat-proofed your home. Cat proofing involves removing breakable items, and potentially toxic plants, tying up or removing cords and cables, keeping your trash covered and cabinets locked, locking up human meds and keeping that toilet lid closed!

Once you have enforced these changes, make sure there’s no way for your cat to escape, which means either netting the windows and balconies or keeping them locked while you are gone. 

Leave the AC on a timer while you are gone. Although cats aren’t as prone to heat strokes and dehydration as dogs, they too can fall sick when it’s too hot and humid. 

Most importantly, you should never leave a newly adopted cat alone at home. Neither can you leave your kitten alone no matter how well-behaved they are. 

Can You Leave Your Cat Alone For One Whole Day?

Black and white cat watching a black cat on a large screen TV. Cats can and will watch TV if they find something intriguing. If leaving your can alone is unavoidable, try leaving the TV on for them.

Some cats do fine by themselves when pawrents leave them home for over 12 hours, but we do not recommend it. 

If you must go away due to an emergency for 24 hours ONLY, we recommend sending in a friend or family member your cat knows. They should be able to check on your cat, interact with them for at least one hour, refresh their food and water bowls, and report back to you.

If your cat has a medical condition and requires medication at particular times, you may want a professional sitter to accompany your friend or relative at fixed times to feed and medicate your cat. 

In addition to that, try leaving the TV on and plug in some music. Studies show that cats feel less alone when they are “watching TV.”

Is Your Cat Feeling Lonely?

Mackerel cat grooming their paws. Leaving your cat alone for long hours frequently can cause anxiety-induced behaviours such as increased grooming.

Cats are private beings and don’t easily share their feelings with humans. However, here are a few easy ways to find out if your cat is experiencing loneliness –

Your cat is grooming themselves excessively

Excessive grooming is a telltale sign of anxiety in cats. You may also talk to your vet for calming medicines or spot-ons that can help your cat and reconsider your own routine. 

They are being overly clingy

Your cat can demand attention and follow you around meowing loudly most of the time. However, this behaviour may increase as you get ready to leave. 

Your cat is exhibiting aggressive behaviour 

If your sweet kitty is suddenly turning into the Hulk, it’s time to consider that they are lonely and anxious. 

Your cat isn’t using the litter box

Your cat might start spraying or peeing outside the litter box. They may begin peeing on your personal stuff to express their frustration. 

If your cat has been urinating outside the litter box and you can see clumps of fur missing from their coat, you should contact an experienced veterinarian without wasting any time. Check out a vet clinic near you since anxiety-related behaviour can lead to other health issues. 

How Can You Manage Or Avoid Loneliness In Cats?

Curious looking black cat with green eyes peeping from behind a wooden block. Cats are intelligent and curious creatures. If you are leaving your cat alone, ensure they still have enough sources of mental stimulation to prevent anxiety and destructive behaviour.

Establish a routine. Play with your cats, give them treats and interact until they are tired. Cats typically do not play for longer than 20 minutes at a time. When you leave the house, your cat should be well-fed, hydrated and happy, as well as tired from playing with you, and possibly, asleep. 

Changing their usual routine can cause unwanted stress. So try to maintain the list of activities throughout the weekend as well, even though you don’t have to work. 

Wrapping Things Up 

Always ensure you have your cat’s basic needs covered before you leave the house. If you must leave your cat alone, ensure it’s not longer than 8 or 9 hours. And you should not miss their medication and supplements.

Speak to a veterinarian at a pet clinic near you to adjust the timing of the medicine doses if they clash with your working hours. 

However, do not leave your senior cat or kittens alone at all!

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