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How long can you leave a cat alone? Not as long as you think

Your cat might appear fiercely independent, but if you need to be away from home for a while, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat can spend long periods alone. Cats can spend hours alone quite happily, but extending that time by days can be stressful and upsetting for your cat, even if he seems to do just fine without you around. If you’re planning a vacation, a work trip, or any other occasion that will keep you out of the home, then it’s also important to plan for your cat’s care and companionship. This can help keep your cat both safe and happy, and it will give you better peace of mind during your time away.

Orange cat sleeping on a bed with paws outstretched
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How long can you leave a cat alone?

According to most vets, cats will be fine when left alone for up to 24 hours, but you shouldn’t go beyond that without having someone available to check on and spend some time with your cat. If you do need to leave your cat alone for 24 hours, make sure he’s securely inside and that all your doors and windows are tightly closed and secured. Leave your cat with plenty of food and put out multiple water dishes so that even if your cat tips one over, he still has access to water.

Can you leave a cat alone for a week? No, not safely. If you have to be gone for that long, then you’ll need to find someone to help care for your cat while you’re away. Your cat won’t only be safer but will be happier, too.

Why cats can’t spend long periods alone

Leaving your cat alone for long periods can stress him in multiple ways. Cats are creatures of routine, and it can be upsetting for your cat when that routine is suddenly and significantly changed. Your cat probably knows just what time you arrive home from work each day, and he also expects to be fed at certain times. Changing up that routine is a source of stress, even if it occurs just for a few days.

Although your cat might appear solitary, chances are he depends on your companionship more than you might think. Cats who are lonely or bored can act out in different ways. Your cat might express his stress by excessively grooming himself, resulting in bald patches in his coat or overall thinner hair. Some cats will stop using the litter box or will have accidents throughout the home when they’re stressed or upset. When you get home, your cat might be unusually clingy or might try to avoid and ignore you entirely.

Cat sitting in a cat bed looking out a window
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What your cat’s caregiver should do when you’re away

If you have to be away from home for a longer period, like for a vacation, then you’ll need to take some steps to make sure your cat is safe and well cared for. Leaving your cat alone for 24 hours is fine, but for a longer trip, ask a family member or friend to stop by daily. Alternatively, consider hiring a cat sitter to come and care for your cat.

Ask the person caring for your cat to not only clean out the litter box and leave food and water but to also spend some time interacting with the cat. This can help keep your cat from being too bored and lonely, and play sessions and visits can help break up the day. Even if your cat is shy and isn’t willing to socialize with strangers, ask the caregiver to make sure that they locate and visually check on your cat each day to confirm that he’s well.

When planning for a trip, you’ll also need to plan for your cat’s well-being and care. If you know that time away is coming up, try to have the caregiver over for multiple short visits to meet and get to know your cat. The more familiar the caregiver is, the better, and the likelier your cat will be to come out and spend a little time with the caregiver. Be sure to also stock up on important items like cat litter, extra food, and extra medications if your cat is on any. Having extras ready to go can be helpful just in case your trip is unexpectedly extended. With a little planning, you can make your time away as stress-free for your cat — and you — as possible.

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Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
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