As a lifelong cat owner and pet writer, I’m frequently asked questions relating to cat care. One of the most common questions is how many days a cat can be left home alone while its owners are on vacation or traveling for business. Leaving a cat home by itself is a common practice, and many people think it’s perfectly safe. Most owners don’t ask the question out of fear for their cat’s physical wellbeing; they usually just want to know if their cat will be lonely or if it will tear up the house while they’re gone.
I always tell people that I wouldn’t leave a cat home alone for more than 24 hours without someone checking on them at least once a day. Most are astonished and many think I’m crazy. They believe that if you leave food and water for the cat, it will be perfectly fine. After all, scores of people have left their cat home alone and when they returned it was alive and well. However, I know from experience (mine as well as others) that this is not always the case.
Why Not Leave a Cat Home Alone?
I have many valid reasons for believing that owners should not go away and leave their cat home alone for days as a time. Even the most independent-minded feline is not capable of taking care of itself if something should go wrong. Outdoor cats can get hit by a car, attacked by a dog or poisoned by antifreeze and other toxic substances. Some think keeping the cat indoors ensures its safety, but accidents can happen inside the home too.
Your cat could knock over their water dish and be left with none to drink, or spill it into their bowl of kibble which turns it into bacteria-laden mush. They could knock over a vase and cut their foot on broken glass. Your water pipes could burst and flood the house, preventing your cat from getting to its food, litter box or a safe sleeping spot.
Cats left home alone tend to get bored and look for something to do. They climb up onto things like bookcases, and can knock them over and get pinned underneath. Cats can get tangled up in drapery cords and be unable to free themselves. A burglar could break into your home, enabling your cat to escape out the broken window. If your wandering cat gets picked up by the local animal shelter as a stray, he might be euthanized before you can return home to claim him.
My point is, any number of accidents could occur at home while you are having fun on your vacation. People rationalize leaving their cat home alone by saying that they’ve done it many times and nothing happened. This is faulty logic. You’ve likely driven your car hundreds of times and never had an accident, but it doesn’t guarantee that the very next time you get behind the wheel, you won’t. If no one comes to check on your cat while you’re gone, you could come home to a sick, injured or dead cat. If you love your cat, why would you want that?
Alternatives to Leaving a Cat Home Alone
There are plenty of options for responsible pet owners who choose not to leave their cat home along while they are away. At the very least, you can arrange for a neighbor, friend or relative to come in and check on them once a day. An even better option is to hire a professional pet sitter to come once or twice a day. A pet sitter will make sure your cat has food and water; they will pet your cat and play with them, and give them medication if need be. Some even water plants, bring in your mail and turn lights on and off so burglars don’t know the house is temporarily unoccupied.
Pet sitters cost very little when compared to the potential vet bills an accident could cost you, not to mention the heartache and stress. To find a professional pet sitter, ask your vet or other pet owners for a referral, and be sure to check their references. There are also online sites that offer searchable listings, such as Petsitters.org, PetSitUSA.com and Petsit.com.
How long can you leave your cat home alone? To be safe rather than sorry, if you’re going to be gone for more than 24 hours, arrange for someone to come and check on them once a day. The risk of leaving a cat home alone is simply not worth it.