Is it ok to leave a cat alone for the day, or overnight? Find out how to keep your cat safe and entertained when they’re home alone
Although you no doubt want to spend as much time as possible with your feline friend, you will probably need to leave them home alone occasionally – unfortunately it’s not really practical to take them everywhere with you!
Luckily, cats are quite independent creatures, usually happy to have some alone time and snooze in peace. However, despite their reputation as ‘low maintenance’ pets, they still need daily care from us humans. Although cats don’t typically show the same separation-related behaviours as dogs, they can get bored and frustrated when left for long periods.
How long can cats be left alone?
Most cats will be ok if they are left for the day or overnight, but the maximum amount of time you should leave them alone is around 12 hours. You shouldn’t be regularly leaving your cat alone for 12 hours, but this is ok to do occasionally if needed. Young kittens, elderly cats or cats with medical issues and other complex needs will need to be checked on more regularly. If you need to be away for longer than 12 hours (or less time if you have a cat with specific needs), or are away for long periods on consecutive days, get a cat sitter (or friend, family member, or neighbour) to look after your cat at home, or book them into a cattery. Find more advice about getting holiday care for your cat.
How long can kittens be left alone?
Young kittens should only be left for a maximum of a few hours at a time. Kittens have small stomachs but need lots of energy to grow, so should be fed little and often throughout the day. As kittens are very curious and energetic, you’ll need to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t get into danger or cause any mischief around the home. Find more advice about caring for kittens.
How to get your kitten used to being alone
If you have a young kitten at home and are worried about leaving them on their own for the first time, it’s best to get them used to being alone gradually. Practice leaving them alone for short periods at a time, such as for five to 10 minutes a few times a day. Scan the room before you leave them to make sure no hazards are left out, and make sure they have plenty of toys they can safely play with independently (for example, ping pong balls and catnip mice) to prevent them getting bored. You can then gradually increase the amount of time you leave them for over a period of a few days and weeks, making sure you still check on them at least every few hours until they are a fully grown adult.
How to care for your cat when they are left alone
If you are leaving your cat for a short period of time of up to 12 hours, here are the things you should do to make sure they are happy and safe while you’re gone.
1. Leave enough food and water
Make sure your cat has access to the amount of food they will need while you’re away and leave them plenty of fresh water to drink. If your cat eats wet cat food, remember that this will spoil after being left out for a few hours, so only leave the amount your cat will eat in that time. Make sure you are back in time to give your cat fresh wet food for their next mealtime, or arrange for someone to come in and replenish their food. If your cat eats dry cat food, this won’t spoil as quickly but will still need to be replaced at least every 12 hours. The Sealed Pet Bowl from Sure Petcare will help to stop wet food drying out and attracting flies, making it much more appealing to your feline friend. Find out more about feeding your cat and get 10% off feeding bowls from Sure Petcare.
2. Clean the litter tray
You should empty any mess from your cat’s litter tray at least twice a day and clean out the whole tray at least once a week. Before you leave the house, remove any urine/pee or faeces/poo from the litter tray and top up the litter if needed to make sure it’s around 3cm deep. Ensure your cat will have access to the litter tray at all times while you’re gone. Find out more about creating the perfect cat toilet.
3. Tidy away any hazards
Make sure any potential hazards, such as wires, toys with string, human foods, medicines, cleaning products or any other harmful things your cat could get tangled in or eat, are stored away out of their reach. Find out more about common household hazards for cats.
4. Leave them some toys
It’s important to make sure your cat has plenty to keep them entertained while you’re away as boredom could cause them to overgroom, overeat or destroy your furnishings! Leave them some safe cat toys they can play with alone (eg ping pong balls, catnip toys – nothing with string they could get tangled in). You could also leave some of their food in a puzzle feeder to encourage them to exercise their body and mind, and not scoff it all down as soon as you leave! Find out more about cat toys and puzzle feeders.
5. Provide hiding places and perches
If your cat gets anxious when left alone, or in case something stresses them out while you’re away, give them access to some hiding places and off-the-ground perches around the house. Hiding and getting up high helps cats to feel safe and calm, so leave them some cardboard boxes and clear some shelves or windowsills. They may also enjoy looking out the windows to keep themselves entertained! Find out more about why cats hide.
6. Check exit/entry points
If your cat doesn’t usually go outside, make sure any escape routes (eg windows and doors) are closed off. If your cat usually has access to the outdoors, avoid shutting them in entirely when you’re away, as suddenly reducing their territory could cause them to become stressed. A cat flap is ideal for allowing your cat to come and go as they please, just check that it’s working properly before you leave the house so that your cat won’t get trapped in or out. Microchip Pet Doors from Sure Petcare can even notify you via an app on your phone when your pet uses the cat flap, so you’ll have the peace of mind knowing whether they are in or out at all times. Whether your cat goes outdoors or not, get them microchipped and make sure the contact details on the chip are up to date so that you can be reunited with them if they do escape or get lost. Find out more about microchipping and get 10% off cat flaps from Sure Petcare.
7. Create a calming environment
If you’re worried that your cat will be stressed while you’re gone, you can plug in a pheromone diffuser such as FELIWAY® to create a more calming environment for them. The diffuser emits a reassuring scent that only your cat can smell, to help them feel safe and relaxed. What’s more, Ceva will donate 10p to Cats Protection for every UK sale of a FELIWAY® Classic or FELIWAY® Optimum Diffuser, so you’ll be helping other cats across the UK too!
Do cats get sad when you leave?
Providing they’ve got enough food and water and plenty to keep them entertained when you’re gone, most cats will be ok to spend some time alone. They may even enjoy having the house to themselves for a while, so they can do their own thing in peace! However, if your cat is used to having you around a lot of the time, or if they are particularly bonded to you, they may experience some separation-related issues and loneliness when you’re not home. Discover the signs of separation anxiety in cats. It’s more likely though that they’ll be happy to be left alone and will only realise just how much they’ve missed you when you walk back through the door.