Yes, cats do get lonely despite the fact that people think that domestic cats are solitary animals. Cats get lonely in the context that they miss their human companion or if they have a cat companion they might miss him/her. It is loneliness as a form of separation anxiety.
The word “lonely” might not be 100% applicable to a domestic cat because it is a word formulated for human use. It means to be sad because one has no friends or company. I think we can conclude that cats certainly miss the company of their human companion if they are not around for a long time during the day.
And also, if two cats have lived together for a long time and one of them dies, the remaining cat will feel that loss. Loneliness is an emotional state and humans are realising that cats feel emotions just like themselves. We are still discovering the variety and depth of emotions in domestic cats but thankfully we now accept that cats do feel emotions which must be good for cat welfare.
Cat loneliness can lead to stress just as in humans. It can be debilitating and it can affect health. For example, a cat can develop cystitis due to stress. A domestic cat might overgroom to relieve stress. When a cat overgrooms it is usually in areas of the body which are easily accessible such as on the belly and on the insides of the hind legs.
Cat owners don’t know what their cat is doing or feeling when they are away from their home for long periods. If they knew they might be surprised. Certainly, dogs are known to show behavioural distress when left alone in the home for long hours.
The domestic cat is adapted to social living and they need our company. When it’s not there they miss it. You can call that loneliness if you like.
What do you think? Do you have any experiences of cats being lonely?