How long can you leave a cat alone? How to fine feline-proof your vacation

A cat is a joyful appendage to your home, but it will come with its own assortment of challenges. What happens when you go on vacation: can you leave cats alone? And, if so, for how long?

You should consider how often you'll need to leave your cat alone before getting one.
You should consider how often you'll need to leave your cat alone before getting one.  © 123RF / yarkovoy

When you move a feline friend into your humble abode, some changes are going to be necessary. This is especially true if you have a busy job, or are about to take a long vacation. For these instances, we ask how long you can leave a cat at home alone, or whether that's a good idea at all.

In this cat guide, TAG24 dives into whether cats get lonely when you go on vacation and, if so, how long you can safely leave them at home.

Can you leave cats alone?

Cats are not the same as dogs, which often suffer from separation anxiety, and thus, can be safely left alone on a regular basis. That does not, however, mean that it is OK to simply let them chill by themselves all the time. Like almost everything, it's a delicate balance.

You can feel free to leave your cat home alone whenever you go to work, out for a boozy beverage, or to sit for endless hours waiting for your hopelessly late dentist or doctor. When you go on vacation, though, it's a different story.

Do cats get lonely?

It might surprise you, considering aloof behavior is often attributed to your feline friend, but your cat is actually rather attached to you. As such, while your cat isn't going to get as desperately upset as a dog will, it will get lonely and it will miss you if it is left alone for too long.

How long can you leave a cat home alone?

When you first get your beloved kitty, it is best to limit the amount of time you leave it alone to only a few hours at a time. Depending on its age, breed, health condition, character, and whether it is an inside or outside cat, its affinity for loneliness will vary. Whether your kitty has another feline friend to keep it company is also a factor.

In general, it is best to never leave your cat alone for longer than 48 hours. Even within this time, though, there should be someone around to clean their litter box and fill up their food and water bowls.

How to leave your cat alone at home

If you decide that getting a cat is the way to go, then you've got to be ready for a lot of responsibility. That means looking after your feline friend morning, day, and night, making sure that it is healthy, and providing it with plenty of love and affection.

As a result, you need to make sure that you take plenty of precautions before leaving your cat at home. Here's how.

You should never leave kittens, sick, or old cats alone for too long.
You should never leave kittens, sick, or old cats alone for too long.  © 123RF / yurolaitsalbert

What to never do when leaving cats alone

As with most situations, there are a couple of things that you absolutely, under no circumstances, should do. Possibly the most important thing is that you should never leave kittens, sick, or very old cats alone for any extended period of time.

Of course, there will always be situations in which you need to step out to buy some groceries. But with these kitties, you need to make sure that if something goes wrong, you can rush them to the veterinarian. As a result, if you have a busy life, you should think twice about adopting a furry friend.

Practice leaving your cat alone before going on vacation

If you have never left your cat alone before, perhaps because it's new to the household, you can't just immediately jump into the habit of leaving it alone for extended periods of time. Instead, you need to start by practicing with shorter periods of alone time.

While it is true that cats don't need training in the same way as a dog, it still needs to get used to the idea of spending time on its own. Begin by leaving it for half an hour to run to the supermarket, and then slowly increase that amount of time until you can go to work for a full day without checking in on your kitty.

Monitor its behavior, and check for things like destroyed furniture, changed appetite, and changes in your cat's toilet habits. These symptoms can indicate a distressed cat, and show you that perhaps you should slow down the alone-time training process.

How to prepare your cat to be left alone for longer

Once your cat is used to being left alone for an hour or two, it's time to up the ante. Make sure that your kitty is feeling comfortable using these couple of steps:

1. Provide enough food and water

Make sure that you always provide enough food and water for your cat, especially when gone for longer periods of time. If you are out for the day, perhaps because you are at work, then all you really need is a bowl of water and maybe a bowl of cat biscuits. For longer periods, though, you need someone to come by each day to top up its food.

Cats love to sleep higher up in the room, so get them a cat tree before going away.
Cats love to sleep higher up in the room, so get them a cat tree before going away.  © 123RF / tashka2000

2. Offer opportunities to play, scratch, and climb

Make sure that you have a cat tower for your kitty to play on and snooze inside. On top of that, make sure that there are a few other things for your kitty to climb on, some good spots to sleep in, some warm blankets, and somewhere to hide if it gets scared.

3. Clean your cat's toilet

Before you leave for your well-deserved weekend trip, make sure that your cat's litter box is clean. If it is clean, then your cat will be more likely to use it, and less likely to make a mess elsewhere in the house. It's also more sanitary.

4. Get a cat flap

If you have an outdoor cat, then you can easily keep it busy by allowing it to go inside and outside whenever it wants to. To this end, feel free to get yourself a cat door and have it unlocked so that it has that freedom of movement it so craves!

Hot Tip: Cats despise clinically clean apartments, so don't worry about making sure your house is entirely spotless before you head out. Leave a few pieces of clothing lying around that smell like you, so that your feline friends feel a bit more comfortable.

Transitioning to longer alone time

Once all of your preparations have been made, you've been leaving your kitty alone all day for a while, and you've got the opportunity, it's time for that vacation you've been waiting for.

There are, however, a few things that you must make sure of before leaving for longer than 48 hours:

  • People need to come by to leave food for your cat at least once a day, and these people should also clean the litter tray.
  • Make sure that visits are more than just taking care of logistics, and that these humans also provide pats and affection.
  • If you cannot guarantee that the person you have chosen to look after your kitty can come every day, you might be better off hiring a cat-sitter or, perhaps, sending your cat to the kennel.
  • You also need to make sure that your home has been cat-proofed and that nothing is out in the open that could harm your kitty.

Important: If your cat has allergies then everyone involved in their care should well-informed about them.

Make sure to have someone come around regularly when your cat's alone.
Make sure to have someone come around regularly when your cat's alone.  © 123RF / zinkevych

Your cat needs to be cared for when you are on vacation

Whether you are going on vacation or going to work, it will always be necessary to leave cats alone from time to time, but you need to keep them looked after. When on vacation, make sure that there are plenty of visits from trusted humans, lots of food, safe places to sleep, and someone to make sure that they are OK day and night.

In the end, you want your cat to be happy and comfortable. This especially goes for when you leave them home alone. So before you head off on vacation, get some blankets out, provide some cuddles, and make sure that your cat's well taken care of!

Cover photo: 123RF / yarkovoy

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