Cats can seem like they’re loners, but deep down they’re truly sociable beasts. The pandemic situation definitely spoiled many kittens in that sense - with hoomans in the home office, cats could count on countless pets, cuddles and a fresh plate of food at any time of the day. But the idyll will come to an end at some point and cats will have to stay alone for 8-10 hours a day. Summer escapades of the cat Guardians are also a tough nut to crack. When we were planning our summer trips this year, we asked ourselves an important question: how long can you live a cat alone and how to take care of their social needs while we’re gone?
Human at work, cat at home
Quite a standard scenario, isn’t it? After all it’s the one reason many people decide on getting a cat over a dog - with proper preparation, food in the bowl, fresh water and toys within reach, a few hours at home without the cat Guardian don’t require calling for emergency troops. In practice, it’s not that black-and-white and not every cat will easily manage a sudden jump to the depths if they’ve been spending every minute with the hooman until now. What can you do when because of work and suddenly, like with the use of a magic wand, the Carer disappears every morning behind closed doors?
Gradually adjusting the cat to the perspective of staying home alone has the best prospects for long-term success. Start with leaving them for an hour or two when you're going shopping. Theoretically everyone does that, but in practice we don’t necessarily think about what the cat feels at that time. It’s worth checking for their reactions and using the opportunity to monitor their behavior - by setting up cameras in your home you can check if the cat spends most of their time napping or maybe, right after you close the door, starts meowing on the doormat. Every success should allow you to extend the time away a little bit more until finally your cat is able to stay at home for the entire working day without panic.
Before and after work
When leaving the cat alone, we should, as cat Guardians, remember one thing: to properly compensate our cat for being away. After all, though we are earning money for their treats, by leaving for the entire day we’re still leaving them with no company and hands to give scratches! Let’s find time in our schedules reserved just for our cats. In the morning, before going to work, as well as when we go back, there should be time for playing, grooming, cuddling and chilling out. Cats are sociable beings and they need interactions with people to live their full, happy lives.
Activities for the cat when the hooman is out
A cat who stays home alone should be able to have their needs met, not only in terms of food, toilet and naps. A good spot for observation on the window sill, as well as sniffing and interactive toys will allow them to actively pass the time alone and give purpose to their day, waiting for their Guardian to come back. A bored cat can redirect their attention to destructive behavior, getting a new way of killing time and nerves in return. The risk of a ticking cat bomb exploding is higher if the cat Carer doesn’t find time to interact with the cat after work - no attention from the hooman makes the cat go looking for a new way to get it. Angry reactions to the destroyed plant pots or ripped-up toilet paper are not nice, but at least they mean the cat is still the centre of attention. To avoid all those unpleasant situations, playing with a cat after work and leaving them interactive toys to play with for the time of us being away is key.
Nights alone, cat style
The reclusive nature of cats makes some people think that weekend getaways with one night away from home are quite a safe decision. Before we make the decision of leaving everything we own under the cat’s control, it’s wise to ask yourself a question: what does the cat think about that? Are their social, physical and psychological needs entirely met while we’re gone? The hints mentioned before will become handy in this scenario as well - cats should have something to do while we’re gone and be happy when we come back, not greeting us with an offended expression on their face and a plant pot on the floor.
When you’re going away and sleeping away from home, it's a good thing to think about a solution where somebody can come and visit your cat at least once a day. If it’s a typical going out situation where the Guardians will be absent for only a few hours, nothing major will happen. But if it’s a weekend wedding and you won’t go back home for two full days, a visit from someone familiar to the cat will help to keep them sane. A cat sitter, a family member or a friend will fill up the cat bowl, clean up the litter box, give cuddles, play - do everything a cat may need during the day.
Find out more about professional cat sitting in another myKotty blog post https://blog.mykotty.pl/en/2021/05/10/professional-cat-carer-a-cat-sitter/
How long can a cat stay alone?
Taking all the gathered information into consideration, it’s easy to conclude here that leaving a cat alone for longer than 24 hours a day may not be a 100% great idea. A day is an absolute maximum for a cat to stay alone if you don’t have any other option to care for them, and it’s still only for emergency situations. Cats' social needs are stronger than we may think and stress, worry and anxiety of being abandoned are real to cats just as they are to us, humans. If the cat stays alone for too long, their attention may focus on eating everything from the bowl as soon as the cat Carer disappears - it’s an instinct that protects them against future possibility of no food around. Cats can also look for other sources of nutrition, starting to nib on plants or items that are not safe for a cat to be eaten. There’re many risks around and some of them we can’t predict until it’s too late.
Without the company of a hooman, your cat may start missing you, worrying about the Guardian's possible return or even go into depression. Having a fluffy friend under your roof means that we always should take into consideration not only our needs to go out and have fun, but also the cat’s needs. A full day of working or a short night away from home are bearable, but with longer outings a cat won’t manage on their own for too long.
And how do you, fabCats, deal with leaving your purring companions at home? Are they used to long days of work and taking on a role of the household host, or would they rather tie you up to a desk and force you to work only at home office? Tell us your cat adventures and stories in the comments - we’ll be waiting for your ways of keeping cats entertained while they’re keeping the guard of the home when you’re away.