Will My Cat Hate Me If I Leave For A Few Days?

Cats can feel abandoned when owners are away

Cats form strong bonds and attachments to their owners that can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression when separated for long periods of time. According to a study by researchers at the University of Milan, cats that were left alone for longer periods showed more affection and attachment behaviors, like purring and rubbing, when reunited with their owners. This suggests cats do grieve the absence of their owners and miss the security of their presence. Cats are especially prone to separation anxiety when a disruption occurs in their routine or environment. Being left abruptly can make cats feel abandoned and unsure when their owner will return.

Cats are quite sensitive and can perceive the absence of their owner negatively. While the exact emotions cats feel can’t be known, noticeable changes in behavior when an owner is away indicates they do experience some form of sadness. How severely a cat reacts to separation varies based on their personality, as well as the length of absence. Kittens and senior cats may have greater separation anxiety. Creating positive associations with absences through training and enrichment can make time apart less stressful for cats.

Signs your cat may be upset

Cats are creatures of habit and can become stressed when their routine is disrupted. Some common signs your cat may be upset when you’re away include:

Excessive vocalizing – Your cat may meow, cry or yowl more when you’re gone, as a way to express their distress.

Changes in appetite – Some cats may stop eating or eat much less when their owner is away. Others stress eat and overindulge.

Inappropriate urination – Urinating outside the litter box can signal your cat is anxious or upset in your absence.

Destructive behavior – Cats may scratch furniture, knock things over, or destroy household objects to take out their frustration.

Excessive grooming – Overgrooming to the point of hair loss or skin irritation can be a sign of stress.

Hiding – Your cat may hide away in closets or under beds rather than be out in the open when you’re gone.

Paying attention to these behavioral changes when you return can help clue you in to whether your cat missed you or was stressed while you were away. If the signs are severe, consult your vet about potential separation anxiety.

Ways to ease separation anxiety

There are some steps you can take to help ease your cat’s anxiety when you leave home for multiple days. Some options to consider include:

Leave out familiar toys or bedding that have your scent on them. Having familiar items around can provide comfort and reassurance.

Have someone like a friend, family member, or pet sitter check in on your cat occasionally while you’re away. They can play with your cat, clean the litter box, and make sure your cat has enough food and water.

Leave the TV or music on for background noise and comfort when you’re gone. The sounds can help your cat feel less alone.

Consider using synthetic pheromone plugins like Feliway that release calming cat pheromones into the home environment.

Give your cat special interactive toys like treat-dispensing puzzles that will keep them stimulated and distracted while you’re not there.

Make sure your cat has safe spaces to hide and perch, like a cat tower, cardboard box, or covered bed.

Keep your departure low-key when leaving to avoid making your cat more anxious. And keep arrivals low-key as well.

Ask your vet about anti-anxiety medication if your cat has extreme separation anxiety that doesn’t respond to other methods. Medication can help in some cases.

Preparing your cat for time apart

Gradually increasing the amount of time you are away from your cat can help ease their transition to longer periods alone. Start with brief departures of 5-10 minutes and slowly build up to longer absences. Each time you leave, try to associate it with something positive like giving your cat a treat right before heading out. This helps create a more pleasant association with you leaving.

Introducing new toys like puzzle feeders, catnip toys, or laser pointers can also provide important distraction and enrichment while you are gone. Rotate different engaging toys to keep your cat occupied and less focused on missing you. Just be sure to test out any new toys first while you are still home so your cat is comfortable using them before being left alone.

Following this kind of routine can get your cat more accustomed to your comings and goings. It helps reduce separation anxiety and the stress of sudden or lengthy departures. With gradual preparation, your cat is much more likely to be relaxed and content even while you are apart for a few days.

Consider a pet sitter

A trusted friend or professional sitter can provide human interaction and care while you’re gone. Hiring a pet sitter has many benefits compared to boarding your cat or leaving them entirely alone.

Pet sitters can visit your home to feed, play with, and care for your cat in their normal environment. This avoids stress from relocation and disruption of routine. Sitters can also provide other services like litter box cleaning, medication administration, mail collection, plant watering, etc. Studies show that in-home pet sitting reduces separation anxiety and behavioral problems.

Professional pet sitters are experienced caring for animals and have policies like bonding and insurance. They can send you photo updates for peace of mind. Compared to boarding, in-home pet sitting is often cheaper and more personalized. Just make sure to hire a reliable, qualified sitter that your cat is comfortable with.

Should you board your cat?

When leaving your cat for multiple days, you’ll need to decide between boarding your cat or having someone care for them in your home. There are boarding facilities that are cat-only, which can reduce stress compared to a shelter environment. Some key pros of boarding include:

  • Your cat will have a consistent daily routine for feeding and playtime.
  • Your cat is fully supervised by staff.
  • Some facilities offer webcams so you can check in.

However, boarding also has some downsides:

  • Being in an unfamiliar place with other cats may be stressful for some cats.
  • Illness can spread more easily in group settings.
  • It tends to be more expensive than at-home care.

Having a friend, family member, or pet sitter care for your cat at home avoids disrupting their environment. Your cat gets to stay in familiar surroundings and stick to their routine. However, at-home care does rely on the diligence of the caregiver to follow instructions and provide attentive care.

Consider your cat’s personality when deciding between boarding and at-home care. Anxious or elderly cats often do better with at-home care. No matter what you choose, ensure your cat’s needs are met and do what’s best for reducing their stress.[1]

How long can cats be left alone?

Healthy adult cats can typically be left alone for 24-48 hours as long as they have access to food, water, litter, toys, and safe hiding spots. According to veterinarians, most adult cats over the age of one can go 1-2 days alone before needing a check-in[1]. Leaving adult cats for longer periods is not recommended without having someone stop by to feed them and check on their wellbeing.

Kittens and elderly cats have different needs and usually require more frequent care. Kittens under six months old should never be left alone overnight, as they need frequent feedings and socialization during this developmental stage[2]. Senior cats also benefit from daily interaction and mealtime visits. If leaving kittens or senior cats for more than 4-6 hours, consider having a pet sitter come by or boarding them at a kennel.

While healthy adult cats are quite self-sufficient for a day or two, anything longer than 48 hours requires check-ins. Making arrangements for someone to visit, or considering boarding options, is recommended for any absence longer than 2-3 days.

Providing for your cat’s basic needs

While you’re away, it’s important to ensure your cat has access to food, clean litter, and fresh water. Automatic feeders and water fountains can help provide your cat’s basic needs while you’re gone.

An automatic feeder allows you to portion out meals so your cat is fed on a schedule. Look for a feeder with a large capacity that can hold at least a week’s worth of food. Spread feedings out over the course of the day rather than dumping all the food out at once. Be sure batteries are fresh before leaving so the feeder doesn’t stop working mid-trip.

Automatic, circulating water fountains are ideal to keep water fresh. Avoid leaving out large bowls of water that could spill or get contaminated with litter while you’re gone. Fountains filter and circulate water, helping prevent bacteria growth. Just make sure it is cleaned and filled before departing.

For litter, have a friend or pet sitter stop by at least once daily to scoop waste and refresh litter as needed. Cats won’t use a dirty, smelly litter box. You can also purchase self-cleaning boxes, but these still require some maintenance while you’re away.

Providing for food, water, and litter through automatic devices can give you peace of mind while traveling, knowing your cat’s basic needs are met.

Keep your cat stimulated

Cats that are left alone can become bored, frustrated, and lonely without sufficient stimulation. Keeping your cat’s mind and body active with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and cat trees can help prevent boredom and anxiety while you’re away.

Puzzle feeders like treat mazes and food dispensing balls provide mental stimulation as cats push and bat them around to get the food rewards inside. These are great for food-motivated cats. Rotate a variety of interactive toys to keep your cat interested – look for toys that move unpredictably to capture your cat’s natural prey drive. Battery operated or auto-rotating toys add an exciting element when you’re not there to wiggle and jiggle toys yourself.

Multilevel cat trees and Sisal scratching posts allow cats to climb, scratch, and survey their territory from different vantage points. Place perches near sunny windows so your cat can watch the action outside. Adding catnip or treats on scratching posts and cat trees can further entice play.

Source: https://www.petsecure.com.au/pet-care/10-ways-keep-cat-entertained-youre-house/

Stay connected from afar

Even when you’re away, there are ways you can help your cat feel close and reassured. Setting up a webcam so you can check in visually on your cat is a great option. Petcube and Petzi make popular webcams designed just for this purpose. Seeing you on the video chat can be comforting for your cat.

You can also consider getting an automatic pet feeder with a camera, like the PetSafe Smart Feed. This will let you not only see your cat, but also feed them on schedule so their routine is uninterrupted. Having a friend or pet sitter stop by regularly to play with your cat and give supplemental feedings also helps them feel less isolated.

And be sure to call home daily if possible so your cat can hear your voice. Cats recognize their owner’s voice and tone, so even a short phone or video call can reassure them. With preparation and staying connected, your cat may barely notice your absence!

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