It might sound crazy but I miss my cat all the time, even when I’m out for a few hours. I remembered when I first brought my cat home from the shelter, I took almost a week’s leave from work just to help him settle in.
The crunch time came when I had to leave for work and leave my cat alone for 8-10 hours daily. That made me a nervous wreck as my mind conjured up 101 disastrous things that could happen to my cat, like the toaster coming alive and devouring him.
Is it really OK to leave a cat alone while you’re at work? Yes, it is totally fine to leave your cat alone at home alone if you have to work. Most cats are good at keeping themselves entertained while you are away. Furthermore, many cats spent the majority of their time sleeping. However, there are a few essential things that you need to prepare before leaving for work.
If you have just gotten a cat or a new job, this article will prepare you for the dos and don’ts of leaving a cat alone at home.
Is It Ok To Leave A Cat Alone For 8 Hours?
The majority of pet owners do have to work for a living. On average, most people will work between 8-10 hours a day, some even having to do shifts. That would mean that your cat would be left alone for almost half the day while you are gone.
If you are a pet parent that has never left your cat alone at home before for so many hours, I can understand your anxiety and worry as a cat owner.
But don’t be.
I have done it before and so have many other pet owners.
Despite what you might have heard or read, our cats are independent creatures that do not need our constant attention to survive. They can do well alone for many hours without us holding on to their little furry paws.
But before you close the door on your cat, make sure you do the following.
Make Sure There Is Enough Food And Water
As resourceful and independent as our cats are, they still need food and water to survive. So let us start with the essentials.
Cats have a different body clock or circadian rhythm as compared to humans. We are diurnal which means that we are awake during the day and sleep at night. Our cats are crepuscular, which makes them active during dawn and dusk.
Using this information, the best times to feed your cat would be before you leave for work and another time when you are back.
When it comes to water, just a large enough stainless bowl that is changed out daily to keep it fresh works well. If you really want to spoil your cat, you can go for a cat fountain that has running water.
If you have to do shift work which makes you unable to feed your cat during these times, I would suggest that you get an automatic feeder that can keep the food fresh and only allow access at the stipulated time.
A Few Things To Note About Automatic Feeder
Not all automatic feeders are made equal. You have the really cheap ones that work on a manual dial like an egg timer. And you have the really top-end ones that are fully programmable and digital.
My advice is to get the best feeder that you can afford as you don’t want it breaking down while you are not at home.
Secondly, get a feeder based on the type of food that you feed your cat. If your cat is on a dry food diet, most feeders will work. But if your cat is on wet or canned food, you really need to get one that can keep the food cool with ice packs and keep the food fresh for up to 15 hours.
You don’t want your poor kitty to be eating contaminated food that has gone bad.
I would suggest that you use an automatic feeder to feed raw food. Raw food is a lot more delicate than wet food and needs to be properly refrigerated.
Do Not Free Feed
It might seem like a good idea to just put out as much food as possible and let your cat have a never-ending buffet at home. This is a bad idea as some cats are greedy enough to finish up everything. And if the cat doesn’t finish up the food, dry cat food can eventually go bad.
More than 50% of our cats are overweight these days which is bad as it leads to many health issues. Allowing your cat to eat without supervision will turn it into a chonky beast in no time.
Cat Proof Your Home
“Curiosity killed the cat” is a phrase that many of us are familiar with and for good reason so. Cats have an innate sense of curiosity that can’t be satisfied. Compared to my dog, my cat will investigate and smell anything and everything that is new to the home.
Before you start leaving your cat alone, make sure to cat-proof your home. This is for your cat’s own comfort and safety so that nothing can go wrong while you are away.
Here are some ways that you can cat-proof your home:
- Make sure all windows and access outside are closed
- Keep your valuables
- Don’t leave anything breakable lying around
- Secure electrical cords and wiring
- Make sure the stove and iron are off when you leave
- Keep poisonous plants away from your cat
This list isn’t exhaustive and your cat will definitely leave you clues as to what else needs to be done. I found out that my cat likes to sleep on my pillow after using the litter box which left me no choice but to close my room door when I’m out.
Get Your Cat Fixed
If your cat has yet to be sterilized, you should strongly consider doing so before leaving it alone at home. A cat that isn’t fixed will urine mark its territory on a frequent basis. The last thing you want after a hard day’s work is to come back to a home reeking of dried cat pee.
Cats can reach sexual maturity as young as four months of age. And a female cat can give birth to up to 200 kittens in her lifetime.
When mating season comes around, the sex hormones in the cat will make it want to roam outside and look for a partner. Your cat is capable of irritating your entire neighborhood with its non-stop yowling for a cat.
Don’t leave your cat alone at home after its sterilization procedure. Your cat needs a lot of care and attention at this time to prevent any complications.
It takes about 7-10 days for most cats to recover from such a procedure.
Clean The Litter Box
Do you know that your toilet bowl is also called a ‘throne’? This is because our toilet bowls are made from porcelain material which was also used to make the seat for royalty.
I don’t know about you but whenever I use my throne, I want it to be clean and tidy.
The same goes for your cat.
Your cat’s litter box is also regarded as its throne and it can be very fussy about the cleanliness of it. I tell most pet parents to clean out the cat’s litter box at least once a day and do a total change and wash weekly.
A litter box that is too soiled can put off your cat from using its own throne. And when this happens, would cat will have to do its business somewhere else in your home. If your cat likes you enough, it might just pee or poo over the edge of the litter box instead of your shoe.
Households with more than one cat should have a separate litter box for each cat.
You can clean out the litter box before you leave or when you come back. For me, I prefer to do it when I’m back than to leave the contents sitting there overnight.
Give Your Cat A Private Corner
Cats are private animals and prefer to have a quiet area where they can sleep, nap and play. This will be also good for you as it will contain your cat in a part of your home rather than have it wander around looking for mischief.
If your cat likes sleeping on the ground, you can get it a comfortable cat bed or a cat tent. Or cats that prefer being up high, a cat tree will be a good addition to your home.
In this area, just place a few cat toys and a scratching post for your cat. These items alone will be more than enough to keep your kitty occupied until you’re back.
Don’t Make A Big Deal About It
It has long been said that our pets feed off our energy and there’s a lot of truth in that. It wouldn’t do you or your cat any good if you were to leave the house each time sounding and behaving like a nervous wreck.
Your cat must be wondering if you are ever coming back every time you step out the front door and the world outside must be an evil place.
When you need to leave the house, just a simple “Bye and be good!” would suffice. Feel free to give your cat a kiss and a hug if you want. Just don’t go moping around your cat like it is a matter of life and death.
When you return home, give your cat some affection and let it know how much you missed it. Make sure to also spend some time with your cat once you are home so that it doesn’t feel neglected.
Leave Your Old Clothes Lying Around
One trick that I’ve discovered that can keep my cat calm is to leave some of my old clothes lying around the house.
Cats are led by their noses due to their very keen sense of smell. And they recognize and bond with their owners through smell.
By leaving some of your worn clothes around the house, your cat can choose to sleep on or close to it. Having your smell so near to your cat will provide some comfort while you are away.
I will usually leave a worn t-shirt on the sofa if I am going to be out for most of the day. When I’m back, I always find a lot of cat fur on it. Proof that my cat prefers sleeping on my clothes than on his usual bed.
Get A Second Cat
This option might not be feasible for everyone but if you can have the financial and mental capacity to afford a second cat, it will make a good companion for your existing cat.
Although cats might not be as sociable as dogs, they can still make good companions for each other.
When choosing a new car, it would be ideal to adopt one that is around the same age as your cat. Adult or senior cats don’t really get along well with much younger cats due to the difference in energy levels. These are very important factors to consider especially if you are thinking of getting a third cat.
It is very important to socialize both cats properly before leaving them alone at home. Cats that dislike each other can get into a lot of fights.
Do Cats Get Sad When Left Alone?
Yes, some cats can get sad and anxious when left alone. If your cat has always been used to having you around the whole day, it can take a while before it’s fine being alone.
But some cats can suffer from separation anxiety when no one is at home. These cats might have been abandoned before or are just more anxious than your average cat.
Cats with separation anxiety can exhibit these symptoms:
- Destructive behavior
- Refusing to eat or drink when you’re not at home
- Peeing and pooing all over the house
- Excessive vocalization
If you suspect that your cat has separation anxiety, you can engage a professional pet sitter to drop in a few times a day to keep it company. For severe cat separation anxiety, I would suggest you take your cat to the vet for treatment.
Behavioral therapy works well for cats with this disorder. The vet might prescribe some anti-anxiety medication for more severe cases.
Can I Leave My Cat Alone While I’m On Vacation?
If you are going to be away for a long period of time for vacation, please cat a pet sitter before you leave. When I mean long, I am referring to more than a day.
I have never left my pets alone at home for more than 24 hours.
You will definitely need a cat sitter to look after your cat while you are away. Do not just leave out a lot of food and water and expect your cat to be ok while you are gone on vacation.
Many things can go wrong with your cat or at home with you gone for so long. Your cat might have hurt itself or there’s a sudden problem with the plumbing or heating.
For your cat’s safety and your own peace of mind, please get a pet sitter while you are away.
It Is Cruel To Crate A Cat While I’m At Work?
I wouldn’t suggest leaving your cat in a crate or small area while you are at work. Cats do not like to feel trapped and leaving your poor kitty in a carrier or small cage will make it more anxious.
Let your cat have free roam of the house or at least in a room big enough to fit all its necessities.
Can Kittens Be Left Alone At Home?
A lot depends on the age of your kitten. If your kitten is just a few weeks to a month old, it needs to be fed every 2-3 hours. From a month to two months of age, kittens need to be fed every 4-5 hours.
Here’s a heads-up for you if you have not had a kitten before. Kittens are always hungry. They sound like you have not fed them for years even when you just fed them a large meal an hour ago.
As a kitten gets older, the need to eat so often will decrease and average about twice a day as adult cats.
Even with an automatic feeder, it would be possible to feed your kitten so often, especially if you need to bottle feed the cat. Kittens need to eat a lot and often or they might start to fade away which can be life-threatening.
Furthermore, kittens are a lot more curious and naughty than adult cats or elderly cats. They would need constant supervision to stop them from getting into trouble.
If you are unable to commit to such a schedule, it would be best to not have a cat this young for now.