A problem that most cat owners will face is how to make the necessary arrangements for their cats when they need to be away from home for a period of time.
Most cat owners feel that it should be alright to leave a cat at home alone for some time as long as they have access to fresh food and water, usually via an automatic pet feeder which will allow fresh food and water to be dispensed either with your manual control or on a prefixed setting.
I will not disagree with their point of view, except I will ask them this question: How long do you intend to leave your cat alone?
The Length of Time
The length of time is a very important factor, if not the most, when it comes to answering this question.
Think about it. Most people leave their cats at home alone for 8-10 hours due to their work schedule, and there are little to no accidents. Dry food can be placed before going to work and replaced after coming home from work to ensure that the cats have fresh food every day.
But what happens if you are going to be away for an entire day (24 hours)? Or the entire weekend (48 hours)? Perhaps even longer?
Generally, if you are going to be away for more than 24 hours, you will have to start to consider making arrangements on how to care for your cat without your physical presence.
Under most circumstances, it is recommended that your cat should not be left alone (without any human) for more than 48 hours, especially if you only have one cat. This is because cats do need social interactions (with other humans or cats) even if they may seem to be really independent and want to be left alone most of the times.
If the length of time exceeds 48 hours, boarding or pet-sitting is a must – mainly because of the litter box. Even if your cat knows how to use the toilet, loneliness is still a factor that have to be considered. Loneliness and anxiety in a cat often manifest in one of these ways:
- Excessive grooming – you may see a lot of furballs on the floor or your cat’s coat thinning (at certain areas).
- Not doing her business in the litter box – and it will usually be on something that you frequently use (with a lot of your scent), such as your bed or the sofa.
- Clingy behavior after your return – following you around the house and asking you to pet/play with him/her more often than usual.
- Destructive behavior – scratching furniture instead of scratching posts even though they are available and tearing apart things (such as newspapers and plastic bags) are most commonly seen.
Preparations You Should Make
In the case where you want to leave your cat alone at home, there are some preparations that you have to make:
1. Have an automatic pet feeder topped with fresh dry kibbles and drinking water.
Depending on the automatic pet feeder you get, it may or may not come with a water system. If it does not, you may have to get an additional water fountain that you keep on power throughout your entire vacation.
2. Have toys or things placed around the house.
Since you will not be there to entertain your cat, you will have to provide some form of entertainment for him/her. Good options are ball of strings, paper bags, or small squeaky plush toys that they can bite with their mouth easily. Hanging feathers or round bells that make noises on the cat tree is another way if you are concerned about the cleaning up after your cat has his/her enjoyment.
3. Keep the bedroom doors closed (and the toilet door and seat open).
The former is mainly for those owners who do not want their cat entering the bedrooms, while the latter is for those who toilet train their cat. There were instances where cat owners left their bedroom doors open or kept the toilet seat closed (to prevent mosquitoes from breeding). Let’s just say that they ended up with a mess that they did not really want to clean up.
Boarding or Pet-Sitting?
Most cat owners will opt for either boarding or pet-sitting if they are away for more than 48 hours.
Boarding is sending your cat to a centre where they will care for your cat. You cat will have to be vaccinated. Your cat will have his/her own cage, and depending on the boarding services offered, you may have to bring your own supplies, especially the food that you intend to feed your cat. Other services such as grooming or daily exercise may be offered with additional charges, depending on the boarding centre you opt for.
However, it is not uncommon to welcome your cat home with problems such as ticks if other animals in the boarding centre has them. Your cat may also be stressed due to a change in environment, and hence may exhibit certain stress-related behaviors (such as being overly aggressive) for some time.
Pet-sitting is when someone comes over to your house. This is often done by either a trusted friend/neighbor or a professional pet-sitter. In addition to replenishing food and water, they will spend some quality time with your cat either through hugging, talking, and/or playing with him/her. If you have any special requests (both cat and non-cat related, such as bringing your cat for a walk every few days or watering your indoor plants for you), most will be happy to settle them for you.
Trust is a prime factor in this case. People who opt for boarding instead of pet-sitting often mention that it is because they do not trust anyone else entering their home without their presence, even though the service can be tailored, are usually cheaper than boarding, and induce lesser stress in the cat.
Some Final Words
Ultimately, what you choose should be what you can afford and what you think will be the most suitable in your case. While we are able to offer advice, you are the one that has to make the decision.
Overall, keeping the cat alone at home is okay under 48 hours as long as there are fresh food and water available. It will be a boost if someone could check in everyday to ensure that everything is going fine. If you intend to be away for more than 48 hours, sending your cat for boarding or arranging for a pet-sitter is the recommended way to go.
If you have any questions that you want to ask, anything you wish to clarify, or simply want to express your thoughts and feelings, feel free to leave a comment!