Can cats be left alone during the day?

Can cats be left alone during the day? This is a question that people are asking Google. You have to answer it in a common sense way because I don’t think you’ll find studies on it. I can also rely on personal experience.

Snoozing away the hours alone
Snoozing away the hours alone. This picture is in the public domain and its purpose is to illustrate the page. The cat is not mine.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The first points to make are (1) domestic cats have become quite sociable animals over their thousands of years of domestication and (2) their human guardian is, or should be, their primarily companion and significant other with whom they socialise if it is a single cat household.

Bearing these points in mind the common sense answer is, yes, cats can be left alone all day but it is far from ideal as they will miss their owner although they may adapt to it and tolerate it. And if they are allowed outside safely it will help to fill the time.

Personal experience

For a couple of years I lived in a large apartment with my cat. She became a full-time indoor cat except for the odd supervised excursion outside. I was working full-time and therefore my cat was alone all day. She would sleep behind the front door and wait for me to come home. Thinking of that now I feel sad and bad. I had no choice at the time.

She developed cystitis due to stress. Perhaps part of the problem was that she had previously be allowed out. The solitary confinement was almost bound to be stressful. That is the only time I have had this sort of cat owning arrangement and I don’t think it works at all well. It feels like a failure to me and yet it is probably very common.

As mentioned domestic cats are very adaptable and persevering. They are also uncomplaining so you might not be aware of any distress or emotional discomfort that your cat might be feeling because she is alone during the day. She will put up with it.

Although her emotions may become apparent in her behaviour such as overgrooming parts of her body which are easily accessible or, as in my case, cystitis which can be caused or exacerbated by stress. Ninety percent of hair loss in domestic cats is caused by overgrooming and hair loss is not uncommon in house cats. Cats calm themselves by grooming as it is pleasurable. That’s the connection between stress and licking themselves too much.

Second cat?

You’ll probably be thinking that a second cat would resolve the problem and it might. Jackson Galaxy recommends that people adopt two cats from shelters if they are known to be a pair of cats who can be called a couple e.g. siblings who get on. This takes away some of the responsibility on the owner to play with their cat as they can entertain each other and rest together. However, both of them will miss their owner if she is out all day. Also it is quite hard to find a pair of cats at a shelter who are a known couple.

I am sure there are many instances where cats in multi-cat homes ‘get along’ and accept each other but how friendly are they with each other? Are they able to provide emotional support to each other when left alone all day? It might be tricky to assess that with certainty.

Three days?

People also ask how long cats can be left alone. Can it be three days? People ask this because they are going away for a short break and they are trying to figure out how to deal with their cat. Personally I’d never leave my cat alone for three days but if you have a very responsible and cat loving neighbour who you and your cat know well you can set up the obvious arrangement whereby she comes over to your home once or twice daily over the three days to play with your cat and feed and water her. Personally I would only recommend this if the cat is an indoor/outdoor cat because even with a daily visit the cat is still almost entirely alone for three days.

Standards

It comes down to standards of cat guardianship. You can’t say that leaving your cat alone all day every day is wrong in an absolute sense but it can’t be described as good cat guardianship. It is mediocre-to-bad in my view but I have the luxury of being retired which allows me to be with my cat all day, every day. Fortunately I am allowed to set myself high standards. Sometimes circumstances prevent it. And also sometimes mediocre standards of cat ownership are much better for the cat than her previous lifestyle which may have been in very poor conditions or in a shelter where euthanasia was a possibility.

It is about relative standards, circumstances and doing one’s best for your cat. I just don’t think that domestic cats in a single cat home should be left alone all day. What do you think? Please provide your feedback.

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