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How long are cats OK to be alone?

Quick Answer

Cats can typically be left alone for up to 24 hours, as long as they have access to food, water, litter boxes, toys, scratching posts, and safe spaces to sleep and hide. Healthy adult cats that are used to being alone can often go 48 hours without human interaction. Kittens under 6 months old and elderly or sick cats should not be left alone for more than 12 hours.

How Many Hours Can a Cat Be Left Alone?

Most healthy adult cats that are used to being alone can be left by themselves for 24 hours or even 48 hours, as long as they have access to all their necessities like food, water, litter boxes, scratching posts, toys, beds, and hiding places. Here are some general guidelines for how long cats can be left based on their age and health:

Cat’s Age and Health Max Time Alone
Healthy adult cat (over 6 months old) 24-48 hours
Kitten under 6 months 12 hours
Elderly or sick cat 12 hours
Cat with medical issues like diabetes 12 hours

Kittens under 6 months old should not be left alone for more than 12 hours at a time because they need more frequent care, feeding, socialization, and stimulation during this high-growth phase of their lives.

Elderly cats and cats with medical issues like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes also need more frequent care and monitoring so should not be left alone for more than 12 hours. Make sure any medications or treatments are given before leaving.

Tips for Leaving Your Cat Alone

If you do need to leave your cat alone for an extended period of time, here are some tips to make it easier and less stressful for your cat:

– Leave out plenty of food and water – Use puzzle feeders or ball dispensers to make feeding more engaging. Cats tend to graze, so leave out a larger quantity of dry food. For wet food, use an automatic feeder to dispense portions while you’re gone.

– Provide litter boxes on each level of the home – Cats don’t like to go up and down stairs to relieve themselves. Have at least one box per floor.

– Have clean, fresh water in multiple bowls around the house – Cats like to drink in different locations. Refresh water before leaving.

– Give them enrichment – Provide interactive toys like treat balls and maze toys to keep them engaged. Set up cat trees, scratching posts, and cozy beds near windows for entertainment.

– Leave out worn clothing with your scent – Your scent provides comfort and familiarity.

– Consider hiring a pet sitter to check in – Pet sitters can provide fresh food and water, clean litter boxes, give medication if needed, and provide important social time and play. Even 30 minutes makes a difference.

– Have a backup contact – Give a trusted friend or neighbor a key and instructions in case of an emergency while you’re gone.

– Take your cat to the vet before extended time alone – Make sure your cat is healthy before leaving them for 24 hours or more. Address any medical issues ahead of time.

Signs Your Cat Is Stressed When Left Alone

Some cats handle solitary time better than others. Signs your cat may be stressed when left alone for extended periods include:

– Excessive meowing or crying

– Aggression like biting or scratching when you return

– Hiding or seeming depressed

– Loss of appetite

– Urinating outside the litter box

– Destructive behaviors like scratching furniture

– Escape attempts by darting out doors

If your cat shows signs of stress, it’s best to limit time alone to less than 24 hours and provide enrichment activities when gone. Consulting with your veterinarian can also help determine if medication may help ease separation anxiety in some cases.

Loneliness and Boredom

Cats are very self-sufficient, but they still need mental stimulation and social interaction. When left alone for too long, cats can suffer from loneliness, boredom, and depression just like humans can. Signs of loneliness in cats when left for long periods include:

– Increased vocalization like meowing, crying, or howling

– Aggression or irritability

– Lethargy and lack of interest in toys or play

– Changes in sleep patterns

– Fur pulling or over-grooming

– Decreased appetite

To help combat loneliness, be sure to provide puzzle toys and rotate play items to keep your cat engaged when you’re away. Have a trusted friend or pet sitter stop in to play with your cat and provide companionship.

Preventing Boredom

Here are some tips to prevent boredom when your cat has to be left alone:

– Leave out puzzle feeders, treat balls, and food dispensing toys to make them work for meals

– Provide interactive toys like feather wands, laser pointers, treat mazes and hide-and-seek toys

– Set up a bird-watching perch near a window

– Leave out catnip toys and play tunnels

– Provide scratching posts, cat trees, and climbing spaces

– Consider getting a companion cat if yours is frequently alone so they can provide companionship and playtime for each other

– Hire a pet sitter to visit and play with your cat while you’re away

Mental stimulation and environmental enrichment are key to keeping your cat happy when home alone for extended periods. Rotate toys to make them seem new and exciting again.

Age of Cat and Time Alone

A cat’s age plays an important role in how long they can comfortably be left alone:

Kittens (under 6 months): Kittens should never be left alone for more than 12 hours since they need much more frequent care and feeding. They also need more socialization and environmental enrichment during this crucial developmental stage.

Adult cats (1-10 years): Healthy adult cats over 6 months old can generally be left alone safely for 24-48 hours provided they have ample food, water, clean litter boxes and access to toys.

Senior cats (11 years +): Elderly cats may develop medical conditions like kidney disease, arthritis, dementia and require more frequent care. They should not be left alone for more than 12 hours to be monitored and given any medical treatments.

Unweaned kittens: Unweaned kittens that are still nursing should never be separated from their mother for more than 1-2 hours, if necessary. They need to nurse frequently and could become dangerously dehydrated if left alone for extended periods.

Be sure to get your cat examined by a vet before leaving them alone for 24 hours or more, especially if they are a senior. Address any medical issues ahead of time.

Making a Cat Comfortable Home Alone

Here are some tips for making your cat as comfortable and content as possible when they must be left home alone:

– Leave out soft, comfortable napping spots in quiet areas, away from noisy appliances. Provide beds, cat cubes, blankets.

– Make sure your cat has plenty of food and fresh water to last while you’re gone. Use puzzle feeders and dispensers.

– Scoop litter boxes before leaving and provide boxes on each level of home so they are easy to access.

– Provide mental stimulation with treat balls, puzzles, catnip, interactive toys to prevent boredom.

– Consider background noise from a radio or TV to provide comfort.

– Make sure your cat’s essential items like scratching posts, cat trees, etc are all easily accessible.

– Leave unwashed laundry or worn shirts with your scent to provide a sense of security.

– Set up motion sensor night lights to provide a sense of security at night.

– Leave window perches, bird feeders nearby for entertainment.

– Use automatic feeders and water fountains to ensure your cat has fresh food and water while alone.

– Have a back-up pet sitter or friend stop in if you end up being gone longer than expected.

The key is making sure your cat feels comfortable, safe, and has activities to prevent boredom and loneliness when home for extended stints alone.

Should a New Cat Be Left Alone?

When bringing home a new cat, you should not leave them completely alone for the first few weeks. A new cat needs time to gradually adjust to their new home and feel comfortable and secure. Here are some tips:

– For the first few days, only leave the cat alone for an hour or two at a time. Slowly increase alone time.

– Within the first month, a new cat shouldn’t be left alone for more than 4-6 hours maximum as they acclimate.

– Be sure to properly cat-proof your home before leaving so they don’t get into unsafe situations.

– Leave them in a comfortable, cozy room like a bathroom at first, with food, water and litter box.

– Provide interactive toys to engage them while you’re gone.

– Have background noise from a radio or television to prevent loneliness.

– Make sure children and other pets leave the new cat alone when unsupervised.

– Try leaving worn clothing with your scent.

– When returning, make sure to provide mental stimulation and playtime.

– After the initial few weeks, you can begin to leave a new cat alone for longer periods of 8-12 hours as they adjust.

Getting a new cat used to your schedule and routine in gradual increments is key to helping them settle in comfortably when you must leave them home alone. Take the adjustment period slow.

Options for Very Long Absences

If you must be away from your cat for several days or longer, you have a few options to make sure they are cared for:

Pet sitter: Hire a professional pet sitter or friend to come care for your cat in your home. They can scoop litter, provide food/water, give medication, and play with your cat for socialization.

Boarding facility: There are cat boarding facilities where your cat stays in individual rooms and gets fed, groomed, and played with by staff. This works for absences of a week or longer.

Friend/family member: See if a trusted friend, neighbor or family member can house sit and care for your cat in your home. This causes less disruption for your cat.

Take with: If you’re traveling, look into cat-friendly hotels or bring your cat with you in secure carriers if possible. Ask your vet about sedatives for anxious cats on planes/cars.

Special needs: For cats with medical issues, have a vet recommend a pet sitter service that can provide any medications, physical therapy, injections etc.

While cats can be left for 24-48 hours, any longer absence requires making arrangements for someone to come care for your cat daily. Leaving them longer than 2 days alone risks health and behavior issues.

How to Prepare Your Home Before Leaving

Before leaving your cat home alone for an extended time, prepare your home:

– Make sure all windows/doors are securely closed so your cat doesn’t escape

– Put away any harmful chemicals, toxins or medications out of reach

– Ensure applianes, stoves, fireplaces are turned off completely

– Disconnect any irons/curling irons, space heaters, etc

– Set out ample food and water to last while you’re gone

– Clean and set up litter boxes on each floor of the house

– Provide mental stimulation with interactive toys and puzzles

– Let neighbors know you will be gone in case of emergency

– Place trash cans or anything that can tip in the bathtub so cat doesn’t get stuck

– Turn off ceiling fans, washers, dryers so cat doesn’t get caught or hurt

– Make sure human medications, cleaners, and toxic plants are put away

– Set up anti-topple brackets on furniture to prevent dangerous tipping accidents

Cat-proofing your home is vital before leaving your cat there alone unsupervised. Eliminate any risks liketoxic plants, medications, hazards, and escape routes. Your cat should have safe, engaging access to all their necessities.

How Often Should Someone Check on a Cat?

When leaving your cat home alone, here are some general guidelines for how often someone should ideally check in to care for them:

– Kittens under 6 months: Every 8-12 hours

– Healthy adult cats: Every 24-48 hours

– Elderly cats: Every 12-24 hours

– Sick cats: Twice daily

– Cats on medication: Daily, to administer medication

– Mother cats with unweaned kittens: Every 2-3 hours

– New cats still acclimating to the home: Every 8-12 hours

Ideally, a friend, pet sitter or family member should check on your cat daily to provide fresh food and water, clean litter boxes, give any necessary medication, and provide exercise and mental stimulation through play. Even short 15-30 minute visits help break up long solitary periods for your cat.

Hiring a Pet Sitter

To check in on your cat when you must be away, consider hiring a professional pet sitter:

– Pet sitters typically charge $20-30 per 30 minute visit to care for your cat in your own home.

– For overnight stays or longer boarding in their own facility, rates run $35-100+ per night depending on location and services.

– Friends or family willing to pop in may do so for free or for a reduced rate.

– Apps like Rover, Wag, connect you with local sitters and walkers. Look for reviews and do a meet and greet.

– An insured, bonded pet sitter is safest, though more costly.

– Provide detailed instructions on caring for your cat including feeding amounts, medication, favorite toys.

– Hide a spare key for access or provide the code to a smart lock.

Having an experienced pet sitter check on your cat provides exercise, social time, fresh food/water, cleaning and supervision that relieves stress and keeps your cat happier when you must be away.


While cats are quite independent creatures, they still need care and social interaction. A healthy, adult cat can generally be left on their own safely for periods of 24-48 hours, as long as they have ample food, water, clean litter boxes, and access to toys and comfortable places to sleep. Kittens and elderly cats require more frequent care and monitoring, so should not be left alone for more than 12 hours maximum. Providing mental stimulation with toys, scratching posts, cat trees and even hiring a pet sitter to check in helps prevents boredom, loneliness and behavior problems when your cat has to be home alone for extended times. With preparation and proper provisions, your feline friend can stay happy and healthy in your absence!