Do Cats Get Lonely If Left Home Alone All Day?

Cats can spend time alone if they're equipped to entertain themselves but need human interaction after a certain point. Find out when that is.

By Marilyn Krieger | Updated: October 12, 2014, 12 p.m. PDT

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People say, "The great thing about cats is that they have no concept of time. So its not like they're staring at the clock saying, 'Man, where is he?' Plus, cats sleep most of the day. How can I explain that to non-cat people?" 

There is a common misconception that it’s OK to leave a cat alone for hours every day without a human or other animal to interact with.

Pet cats need stimuli and interaction. It is not uncommon for cats to develop behavior challenges because they are left alone without companionship. Many of my cat-behavior cases exist because the cats have been left alone all day long without stimulation or another animal or person to interact with.

If you're gone for more than a day, arrange for a pet sitter come in and play with your cat during the day. Consider hiring a pet sitter to give your cat fresh food and water and clean the litterbox when spending a night away.

It's true that cats don’t look at clocks, nor do they wear watches. They do have their own internal clocks and their own cat-concept of time, however, so cats become accustomed to activities occurring at the same time on a consistent basis. It is one of the ways they measure time. Cats know your regular schedule: knows when you normally wake up, provide breakfast and dinner, clean the cat box, beditme, playtime, etc. Consistency is very important to a cat. Regular interaction with their human and animal companions is an important parts of cats’ worlds.

Depending on the cat and the circumstances, cats can become stressed when taken to different environments. Bringing a cat to overnighters might not be the best option if other animals will be there. Also, many cats do not adjust well to new situations. Cats do best going into different places when they are acclimated to changing environments as kittens.
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Reader Comments

kelly    columbus, OH

10/21/2014 5:09:28 PM

my husband and i have two cats, if we leave them alone together overnight with plenty of food and water, will they be ok? they get along pretty well, and enjoy playing together and bathing each other. are they company enough?

Jennifer    Morgantown, OH

10/21/2014 2:20:31 PM

I have leaving my buddy home alone, but we both work and it's just a fact of life. We do two things to help him keep from getting too lonely. First, we keep the radio on (NPR news) so that he hears human voices.

Second, we got him a cat window patio. It's called a "kitty peeper" and fits in the window like an air conditioner, has three screened in sides, and he absolutely LOVES it, and uses it all the time, even sleeping in it when it's warm and sunny, and can feel less lonely through the stimulation it provides him. We live in Ohio, but have found it does not "leak" a whole lot even in the colder months, and have never once removed it from the window in the nearly two years since we've had it. You can find them here: LINK

Between these two things, we feel comfortable he is less lonely while we're not at home. Hope this helps a few fellow CatChannel readers!

Angie    Grayson, GA

10/20/2014 12:18:37 PM

I read this article to help calm my nerves. I live in an apartment complex and my neighbors have disappeared (not sure what the issue is), however the office said that they haven't paid rent and they are most likely not coming back. But they left a cat in the apartment, with one window slightly cracked. It always paws at the window and meows for attention and my heart is always broken whenever I see him.

I called the office 4 times about the cat and wanting to get update. They are trying to get through legal issues apparently before taking the cat to animal control (or whoever wants to adopt the cat). They said someone's been going in to feed him and meet its basic needs, but I can't help but think they are only doing this every 2-3 days, meaning the cat is having no human/animal interaction for a couple of days straight.

It just sucks always seeing the cat staring out the window, wanting to get some fresh air and feel the sun. But it's just stuck inside all day. I don't know what I can do. Reading this article has somewhat helped, but I still feel awful for that poor baby.

Denise    Everett, WA

10/14/2014 5:06:37 PM

Usually if I'm going to be away all day (or longer) I put on the only DVD that loops; it's a Wallace and Grommit video. I only wish that I had more DVDs, so that my cat could have a wider range of things to watch. Of course, I wish that we had DVD players that could play more than one DVD, like cd players.

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