How Long Can You Leave a Cat Alone?

It’s time for a trip, and guess who’s staying home – the cat. The cat doesn’t know that yet, but his entire world is about to get turned upside down. It’s up to you to limit the physical and emotional chaos the cat might experience, and that means answering this inscrutable question: How long can you leave a cat alone?

What? Physical and emotional damage, you say?

Well, all Furball does all day is lay on the couch, and he tumbles off the cushion twice a day to eat. Furball should be fine, you say.

Just drop 10 pounds of cat food in a wash tub, you say, and fill the kitchen double sink with 10 gallons of water. I’ll even vacuum the stupid couch before I leave. What more does Furball need? A lot more, apparently.

Behind that inscrutable furry face that beams with stoic independence hides a little, helpless, mewing kitty who is woefully dependent on you and your good graces. At least that’s the latest theory espoused by the wizards who study all things cat. These experts tell us that cats are social animals and seek companionship. Leaving a cat alone can create anxiety and depression.


Cats Bond With You

Whether its apparent or not, your cat has created a bond with you. That includes a schedule that you and the cat have created, including the time you feed the cat. Also throw in cleaning the litter box. And playtime. Petting, cuddling and snuggling are other actions the cat expects.

When all that goes away, it creates short circuits in your cat’s expectations and daily routines. The normal routine has been dashed. That means that when you return home, you may find a catatonic wreck and not a cat.

Consequently, your life just got more complicated. For this, you need preparation and a plan. It’s not as complex as preparing a turkey dinner for 20 people, but it’s close. Thus, prepare to create a favorable cat regimen while you’re away.


The Question: How Long Can You Leave a Cat Alone?

If it’s a new kitten under four-months-old, the experts say four hours maximum. From this point forward, it gets blurry and unknown. This is the only absolute statement you’ll hear from cat experts: Every cat is different.

Now vets will tell you that a cat shouldn’t be left alone for more than 24 hours. Someone should check on the cat to ensure he’s not sick or injured.

Leaving a cat alone for an entire weekend is a big NO, according to these same vets. There’s some logic to this position because a cat can develop a urinary tract infection, especially in a stressful situation such as being home alone for an extended period. A urinary tract blockage can kill a cat in as little as 72 hours.

In other words, a cat can adjust to being home alone for short periods, such as you working for eight hours or heading out for a dinner engagement. As for leaving on a trip for days or weeks – forget it. You have to make arrangements to keep Furball happy.

Let’s start with the best arrangement possible for the cat.


Hire a Cat Sitter

The best bet, of course, is to persuade a friend, neighbor or relative to pop into your house twice a day to feed the cat and take care of the litter box. This is an ideal situation to hire a girl or a boy to care for the cat. The task teaches young people responsibility and gives them a chance to earn money.

The other option is to hire a professional cat sitter in your area. The average cost for a professional is about $17 per hour.

Another option is to hire a house sitter. A house sitter is not only an effective deterrent to house burglaries, the house sitter can also take care of the cat. Prices for a house sitter will range from $12 to $76 per day, according to house sitter.com. The average cost is $38 per day.

The house sitter can be expected to engage in light housekeeping chores such as collecting mail, turning lights on, watering plants, dumping trash and feeding pets.

Leaving cats in the care of a sitter at your home is probably the best solution. Your cat is living in familiar settings, and that reduces stress.


Boarding the Cat

Dropping the cat off to the vet for boarding or using a cat boarding facility (A cattery) is another option. Keep in mind, though, that cats may feel stress in unfamiliar settings. Sitting in a cage or interacting with strange cats can create anxiety.


Do This Before Leaving a Cat Alone

1. Buy another litter box. If for some reason the primary litter box gets full before cleaning, the cat may decide to do his business outside the litter box. A second litter box will prevent this.

2. Set the temperature of your house at a comfortable average for the cat. That means around 72 degrees. An unexpected heat wave or cold spell could make the cat uncomfortable.

3. Unplug electrical cords. A bored cat may find hanging electric cords a great toy.

4. Turn on the radio or TV. Voices or music drifting through the house may calm a cat.

5. Throw a cardboard box on the floor and toss in a few toys. New stuff to play with can occupy a cat’s interest for hours.

6. Use doorstops to keep rooms open. If the cat has access to various rooms, be certain the cat can’t close the door. If a cat gets trapped inside a room because the door closed, he’ll have no access to food and water.

7. Relocate house plants. Either set them outside or in a closed room. Some house plants may be poisonous to cats.

8. Buy an automated pet feeder. The device will pour an amount of food into a bowl at a pre-set time each day.

9. An unwashed shirt tossed on the floor will retain your scent to provide reassurance to the cat.

10. Open blinds and curtains. Sunshine pouring in will provide a warm spot for a cat nap. The open windows will also serve as an observation platform for the cat to watch birds, squirrels and chipmunks.


Come Home to a Happy Cat

How long you can leave a cat alone depends upon each cat. As a general rule, don’t leave cats alone for more than 24 hours. You can play it safe and hire a cat sitter. Introduce the cats to the sitter before you leave on a trip. Try to provide stimulus for the cat while you’re away. That can mean buying new toys. Do this, and you’ll enjoy a great vacation and come home to a happy cat.

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