Can I Leave My Cat Alone For A Week

sad grey tabby cat

Last updated on June 6th, 2023 at 08:51 am

So you have to go away for a few days. But what are you going to do with your cat while you are away? Is it okay to leave your cat home alone and, if so, for how long?

Exactly how long you can leave your cat at home alone varies depending on the cat’s temperament and specific needs. Cats in single-cat households that are highly dependent on their humans or have specific medical or dietary needs should never be left alone for more than a day or two at the most.

No matter how independent and self-sufficient cats may seem, it’s important to make sure they are cared for properly when you leave them on their own for any amount of time. In this blog post, we’ll explore all the things you should consider before leaving your kitty home alone.

Do Cats Get Separation Anxiety?

Cats are naturally independent creatures, but they still enjoy having their humans around and can become anxious when left alone for too long.

The work-from-home directives and lockdowns resulting from the Covid pandemic in the early 2000s didn’t affect just people, it affected pets as well.

Cats that were used to having the house to themselves all day suddenly had people in their space 100% of the time. This resulted in stressed and grumpy cats.

At the same time, more people were getting pets since they were home all the time. This generation of pets was accustomed to having their human around all the time.

When the lockdowns ended and people went back to work, these “pandemic pets” were suddenly left alone, resulting in a lot of pets – cats and dogs – suffering from separation anxiety.

What Are The Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Cats?

Signs of separation anxiety in cats include:

  • excessive vocalizing
  • stop using the litter box
  • destructive behavior,
  • loss of eating too much or overeating
  • vomiting hairballs or food
  • excessively grooming themselves

Understand Your Cat’s Needs And Temperament

No two cats are the same. Some cats are better able to handle alone time than others, so it’s important to consider your cat’s individual needs when deciding if they can be left alone for a week.

Let’s look at some of the things to think about when deciding if and how long your cat can be left at home alone.

Are They An “Only Cat”?

If your cat is the only pet, then it’s important to consider the impact of leaving them alone for a full week. Cats that are used to having companionship will experience loneliness and stress when left on their own.

orange and white cat cuddling with a grey brown tabby cat

Is Your Cat Closely Bonded To You Or Another Family Member?

I used to have a cat that was orphaned when she was a week old. I bottle-fed her until she was able to drink on her own, and she slept in a shoebox by my pillow so I could hear her when she woke up during the night.

She grew up very bonded to me – I was her surrogate mother, sibling, and human all rolled into one. Even when other cats or people were in the house, she had to be with me and would pace and call for me when I wasn’t home.

This was a cat that couldn’t be left home alone for a week. Back then I didn’t know better, and I made the mistake once of leaving her for a week and coming home to find her extremely traumatized. It took months before I was able to leave her sight without her becoming frantic.

The point of this story is that if your cat is very closely bonded to you or another family member, leaving them alone for unusually long periods of time can be very traumatic for them. This could be as little as one night away if they are accustomed to having their human home every night.

Is Your Cat Closely Bonded To Another Cat In The House?

On the flip side, if you have more than one cat in the house and they are closely bonded to each other, they are not as dependent on their human for comfort, affection, and companionship. Sometimes they may barely even acknowledge your existence!

Cats that are closely bonded to other cats in the household are less upset when their humans’ routine changes.

So long as their day-to-needs are being met as per their normal routine, they can be left alone longer than cats who have no other cat companions or those that are tightly bonded to their owner.

Do Your Cats Regularly Fight With Each Other?

Even if you have two or more cats in the house and think they may get along fine, take a good hard look at their relationship before you decide to leave them alone for more than a day.

Just a few days ago, my daughter had to take one of her cats to the vet. She has two cats, which in general get along though they are not closely bonded. They were not known to fight – much.

On this occasion, one cat swatted the other, hooking a claw under an eyelid and creating a large tear that needed emergency treatment. If this had happened while the cats were left alone for days, the outcome would have been much worse.

So if your cats do not already get along well, you may want to think twice about leaving them together for a week.

What Is Your Cat’s Feeding Routine?

Some people think that if they just leave out a huge bowl of dry kibble and an equally big bowl of water then their cat will be just fine alone for a few days.

This might be true if the cat’s usual feeding routine is free choice dry kibble, but what if it is not? If your cat is used to having food prepared for them and at certain times, leaving out a bowl of dry kibble will not be enough.

Cats that have wet or raw food as part of their diet need to be fed fresh food daily. You cannot leave “extra” of these foods out for your cat to eat later. You wouldn’t do this with human food due to food safety risks, and your cat is just as susceptible to food poisoning as you are.

You cannot leave cats alone for even a day if they are reliant on wet or raw food. Expecting these cats to suddenly eat dry kibble only risks dehydration (cats fed wet foods get a significant portion of their daily water this way) or gastrointestinal upset.

Also, if your cat is a piggy, leaving out free choice food when that is not their normal routine can upset their stomach as well. Just imagine coming home to a week’s worth of cat vomit and diarrhea!

blue scottish fold kitten in a wicker basket

Does Your Cat Have Any Special Health Needs?

Cats with special medical needs should never be left alone for more than a day or two. Even if you have someone coming in to check on your cat and give them medication, it is not ideal for the animal’s well-being.

Special health needs cats require regular monitoring and close contact with their caretaker to ensure that their condition is being properly managed.

Leaving them alone for a week can make managing their health needs much more difficult and increases the risk of an emergency situation occurring.

What Happens If You Leave A Cat Alone For Too Long?

Leaving cats alone for too long can potentially lead to a number of behavioral and physical issues.

If no one is home, cats become bored and stressed. This can cause them to lash out or start engaging in destructive behaviors such as excessive vocalizing, scratching furniture, or urinating outside the litter box.

They may also begin to develop anxiety or depression as they don’t have anyone to pay attention to them. Physically, cats left alone too long are also at risk of becoming malnourished or dehydrated.

Can I Leave My Cat Alone For A Week?

Now that you have worked your way through our list of things to consider before deciding to leave your cat home alone, we can revisit the question – can you leave your cat alone for a week?

Ultimately, it depends on the individual cat – their personality, needs, and health. But even in the best of circumstances, I would never recommend leaving any cat alone for an entire week.

If you have more than one cat and they are each other’s best friend and companion, these cats are least likely to be harmed by being alone for a week.

But even here, you should have someone checking on them daily to feed them, make sure they are staying out of trouble, and spend a little time with them.

Cats that are the only cat in the home and/or are strongly bonded to you or another family member will be extremely traumatized by being left alone for a week.

Is It Okay To Leave A Cat Alone For Five Days?

The answer to this question is the same as if you asked about leaving a cat alone for a week – it depends on the individual cat.

If your cat has special health needs, normally eats wet or raw food, has separation anxiety, or is strongly bonded to one person in particular then no, five days will be too long.

However, if your cat is relatively low maintenance, fairly independent, and enjoys the company of other cats then five days may be fine in certain circumstances. Make sure to check on our list above and use your best judgement before deciding if this is a viable option for your cat.

Even if your cat is very independent and has other cats for company, you should still have someone checking in on them daily to make sure everything is okay.

grey tabby cat with a toy stuffie

Is It Okay To Leave A Cat Alone For Three Days?

If your cat is independent and is not on a diet of wet or raw food and doesn’t need daily medication, then leaving them alone for three days may be okay.

Be sure to provide plenty of food and water before you leave and have someone stop by once or twice to check on them.

Cats that are very reliant on their humans, anxious when left alone, or have special medical needs should not be left alone for three days.

Can I Leave My Cat Alone For The Weekend?

I currently have two cats of my own. While one sleeps with me often, she is quite happy to sleep with the other cat as well. And the other cat doesn’t seem to care about me at all, she just wants to be where the first cat is!

This is a pair of cats that could comfortably be left alone for a weekend. They eat mainly dry kibble, they get along well and like each other’s company, and are not particularly concerned with my whereabouts most of the time.

That said, 48 hours is still the longest I would leave them home alone. The risk of something untoward happening increases the longer one is away, and I am not comfortable with the risk.

If I do have to go away longer than a weekend, I make sure someone else is home or else I get a house/pet sitter to come in.

Unless your own cat is on a wet or raw food diet, or super needy, or needs daily medication, then there’s little reason why it shouldn’t be able to handle two days of being alone.

What Do I Need To Do If I Am Going To Leave My Cat Home Alone?

If you have decided that it is okay to leave your cat home alone for a few days, there are some things you need to consider and prepare for before doing so.

Food And Water

First, make sure your cat has plenty of food and water available – enough for the entire duration of the time you will be away and then some. It’s also important that wet or raw food is not left out or it will spoil.

If your cat is a piggy and needs restricted feeding, you may want to consider using an automatic feeder to dole out the correct amount of food each day.

However, do not get one just before your trip. You will want to use it for at least a week in advance to ensure that it works properly and that your cat is not afraid of it.

Also, consider getting a pet water dispenser dish. These hold a quart of water or more, depending on size, and dispense water into the dish as it is used. This is a great way to make sure that your cat is not going to spill all of its water while you are away.

Clean Litter Box

Second, make sure the litter box is clean and has enough litter in it for the duration of your trip.

Some cats are finicky about their litter box, and will not use it if it is even the slightest bit dirty. A self-cleaning litter box would be just the thing you need (it is beneficial even when you are home!)

Again, don’t get a new litter box just before your trip. Make sure you get it at least a week in advance, to give your cat time to get used to it.

If you have more than one cat, make sure you have more than one litter box so there are no arguments about who gets to use it! The general rule of thumb is to have one more litterbox than you have cats.

grey and white cat playing in a cat tree

Playtime

Third, make sure that your cat has plenty of toys and things to do while you are away.

A scratching post, scratching pads, all of their favorite toys as well as some new ones scattered around to discover, and hidden treats to find can be great distractions for cats left home alone.

Treat dispensing toys are great interactive toys that provide them with rewards even when you are not there do to it yourself.

Ambient Noise

Fourth, cats are animals that like routine and familiarity, so having some sort of ambient noise such as a TV or radio playing can be beneficial when you are away.

This helps to make them feel less alone and gives them something familiar to listen to while you are gone.

I like to put on the news channel (as depressing as that might be for people) or other “talk show” type channels so that cats hear voices and conversations, which may be more familiar than music or movie soundtracks.

Cat Proof Your House

Fifth, you might think your cat is already cat-proof, but have another look around to see if it is really cat-proof.

Look for electrical cords, houseplants that might be toxic if eaten, the garbage is all taken out, or any other items you don’t want your cat to get into while you are away.

Anything that is sitting on a counter, shelf, or ledge – assume your cat is going to get up there and push it off. After all, that’s what cats do! They might not do this normally, but if they get bored in your absence you never know what they might get up to.

Make Sure All Escape Routes Are Blocked

Sixth, ensure all windows and doors are securely closed so your cat can’t get out while you’re away. And always double-check!

I’ll never forget when I was a kid and we went away for a few days, leaving our two cats in the house. We came back to missing cats and a note from the police – our door didn’t latch properly when we left, and our neighbors reported it to the police after a couple of days.

We came back to a closed door and no cats – the officers had kindly locked and closed our door but did not know we had cats! Fortunately, the cats hung around and came home, but it was quite a scare for all of us.

Have Friends Or Family Check On Your Cats

Finally, if you are going to be gone longer than a day or two, ask friends or family to come over and check on your cats.

A neighbor may also be willing to do this for you as well – it’s always best to have a daily check-in, just in case something goes wrong.

Conclusion

Having to leave your cat alone for any length of time can be stressful but with the right preparation, you can rest assured that your cat will be safe and content while you are away.

While I do not recommend leaving a cat alone for more than a weekend even under the best of circumstances, certain cats in specific situations can be left alone for more than that.

Just make sure you have taken all the right steps to prepare for your cat, like ensuring their basic needs and safety are taken care of, and have someone check them daily to make sure they are healthy and safe.

orange tabby peeking over a white countertop

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins, DVM, PhD

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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