Do cats get lonely and are they the loners we think they are?

Every cat owner has wondered whether they should get their cat a fluffy fellow to hang out with during those long lonely work days. Is it a good idea, or are cats the loners we all thought they were?

Cats are often kept home alone while their owners work, and that's okay.
Cats are often kept home alone while their owners work, and that's okay.  © 123RF/nilsjacobi

After a long day of working at the office, many cat owners will be greeted by loud and excited meowing when they walk in the door.

Was your cat lonely when you were away, and could it use another cute companion to keep it company? And many think cats are loners, so that couldn't be necessary, could it?

In this cat guide, TAG24 will take a look at whether cats get lonely. Are cats loners, or do they prefer the company of others? Why do cats get so excited when you come home, and why can they get aggressive when you've been away for a longer period?

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Let's find out!

Do cats get lonely?

Yes, cats get lonely and need at least a little bit of friendly interaction. Your cat appreciates your company, and some cats appreciate the presence of another furry fellow, so it's not the worst idea to introduce a second cat into your household if you're away a lot so that they can keep each other company. There are, however, some caveats to that opinion.

Not every cat will want a second cat in its home and, indeed, most kitties may be pretty aggressive to the newcomer at first. As a result, the best thing to do is to adopt two cats at the same time and have them grow up together. On top of that, the process of introducing a second cat is often difficult in itself, so you should be prepared before you begin.

Most cats will ultimately be fine if left alone semi-regularly. They're OK to be left home alone during the day when you're at work, but not okay to be left alone for very long vacations and trips. It's a balancing act, because cats will get lonely if by themselves for too long, and just like dogs, can suffer from separation anxiety.

So feel free to leave your cat alone when you go to work, but make sure to have a cat sitter when you go on vacation. Consult your vet if you have any doubts.

Do cats get lonely without other cats?

Cats don't always want to interact socially with other cats, especially if they are neutered and have no real reason to do so. It does, however, somewhat depend on the cat in question. While most of your standard kitties will be happy as an independent cat, others thrive from having feline company.

Indoor cats often exhibit these particular characteristics, as they are sometimes less territorial and, almost always, have less to do in their day. These kitties need all the entertainment and companionship that they can get, as they are being denied the ability to explore, hunt, and generally just be outside.

Most outdoor cats will be far more independent, less likely to suffer from separation anxiety (though more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety), and less likely to be a nuisance overall. Having a second cat with your indoor kitty will likely reduce bad behavior and will stop it from getting too lonely or bored during those long hours you spend at the office or away from home.

Again, it's all dependent on the cat itself. Most cats will be fine without another kitty in the household - indeed, they may prefer it this way. Others will get lonely and, therefore, benefit from the company and companionship.

Do cats get lonely when left alone, when you go to work, or when you're on vacation?

Yes, cats will get lonely when left by themselves for longer periods of time. About the length of a work day is the maximum you should generally leave your kitty alone at a time. At the absolute most, a full day alone will be okay once in a while, but you shouldn't make a habit out of it.

Most importantly, you should never leave your cat alone for the entire length of a vacation. While it can be tempting to have a friend come by for 10 minutes a day just to feed your kitties (it's cheaper than boarding your cat), it should only be done as a last resort. In such situations, make sure that your friend is spending an hour or two a day hanging with your kitty.

Cats are not the loners many people think they are. Instead, they're solitary hunters.
Cats are not the loners many people think they are. Instead, they're solitary hunters.  © Unsplash/Kelly

Are cats loners?

While cats are lone hunters, they're not loners. The latter implies that a cat would like to live on its own and spend all of its time without the presence of a feline friend or a human companion. This is simply not true, as we have discussed, and is a stereotype that should be dismissed.

Your kitty will want to eat, drink, hunt, and clean itself in peace. There is a reason why your kitty gets mad when you interrupt it doing certain things. Such situations are why people believe cats to be loners, but it's just not true. Instead, cats have certain things they like to do alone, and certain things they like to do in company - kind-of like humans.

A cat will never hunt in a group, but it will sleep in groups for the sake of safety and companionship. There are many examples of such comparisons, proving definitively that cats are not "loners."

Do feral cats get lonely?

Cats do get lonely, whether they're feral or domesticated.
Cats do get lonely, whether they're feral or domesticated.  © Unsplash/Nihal Karkala

Cats are naturally social creatures, and that won't change if they are stray. If a cat is a stray then it is, by definition, a domestic creature and not one that evolved to live by itself and hunt for every meal. It doesn't take much deducing to figure out that the need a domestic cat has for its owners to be around will not go away once it is living alone in the wild.

It is a common misconception that feral and stray cats live alone when they're in the wild. This is not true, as feral cats generally form colonies based around food and water sources. They'll go out to hunt by themselves, but live close to one another, keeping each other safe and breeding among the group.

Look, we can't really say that a cat will ever feel a "lonely" emotion in the way that we understand said emotion. They will, however, seek out company no matter their situation.

Cats get lonely, but not as badly as dogs

The issue of separation anxiety and loneliness is not something that's simply absent in all cats, but it's also not a major problem as it is in dogs. Since cats are solitary hunters and are happy to spend plenty of time alone, you can give them independence that you'd never dream of granting a dog.

Our beloved canine companions might be cute and playful, but they're far more clingy and fragile than our feline friends. As a result, while cats are not the loners people think they are, they're the better choice for full-time workers.

Cover photo: 123RF/nilsjacobi

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