The Truth About Leaving Cats Home Alone All Day


Cats are often viewed as independent, aloof creatures that like their solitude. In fact, their reputation as a “low maintenance” pet stems from the perception that cats are perfectly content being left alone for long stretches while their humans are away at work or on vacation. But is this really true? Can cats be left to their own devices all day, or are there risks associated with leaving them unattended for too long?

While certain cats adjust well to time alone, others may become anxious or stressed when their owner is gone for extended periods. Much depends on the individual cat’s personality and needs. An outgoing and playful cat that thrives on human interaction would likely not do as well alone all day as a more independent, reserved feline. Kittens and senior cats also may require more companionship and activity. Still, there are general guidelines all cat owners should consider before committing to an 8+ hour daily absence.

Cats as Solitary Creatures

While cats may have originated from social species like lions, over time domestic cats have evolved to become more solitary in nature (cite1). This means they are quite comfortable being left alone for periods of time without much human interaction. In fact, many cats prefer having their own space and alone time (cite2). Their independent spirit and ability to entertain themselves makes most domestic cats well-suited to being left home alone during the day while their owners are out.

Cats are very different from dogs in this regard. Dogs have evolved to be social pack animals, making them much more dependent on having constant human companionship. Cats, on the other hand, do not need people around constantly and do not get separation anxiety when left alone the way some dogs do.

So the solitary nature of cats means they often do just fine with no humans around during work hours or other times when owners need to be out of the house. Their personalities tend to make them perfectly content being left to their own devices for much of the day.

Potential Problems

Leaving cats alone for extended periods can lead to boredom, stress, and destructive behaviors. Cats are naturally active and inquisitive animals that need mental stimulation and physical activity. When left alone all day with no outlet for their energy, cats may resort to undesirable behaviors like excessive meowing, furniture scratching, urinating outside the litterbox, and more (source). Cats are also very routine-oriented; major disruptions to their normal feeding, playtime, and human interaction can cause anxiety. They may pace, overgroom, or act out due to stress. The longer cats are left alone, the more likely these problematic behaviors become.

Kittens in particular have a lot of pent up energy and require active playtime and human bonding throughout the day. Leaving a kitten alone for over 4-6 hours is not recommended, as they are prone to developing behavioral issues if their needs are not met. Adult cats can typically tolerate more time alone, but anything longer than 24 hours invites stress and misbehavior (source). Providing toys and activities can help stave off boredom, but most cats still prefer having human company.

Litter Box Needs

Cats need regular access to a clean litter box when left alone during the day. According to Bayshore Loves Pets, healthy cats will use the litter box 3-5 times per day for both urination and defecation. If the litter box is not cleaned regularly throughout the day, it can become dirty and unhygienic for your cat.

The general recommendation is to scoop solid waste from the litter box once per day at minimum, but twice daily is better for maintaining cleanliness and controlling odor. The litter itself should be dumped out, cleaned, and refilled with fresh litter at least once a week. Automatic, self-cleaning litter boxes are also an option to help maintain cleanliness for cats left home alone.

Without access to a regularly cleaned litter box, cats may start having accidents around the house or develop health issues. Ensuring your cat has a clean place to relieve themselves is an essential part of their daily care when leaving them alone.

Food and Water Needs

Cats need access to fresh food and water throughout the day. The general recommendation is to feed an adult cat two meals per day, spaced about 12 hours apart. Kittens and pregnant/nursing cats may need to eat more frequently, such as three to four times per day. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, “Once the cat becomes an adult, at about one year, feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases.”

It’s important to ensure cats always have access to clean, fresh water. The water bowl should be kept far away from the food bowl and scooped/refilled at least once per day. Cats are prone to dehydration, so a cat that’s left alone all day needs multiple water sources placed around the home. Some cats prefer drinking from a running water fountain.

While free-feeding dry food is an option, it’s better to stick to a routine feeding schedule for portion control. Leaving too much food out can lead to overeating and obesity over time. But keeping some extra dry food available in case they finish early can work.

So in summary, an adult cat left alone during the day needs access to:

– At least two scheduled feedings of wet and/or dry food
– Multiple fresh water sources
– A small amount of extra dry food as needed

This feeding routine helps satisfy nutritional needs and prevents issues like dehydration, hunger, or excessive weight gain.

Play Time

Playtime is vitally important for a cat’s mental and physical health. Cats have a strong natural instinct to hunt, chase, and pounce, so they need activities that allow them to express these natural behaviors. According to PetMD, just one hour of playtime can increase a cat’s lifespan by four hours. Play encourages exercise, helps maintain a healthy weight, and provides mental stimulation.

Indoor cats especially need substantial playtime and environmental enrichment to thrive. Without adequate outlets for their energy, cats may become bored, depressed, or destructive. Interactive play with toys that allow for chasing, pouncing, and hunting helps satisfy a cat’s predatory instincts. Things like feather wands, laser pointers, balls, and treat puzzles are excellent for play. Provide at least 1-2 hours of playtime with your cat daily.


Pet-proofing your home before leaving your cat alone is crucial to avoid potential dangers. Cats are naturally curious and will explore and get into anything they can access. Make sure to secure any unsafe areas where your cat could get stuck or trapped. Keep all toxic substances like cleaning solutions high up or locked away. Deter access to dangerous areas like balconies with sturdy screens.

Remove any choking hazards like rubber bands or string from low surfaces. Also put away any delicate items that could shatter or valuables your cat could knock off shelves. Cover up any poisonous houseplants and anchor any unstable furniture to the walls. Keep toilet lids down and use child locks to secure cupboards with harmful contents inside. Take the time to thoroughly cat-proof your home before leaving kitty alone all day.


Providing enrichment activities is crucial for keeping cats engaged and stimulated when left home alone all day. Simple DIY projects like homemade puzzle feeders can turn mealtime into an engaging challenge. Place dry food into a muffin tin or cardboard egg carton and cover the holes with tennis balls – cats will enjoy batting the balls around to get to the kibble. You can also hide treats or kibble around the house for your cat to hunt and forage when alone. Rotating different puzzles and activities will keep cats mentally stimulated.

Be sure to provide playtime right before you leave for the day and right when you return. Wands and feather toys allow interactive play with your cat to get energy out. Provide scratching posts, cat towers, and perches at window spots with interesting views for cats to climb, scratch, and observe when alone. Catnip and interactive toys will also hold your cats’ interest when they’re by themselves. Just be sure to rotate the items so they don’t get bored. Cats typically sleep 70% of the day, so quality playtime is important before and after your absence to meet their physical and mental exercise needs.


Cats should ideally be checked on at least 1-2 times per day when left home alone, according to cat owners on Reddit ( This allows you to refresh food and water, scoop litter boxes, provide playtime and pets, and ensure your cat is safe and content. Periodic check-ins are ideal if possible. For longer absences like vacations, consider having a trusted friend, family member, or pet sitter stop by the house daily to care for your cat.

Checking on your cat 1-2 times per day provides attention and care during your absence. Cats can get bored or anxious when left alone for long periods. Regular check-ins help provide mental stimulation and socialization. It also guarantees fresh food and water which is important for health. Scooping litter daily maintains good hygiene.

If you cannot have someone check on your cat periodically, ensure provisions are made before longer absences. Consider an automatic feeder and water fountain. Provide extra litter boxes and scoop before leaving. Give your cat enrichment toys to keep them occupied. And check security cameras or sensors so you can still monitor your cat’s wellbeing from afar.

When to Get a Sitter

Consider hiring a pet sitter if you will be away from home for extended periods of time or have a kitten that needs more attention. The American Kennel Club recommends getting a sitter for absences longer than 4-6 hours, especially for kittens under 6 months old who need more frequent care and socialization [1]. For full work days or multi-day trips, most experts advise having someone check in at least once a day to feed, play with, and scoop litter for your cat [2]. An experienced pet sitter can spend 30 minutes or longer on each visit to ensure your cat’s needs are met.

Kittens do better with more frequent contact and may need multiple visits per day for feeding, socialization, and bathroom needs. Pet sitters often recommend at least 2 visits per day for kittens under 6 months old [3]. As cats get older and more independent, once daily visits are usually sufficient for an adult cat in good health.

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