We love cats because they’re fiercely independent, loyal, and loving natures. If you have a big trip or vacation coming up, you may be wondering if you can leave your feline friends alone while out of town. While cats normally do fine on their own, they are both largely dependent on their owners and crave social interaction with their favorite people. Here’s everything you need to know about leaving your cats alone for a week, a day, or any prolonged period of time.
Do Cats Get Lonely?
While we adore our kitty friends for being so independent and aloof, they are much, much more social than given credit for. Cats form lifelong, meaningful bonds with their humans and families. According to a recent study conducted in 2020, cats, just like dogs, also suffer from separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is common in domesticated animals. It can be defined as anxious behavior, such as destructive tendencies, vocalization, and soiling areas when an animal is separated from their human. According to PetMD, another study concluded that 64 percent of cats that participated within the study were described as “securely attached to their humans” and “showed less stress when near their caregivers.”
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Cats & Behavioral Management
While the severity of separation anxiety differs on a case by case basis, it is usually easily diagnosable. According to PetMD, some symptoms of separation anxiety in cats include:
- Urination/defecation outside of litter box
- Crying, yowling, or excessive vocalization
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive grooming
Cats can develop separation anxiety for a multitude of reasons, mainly due to environmental or genetic factors. Changes in ownership or home environments, kitten abuse or neglect, being orphaned or abandoned at a young age, and not having other pets in the home to bond with can all cause and/or exacerbate separation anxiety in cats. Female cats are also more prone to developing separation anxiety.
To limit separation anxiety in cats, your veterinarian may recommend medication and/or conduct blood and urine panels to outrule any underlying factors. The best way to manage separation anxiety in cats is to provide frequent socialization (whether it’s getting another pet or having people over), creating a routine, and providing lots of toys and activities to provide mental and physical stimulus.
How Long Can Cats Be Left Alone?
While it’s normal to not leave dogs alone for prolonged periods of time, cats are often left alone due to their ability to use the bathroom on their own, eat and drink on their own, and their independent natures earn them the reputation as being lone cats.
However, cats should not be left alone unattended for more than one day. While each cat’s individual needs vary, it’s important to not leave them alone for prolonged periods of time to minimize risk of separation anxiety, medical issues, and frantic attempts to escape or avoid abandonment. If you must leave your cat alone for more than 24 hours, ask a friend or loved one to pop in and check on them to ensure their physical health and safety.
This rule applies to adult cats that are fully free and clear of any medical issues. Kittens, senior cats, and cats with medical issues or conditions should be checked on every few hours to ensure they’re happy and healthy.
If you need to head out of town, be sure to schedule a sitter to either house sit depending on your cat’s needs or someone to pop in to provide love, care, and check-ins.
Dangers of Leaving Your Cat Alone For Long Periods of Time
Cats are not only independent, they are also incredibly curious! Their natural curiosity and love of hunting can get them into some peculiar situations. If your cat primarily resides indoors, you may not have to worry as much as if your cat resides both indoors and outdoors. However, both have risks. If your cat is indoor/outdoor and is left alone to their own devices, they could get hurt in the street or by wildlife. If you have to leave for a few days, be sure to lock your cats inside, even if they’re used to the outdoors or ensure they have access to an outdoor Cat Enclosure.
Indoor cats can get destructive if they’re experiencing separation anxiety or boredom. They can get into toxic foods, cleaning supplies, or other dangerous substances. Even certain cat toys can have choking hazards. To eliminate these risks, be sure to ‘cat-proof’ your home by:
- Setting up safe toys (scratch posts, cat trees, ball turntables, automatic laser toys)
- Locking away toxic foods and cleaning substances
- Lock away cords
- Take out trash, recycling, and compost
- Put away medications
- Unplug electronics
- Keep heat or A/C regulated according to yearly temperature
- Have a house or pet sitter to check in or stay with your cat
Keep Their Environment Fun!
We all have to take trips or head out of town. When this is the case for your cat, make sure to make their home environment fun and enriching while you’re out of town! Cats are highly intelligent and thrive off of physical and mental stimulation. In addition to arranging for a pet or house sitter, be sure to set up your cat for success by keeping their environment fun and comfortable.
While toys are always a good idea with supervision, be sure to also keep your blinds and shutters open so your cat can look out the window! Cats love to watch the world go by and are avid bird and critter watchers. This can provide loads of stimulation to keep them happy and engaged while you’re gone.
Cat nets are also a wonderful way to set up secure, supervised time outside to minimize the risk of your cat getting into trouble while also allowing them to get some fresh air! Setting up a cat net on your porch, patio, or setting up a secure Cat Enclosure is a wonderful way for them to get in touch with their inner wild cat. They’re great for climbing and observing. Not only are these great to set up while you’re away, but they’re also great for year-round!
With all the wonderful ways to keep your cat happy and healthy while you’re away, they’ll be able to enjoy your vacation as much as you!