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How Long Can You Safely Leave Your Cat Alone?

Many of us cat owners need to leave our cats alone on a regular basis. But where’s the line between an okay amount of time for your cat to be left alone and too long?

The answer depends on the breed, age, and health of your cat. But there are a few guidelines that you can use to help you figure out a time limit that you’re comfortable with and that works for your feline friend too.

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How long can I leave my cat alone?

This will depend on the breed, age, and health of your cat. Some breeds of cats can suffer from separation anxiety if left home alone on their own, even for just a few hours. Even if they have enough food, water, and entertainment, they can become anxious if their owners are away from home for too long.

Cats suffering from separation anxiety may exhibit the following signs:

  • Destructive behavior
  • Weight loss
  • Not using their litter tray
  • Reduction in grooming
  • Being very vocal when you return home
  • Depression
  • Clinginess
  • Diarrhea
Cat looking out the window
Image Credit: Natali9701, Shutterstock

Breeds known for their need for regular human companionship include Sphynx cats, Scottish Folds, Ragdolls, and Birmans.

Other cats will happily snooze away an entire day while you’re at work, maybe waking up occasionally for something to eat or finding a new spot for their next cat nap.

American Shorthair, Maine Coon, and Russian Blue cats will all generally be happy to spend up to 8 hours a day on their own.

We’ve estimated how long it’s safe to leave your cat alone, depending on their age.

Cat’s age Time they can be left alone
Kittens under 4 months Up to 4 hours
Kittens aged 4-5 months 5 hours
Kittens aged 6-12 months 8 hours
Healthy adult cats 24 hours

Can I leave my cat alone overnight?

Most vets say that it’s safe to leave your cat alone for up to 24 hours. You may or may not feel comfortable leaving your cat alone for that length of time.

If your cat needs regular medication or will only eat wet food that you don’t want to leave out in case it spoils, then leaving them overnight may be too long.

For other cats, as long as they have enough food, water, and clean litter trays, they may not mind too much.

If you do decide to leave your cat at home alone for the night, it’s a good idea to invest in a pet camera so you can check in on them virtually. You might also want to ask a neighbor or pet sitter to drop in. Leaving information about your vet and their phone number is a good idea too, in case of emergencies.

If your cat is usually allowed outdoors, it’s best to keep them indoors while you’re away. This will minimize the chances of them getting into trouble outdoors while you’re gone.

cat with green eyes
Image Credit: uzhursky, Shutterstock

How long can you leave a kitten home alone?

Kittens need more care and attention than older cats. They’re also adept at getting themselves into trouble! Kittens under 4 months old shouldn’t be left home alone for longer than 4 hours.

By the time they’re 6 months old, you should be able to leave them alone for up to 8 hours. But this will depend on your kitten’s breed and personality.

Even then, it’s a good idea to set them up in a kitten-safe room, where they can’t get into trouble by climbing curtains, getting trapped in cupboards, or generally investigating something that they shouldn’t.

Using a pet camera to monitor your kittens while you are away is a great way to get peace of mind when you do have to leave them alone for a few hours.

If you can, it’s a good idea to arrange for a pet sitter or neighbor to call in and check on your kittens while you’re out.

How to make your cat’s time home alone safer and more enjoyable

Making sure your cat has plenty of food, water, and enrichment activities while you’re away from home will make their time alone as comfortable and safe as possible.

Consider using an automatic feeder to dispense small amounts of food at pre-determined intervals. Also, make sure there are a few different water bowls around the house. That way, if your cat accidentally knocks one over, they still have something to drink.

You can also set up a birdwatching station, scratching posts, and other activities for your cat to enjoy while you’re gone. Keeping a selection of toys that you know that your cat loves in a drawer, and only leaving them out when you’re away from home can also help keep your cat entertained.

Puzzle feeders are another great way to provide enrichment while you’re gone, especially if you leave them in places that your cat won’t discover until you’re gone.

Cats also get comfort from each other, so if you only have one cat and you have to leave them alone regularly, consider getting them a friend. You’ll need to introduce them carefully, but once integrated, most cats enjoy living with a friend.

You can also get pet cameras that allow you to see what your cat is up to while you’re away from home. Some of these will even allow you to talk to your cat through the in-built microphone, dispense treats, or notify you of any abnormal behavior.

Can I leave my cat alone for a weekend?

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Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

This takes you over the threshold of 24 hours, which is the maximum amount of time to leave your cat alone as recommended by most vets.

So, leaving your cat alone for a weekend will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Any automatic food dispensers probably won’t hold enough food for an entire weekend.

Cats are creatures of habit and love the security of a routine. They may be quite used to you being gone all day but start to become stressed and anxious if you (or someone else, like a pet sitter) don’t return when they expect you to.

If there’s a sudden change in weather while you’re away, your cat may become too hot or too cold, which can have health consequences.

You might also find that you will be worrying about if your cat is okay while you’re gone. Whether you’re away for work or pleasure, you might be distracted and thinking about what could go wrong while you’re away.

Can I leave my cat alone for 4 days?

We’d recommend against it. Even if you have an automatic food dispenser, plenty of water, and tons of litter trays, 4 days is too long to leave your cat alone.

They may run out of food, start going to the bathroom outside of their litter tray because it’s dirty or become ill from the stress of being left alone.

Can I leave my cat alone for 10 days?

No. Ten days is too long for any cat to be left alone. Even the most laidback of cats will start to become unsettled if they’re left alone for this long.

Options for your cat when you’re away from home

cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

From short work trips to a full vacation, there are plenty of ways you can keep your cat safe and happy when you have to go away.

It makes sense to plan ahead, so if you need to go away for longer than 24 hours, arrange for your cat to be cared for in the meantime.

Cat sitters will either visit your home for a specified time each day or stay in your home and look after your cat when you’re gone. They can administer medication, refresh food and water bowls, and clean out litter trays.

You may find a neighbor who’s willing to pop in once a day for free, but if you’re regularly heading away, then it makes sense to arrange a formal agreement with a cat sitter.

Catteries are boarding facilities that you can take your cat to and leave them there when you need to be away from home. Some cats find catteries stressful, as they’re not in their home territory and have to spend time near other cats. You are the best judge of your cat’s character and whether a cattery will suit them.

Another option is to take your cat with you! Some cats love the excitement and interest that comes with a road trip, while others will find the situation too unsettling.

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Wrapping it up

Cats might act all aloof and independent, but we all know that they love their owners! Cats crave our companionship and shouldn’t be left alone for more than 24 hours at a time.

There’s no one right or wrong answer for how long it’s safe to leave your cat under 24 hours. The answer will depend on their age, health, and personality. You’ll have to make a judgment call for your own scenario.

Whatever you decide, make sure they have food, water, a safe place to sleep, and entertainment. Pet cameras are a great way to keep an eye on your cat while you’re gone, and using a pet sitter can help add another layer of reassurance.

Whatever you decide, you can be sure your cat will be happy to see you when you get home, even if they don’t show it!


Featured Image: CKYN stock photo, Shutterstock