When you decide to welcome a new pet into your life, you’re taking on a lot of new responsibilities, as well as accepting a certain amount of inconvenience in your life. For instance, unless you adopt a hairless cat, you’ll have to accept that you’re going to have pet hair in your house. And for the record, those hairless cats tend to have oily skin that leaves marks on your clothes and furniture, so you’re still not out of the woods.
Another sacrifice pet owners make is the ability to indulge in spontaneous travel or overnight stays without having a plan in place to care for their fur babies. Cat owners may think they’ve solved this dilemma by adopting a pet who uses an indoor toilet and doesn’t seem to crave human interaction as dogs do. So how many days can you safely leave a cat alone anyway?
In general, cats should never be left for more than 24 hours without someone at least checking on them. In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons behind this recommendation, as well as go over some options for providing care for your cat no matter how long you’ll be away from home.
Why Your Cat Can’t Stay Home Alone Too Long
Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t leave your cat alone for more than 24 hours.1
Hopefully, your house is already relatively cat-proof, with no toxic houseplants or dangerous substances within reach of your kitty. However, cats are notorious for finding ways to cause trouble or put themselves in danger that you’d never expect. Kind of like toddlers.
If you leave your cat alone for a long time, you run the risk that they’ll get into a dangerous situation or, say, lock themselves in a closet away from their food and water bowls. Having someone check on your cat at least once a day will help eliminate a lot of that risk.
Another reason you don’t want to leave your cat alone too long is that they could develop a medical issue or illness that goes untreated until it’s too late.
Cats are susceptible to some specific conditions that put them more at risk if left alone. For example, male cats can develop a urinary blockage that can quickly become life-threatening if not treated. If a cat, especially an overweight one, stops eating for a few days they can develop a serious condition called hepatic lipidosis.
Changes In Routine
Cats are creatures of habit and any change in routine, such as suddenly being alone or not getting meals when they expect, can be stressful. Stress can play a role in developing one of those medical issues we just discussed. It could also cause your cat to behave inappropriately or unexpectedly, such as becoming destructive or urinating in undesirable locations, like your bed.
Having someone come by to feed your cat meals on time, give medications, or keep up any other daily routines can help keep your cat happier and less stressed while you’re away.
Though it may seem like your cat could care less if you exist as long as their food bowl is full, cats do get lonely and probably notice that you’re gone. Cats can get anxious and bored if left alone.
There are steps you can take to make their environment more stimulating, like providing toys to play with on their own or purchasing a cat tree or window seat. Leaving music or the TV on can also help your cat feel less alone.
However, human interaction is still essential, which is another reason why you’ll want someone to spend a little time with your cat if they must be alone for more than 24 hours.
Even if you have an automatic feeder, automatic litter box, and water fountain, you should still have someone checking on your cat at least once a day. Anything automated is susceptible to malfunction, potentially leaving your cat without food and water or a dirty litter box.
And of course, if your cat needs medications or daily grooming, you’ll need an actual human to perform those tasks.
Cat Care Options
So, if you’re planning to be away from home for more than 24 hours, what are your options for cat care?
Ask A Friend Or Family Member
If you have cat-loving friends or relatives, this may be your easiest and cheapest option for care. You may be able to arrange a care swap with other pet owners or provide a young neighbor with their first job. Just make sure whoever you choose is responsible and reliable, especially if your cat has any special needs.
Hire A Professional Pet Sitter
If you want your cat to stay at home in a familiar environment while you’re gone, another option is to hire a professional pet sitter.
Pet Sitting companies and services are available in many areas. You can also ask your veterinarian if any of their staff provide pet sitting as a side hustle. This is an especially good option if your cat takes medications or has specific medical needs.
The cost of a pet sitter will vary based on where you’re located, how many times a day you want them to come, and what services you need them to provide, such as extra playtime or medication administration.
Take Your Cat To A Boarding Facility
The third option for cat care is to board them outside the house. Many veterinary offices also offer boarding or are affiliated with a boarding facility. These may be a little more expensive than a standalone boarding kennel, but some owners feel better knowing medical care is close by if needed.
The cost of boarding again varies quite a bit, depending on the area and type of facility. Many boarding kennels offer amenities like extra-large cat suites, a cat-only area, grooming services, or “nanny cams” allowing you to check in on your cat as they board.
No matter what type of cat care you choose, what’s most important is making sure your feline friend isn’t left on their own for more than 24 hours. Not only could this pose a health and safety risk to your cat but could be a source of emotional stress and anxiety to them as well. Planning your trips with your cat in mind is a little more complicated and can be more expensive but it’s just a small part of the lifetime responsibility you take on when you get a pet.
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