How Long Can You Leave Your Cat Home Alone?

By Ashley Tyler

Your cat spends the majority of his day sleeping in a sun patch on the carpet and only shows you attention when his food bowl is empty or his litter box needs cleaning. Not the most attentive roommate, you'd think your cat would hardly notice when you're not there as long as he has plenty of fresh food and water and a clean place to do his dirty work.

Family cat enjoying sofa within living room
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Trying to pinpoint exactly how long you can leave your cat alone for before he starts going crazy and chasing imaginary birds in the living room is difficult, but it's definitely not long.

Your cat is not as independent as you think.

beautiful young woman with a cat
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One huge misconception people have about cats is the assumption that they're totally independent and thinking that we need their companionship more than they need ours. Pam Johnson-Bennett, best-selling author and cat behavior expert, elaborated by saying, "Many people have an inaccurate image of cats being solitary creatures who don't need companionship, but they actually are social and do form very strong bonds with their human family members and animal companions." Because who else is going to dole out the cat nip?

How long is too long?

Russian blue cat stare out the window
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Okay, so we know they like having us around, but how long can they tough it out without us if they had to. Three months? One month? A few days? The Sun Chronicle asked a handful of professionals ranging from veterinarians to owners of animal rescues and pet sitting businesses, what they thought about leaving a cat alone for three months (with someone stopping by regularly to feed it and clean the litter box). And the responses were mixed.

Some, like veterinarian Dr. Beth Blair, felt the long absence would be too stressful for your kitty. "Domesticated cats are used to being with people on a day-to-day basis. I don't recommend leaving a cat for three months. The long absence might take a mental toll on the cat which could lead to urinating out of the box or even becoming anti-social."

While others like Brian Adams, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, think it's okay as long as you find an attentive pet sitter. "It is not cruel to leave a cat at home for three months as long as the cat-sitter spends some quality time with it on a daily basis."

Bjarne Braastad, cat expert/professor/author told Science Nordic that even a week away "is too long." And with an even stricter opinion still is veterinarian Christie C. Long who believes "two or at the most three nights away is probably the maximum you should consider." Better stop and take another look at that extensive itinerary!

Cats can suffer separation anxiety too.

Pure white cat sleeping on white bedding
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Dogs aren't the only ones that suffer from crippling bouts of separation anxiety every time they see you pull out your suitcase. This should come as no surprise to true feline aficionados since they know "cats are very much creatures of habit. They are easily thrown off by a change in their environment," said veterinarian Dr. Neely from Ask The Cat Doctor.

Cats are victims too and sometimes the way they act out is even worse than their canine counterparts. According to cat expert Pam Johnson-Bennett, "The cat may urinate or defecate on the cat parent's bed or on clothing belonging to that human family member. It's easy to misread this behavior as one of spite, but it's really a way for kitty to self-soothe by mixing his scent with yours. It's also a way that the cat attempts to help you "find" your way home. Think of it as the feline version of dropping bread crumbs along the path" So while your cat's heart might be in the right place, a big smelly wet spot in the middle of your bed is the absolute last thing you want to come home to after a long trip.

Other signs include — excessive meowing, lack of appetite and increased self-grooming. Spending a few days away won't harm your cat, but any longer and you should consider entrusting someone to go to your place to care for and interact with your cat on a daily basis until you get back.

Scottish Fold cat sleeping in a suitcase packed with things
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Your cat probably won't acknowledge your presence when you do get back home, but rest assured — she missed you, too.

Are you interested in learning more about what you're reading? Then scroll through this article about what it means when your pet doesn't remember you. Also, like us on Facebook and join our newsletter to learn more about your pet's behavior.