Do Cats Get Lonely When Left Alone?

  • By:

    Mary Mack
    Mary Mack

    Author: Mary Mack

    Mary Mack is an avid pet lover with 10 years of writing experience. In addition to writing, Mary enjoys spending time with her pets (a dog, cat, and rabbit that can often be found hogging the bed) and browsing used bookshops for something to add to her shelves.

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  • Updated on: 06/23/2020

Do cats get lonely? The question is one that many cat owners have asked themselves time and time again, especially if they have to leave their cat home alone all day while they work or if they have ever left their cat behind during a weekend vacation. But do cats really notice or care if they are left alone? The following guide will help you understand more about the potential for cats to feel lonely, spot symptoms of solitary cats, how long it is safe to leave a cat on their own and how you can help keep your cat from feeling the negative effects of loneliness.

Image by Shuaishi Gao from Pixabay

Do Cats Like to Be Left Alone?

Cats are known for being more independent than dogs as a general rule, but this does not necessarily mean that cats like to be left alone. While cats tend to have more independent personalities than the average dog, they are still social creatures in need of companionship. Cats may want to be left alone from time to time, and some temperamental cats may prefer to approach people on their own terms, but this doesn’t mean that they prefer to be left alone for long periods.

So, cats like to be left alone? The answer is: sometimes, but only when it is on their own terms. A cat may want to sleep on the windowsill and be left undisturbed for an afternoon, but that doesn’t mean they want to be left alone for an entire weekend or even a full day.

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Lonely?

There are some vital signs you can look for if you want to know whether your cat is experiencing loneliness. While cats can’t tell us in words whether or not they are feeling alone, they do express loneliness through certain behaviors that you, as a pet owner, will be able to notice

  • Your cat is acting out: cats that get lonely are also going to get bored, which makes them more likely to act out of boredom. They may start running around the house wildly or begin knocking items off shelves or countertops, and they will generally make messes that they usually don’t make when they are getting enough attention.
  • Your cat is exhibiting behavioral problems: behavioral problems go beyond scratching a curtain or knocking a glass off the counter; behavioral issues enter into the territory of scratching up curtains, furniture, clothing and fabric; peeing on the bed or outside the litter box, especially on your own clothing or shoes; and exhibiting aggression.
  • Your cat is making loud and excessive noises: lonely cats make express their unhappiness through loud and excessive noises, such as mewling, yowling, or frequently meowing until they receive some type of attention.
  • Unusual clinginess: if your cat is suddenly very affectionate and clingy with you—for example, they may follow you into the kitchen and refuse to let you do the dishes unless you’re holding them—this can be a sign that they are lacking regular attention, which can turn into separation anxiety.

The above are all signs that your cat may be experiencing loneliness. If your cat is exhibiting these signs, consider how often they are left alone and what you can do to remedy that situation.

It’s important to note that you should bring your cat into the vet if they are peeing outside the litter box and the issue isn’t resolved with addressing their feelings of loneliness. Peeing outside the litter box can be a sign of a health problem, so it’s best to keep a sharp eye on this type of behavior.

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How to Keep Your Cat From Being Lonely

If you recognize that your cat is feeling lonely, then you should do whatever you can to remedy the problem. Thankfully, addressing a cat’s loneliness is not too difficult as long as you are willing to put in some work to help your cat feel more secure and less alone during the day.

  • Give your cat more to do during the day: cats who have plenty of things to do during the day are more likely to tire themselves out and sleep, which makes it less likely that they will stay up and start feeling stressed from being alone in the house. Installing window perches on your windows, cat shelves on the walls, a cat tree with different levels and toys, and so on are all ways you can help your cat find more to do while they’re home alone. Don’t forget the toys! Boxes, ball pits, and even automatic toys can help keep them occupied.
  • Turn on some music or TV while you’re gone: sometimes, cats may feel better if there is some noise in the house which helps them to feel less alone. Turning on the TV or leaving some music on can help your cat feel less lonely and make them less prone to acting out while you’re away.
  • Leave something with your scent around when you leave: leave something you recently wore in an area where your cat likes to nap, such as the bed or couch; they will feel comforted by your scent and this may help them feel less lonely.
  • Hire a pet sitter: If you will be gone for a long time or your cat isn’t responding to the above remedies, then hiring a pet sitter is the best option to ensure that your cat gets the attention they need during the day time.
  • Consider a companion cat:  if you have a single cat that simply can’t stand being home alone, even with plenty of toys and enrichment, then you may want to consider adopting a second cat as a companion. This is not a decision to make easily since you will need to consider the potential that the cats may not get along. You will need to selectively adopt a cat who gets on well with other cats and then gradually introduce them in the hopes that they will become friends.

The above steps may not completely eliminate your cat’s feelings of loneliness, but they can help your cat feel more secure and less prone to acting out in general.

Will My Cat Get Lonely At Night?

Some cats do get lonely at night because, while they are likely active and ready to run around, their owners are settling down to sleep. Cats may also feel isolated if they are not allowed to access their owner’s bedrooms at night, meaning they have to stay by themselves until the morning. If you notice that your cat is exhibiting lonely nighttime behaviors—including excessive meowing at night, scratching at the door and destructive behavior at night, you will want to find a solution.

The easiest solution is to let your cat into your bedroom at night so that they can check on you, sleep with you on the bed, or get a few sleepy cuddles from you during the night. If this isn’t possible, then you should make sure that your cat is tired out before you head to bed; give them a good energetic play session so that they are more likely to sleep for a few hours, rather than wind themselves up and exhibit destructive lonely behaviors when you go to sleep.

Photo by Tomas Tuma on Unsplash

How Long Can Cats Be Left Alone?

There is a myth that cats “are fine” being left alone for days on end, which is why many cat owners choose to go on vacation without doing anything more than setting up a big bowl of cat food and throwing a few toys on the floor.

Can I Leave My Cat Alone For a 2-Day Vacation?

However, cats should not be left alone for more than a maximum of 2 days, and even then this will depend on the age and temperament of the cat. It is not recommended that you leave any cats younger than 6 months alone for more than 8 hours, or the average workday; adult cats can be left alone for 1 day or 2 days maximum.

If you decide to leave your cat alone while heading out for 2 days, you should make sure to enact these precautions:

  • Have plenty of fresh food and water available for your cat in multiple sources (such as a bowl in the kitchen and bowl in the living room)
  • Clean the litter box completely before leaving
  • Make sure your house is cat-proofed (doors shut to dangerous areas, all wires tucked away, nothing toxic left out)
  • Leave a variety of toys in different locations throughout the house
  • Leave music or TV on for the cat as stimulation
  • If possible, have cameras set up in your home so you can check on  your cat

In an ideal world, you should have someone check on your cat once a day (or more!) if you are going to be gone overnight, especially if you will be gone 2 days. Never leave your cat without a regular pet sitter if you are going to be gone more than 2 days, as this is dangerous for your cat.

Cats can feel lonely—but with the information provided in the above guide, you will be able to help your cat feel less stressed by loneliness.

ThePets is an informational website that features articles written by qualified veterinarians and professional writers. You can learn more about our editorial process. When selecting food for your pet, use Pet Food Finder, and search for the clinic to treat your pet using Vet Clinics Locator.

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