How long can I leave my cat ‘home alone’?

It is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string because the answer is dependent on many factors. The most important of which is the nature and character of the cat and their routines. What are they used to? What do they like? They may be a largely outdoor cat who pops into their owner’s home for food. Or they might favour being indoors with their retired owner who’s there all the time.

Around 24 hours would be an absolute maximum to leave a cat alone if they have a good relationship with their human caregiver and that’ll cause stress and anxiety for the cat. Although we have to rely on personal experience and the experience of others to decide how long we can leave cats at home alone because, to the best of my knowledge, there are no scientific studies which help us.

I think people realise by now that domestic cats are sociable animals. You cannot, therefore, rely on their mythical independence to decide to leave your cat home alone for days on end with a pile of food and a gallon of water in the kitchen. That really wouldn’t do.

Cat buddies looking out the window

Cat buddies looking out the window. Photograph by Felicity Berkleef.


Personally, I have never left my cat alone for more than about eight hours which means that I have never gone away overnight without him. I take him with me if I visit somebody for an overnight stay. That’s just my personal way of dealing with it. Other people might not be quite so particular. My neighbour, goes away for several days at a time and her neighbour feeds her cat over that period.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Therefore, she is leaving her cat alone for three days at a time. Personally, I think that this is not something which we should aspire to. It’s perhaps just about acceptable but not good. It depends on your standards. It depends also on how close the domestic cat is to their human guardian/caretaker.

Some relationships are very loose and their cats spend a lot of time outside with little contact between cat and human. Under these circumstances you could leave your cat alone for longer. If your cat is very close to you, he’ll feel the separation. We don’t know much about domestic cat loneliness but we know that they suffer from separation anxiety, a well-known condition.

I would suggest that if you are very close to your cat, staying away for half day is enough and he’ll probably feel a little anxious and be waiting for you behind the front door when you arrive home. Twenty-four hours would be stretching it.

You can see signs of stress in cats caused by being alone for too long and too often. One of the classic signs is cystitis causing urinating outside the litter box in small and sometimes bloody doses.

But there’s no hard answer to the question in the title. It depends upon the cat, the circumstances, how close you are to your cat, whether there is more than one cat in the family and whether they get along very well. It also depends upon the individual cat and their character.

Jackson Galaxy

Jackson galaxies sees a lot of cat behavioural problems in many of America’s homes. We can turn to him for his viewpoint on this. He believes that domestic cats are social animals as evidenced by feral cat colonies. I believe that domestic cats have become social although their wild cat ancestor is not a social animal.

And the natural consequence in the words of Jackson Galaxy is that “a cat alone 12 hours a day needs more stimulation.”

He does believe that it is better to adopt two cat provided they get along and he has seen many resident domestic cat being very upset about the introduction of a new cat to the home. But clearly it is much better to leave two cats who are friends with each other home alone for 12 hours than it is to leave a single cat by themselves alone for the same period of time.


Psychology Today tells us that it is acceptable to leave dogs alone for four hours but any longer may affect their welfare. That’s a guideline for cats. If we accept that cats are more tolerant of being alone (which is not certain by any means) I think it supports my guideline of 12 hours as a rough maximum.

Maximum amount of time a dog should be left alone is four hours


The point is that cats can tolerate days being home alone. That’s obvious but do you want your cat to simply tolerate being alone? This is not a very good standard of cat caretaking. Returning to the question, it’s really about standards and what you feel you can put your cat through in terms of emotional discomfort. The higher the standard the shorter the time you’ll leave your cats alone.

It is not just about food, water and being alone

Leaving your cat alone for long periods is leaving your cat unsupervised over that time. There is always the risk of injury, particularly for outdoor cats. Let’s say that your cat is injured on day one of your absence. By day three that injury might prove to be fatal. We are around to keep our cats safe and to respond to their needs.


I would say that you could leave your cat’s home alone for a day by which I mean 12 hours but if you have to leave them alone overnight without any attendance from anybody else, that, in my view, is not acceptable. If there are two cats left alone and they get along great the overnight absences are more acceptable.

As this article relies upon anecdotal evidence i.e. the personal experiences of good cat caretakers, I should be most pleased if people commented and told me their personal standards and experiences on this topic. I am sure many will say that they leave their cats alone at home for days on end without problems. Fine. But how are you so sure that there are no problems? You can’t read the mind of domestic cats. The best you can achieve is reading signs through behavior and body language. That’s not 100%.


I’ve mentioned one solution which is to adopt two cats but they must get along otherwise the whole point of it is fatally undermined. A couple of cat in a home which is highly enriched to stimulate them mentally is far better for a cat left at home for 12 hours than in a sterile environment. That’s common sense. So, one thing a person can do is to enrich their home. If you want to read about that on this website then please use the search facility and search for “enriched environment”.

A catio is part of creating an enriched environment. Allowing your cat outside unsupervised will certainly help but it goes without saying that there are safety problems in that solution. It depends where you live.

Of course, if you are away for more than 12 hours you should get a cat sitter. I favour a cat sitter over a cat boarding cattery which can be quite stressful places. The cat sitter must be highly trustworthy because too many cats escape under the circumstances because they are living with somebody they don’t know.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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