With spring 2022 fast approaching, travel might be on your schedule. While it's nice to imagine a world where our cats can accompany us anywhere, the reality is that it's often best to leave your four-legged loved ones at home. You might be wondering: how long can you leave a cat alone? Do cats get bored?
Cats are famously independent - especially when compared to dogs - but that doesn't mean that your cat would be content to live by herself all the time. Understanding a cat's personality and ensuring her basic needs are met will help you feel confident that she is living her best life even when you have to be apart.
1. Set up your cat's litter box for success
First and foremost if you're leaving your cat at home for any amount of time, you'll want to make sure she has an adequate place to potty when nature calls. Most traditional litter boxes can't go more than a day or two without scooping or cleaning. Leaving clay or clumping litter sitting dirty in a box for longer than that can cause some potent odor, and worse, can discourage your cat from going in the box, which means she might be stressed and you might come home to a smelly mess somewhere in your home. One way around this is to get a second litter box. However, this can sometimes result in twice as much scooping when you return home. To avoid this, try a self-cleaning automatic litter box. Because the box automatically rakes waste out of sight and absorbs fluid and odors, your cat will get a consistently clean place to go, and you can be confident there won't be any unexpected surprises left around the house! If you're leaving your cat for more than a day, especially if your cat is older, consider a smart litter box. More than just a self-cleaning box, a smart litter box connects to your smartphone and lets you keep tabs on your cat's potty habits. As any vet will tell you, monitoring how often your cat visits the litter box is an important way to catch early warning signs of potential health problems. Thus a smart litter box is an innovative way to keep an eye on your cat's health, 24/7.
2. Don't disrupt your cat's eating routine
Cats thrive on consistency. Providing a stable environment and daily schedule for your cat will help her feel safe and comfortable in your home, even when you're not around. This is especially important when it comes to meals. An automatic pet feeder is the perfect way to ensure your cat's dining routine doesn't miss a beat. And to take your cat's culinary calendar up a notch, consider a smart pet feeder that allows you to schedule meals, set meal sizes and even offer snacks on demand, all from your smartphone.
3. Keep your cat's water consistently fresh
Some cats can be quite picky when it comes to their drinking water. A bowl left out for more than a day might collect dust, hair or other debris. After a day or two, water might start to taste stale and even start to develop bacterial growth. Just as you don't want to sip that glass of water that sat on your nightstand all night, your cat also prefers water that's fresh and clean. Additionally, cats prefer water that's moving. With a pet fountain, your cat will always have fresh, filtered flowing water whether you're at home or not. Like a water bowl that constantly refreshes itself, a cat fountain will ensure your cat drinks a healthy amount of water every day.
One thing your cat may miss most when you're apart is the opportunity to play with you. While nothing can replace quality time together, there is an impressive variety of toys available to indulge your cat's instinctive urge to hunt, pounce and play while you're away, preventing boredom and keeping her active. Classic toys like plush catnip mice, bell toys and even cardboard boxes can entertain some cats for hours. But if you really want to bring some excitement while you're gone, interactive electronic toys are the best toys for bored cats. These ingenious toys have moving parts that stimulate a cat's predatory drive to keep her engaged. And with settings to automatically turn on and off at different times, your cat will get fun, unexpected play surprises through the day. Automatic laser toys combine automatic movement with the cat-favorite laser dot to give your cat a fun target to chase while you're gone. Automatic toys are a great way to ensure your cat gets some physical and mental exercise when you're not there to play with her.
5. Give your cat something to watch
When considering how to entertain a cat, there's more than just toys! Engaging your cat's visual interest is a great way to make sure she's not getting bored while you're out. The best way to do this is to give her a view with live critters she can watch. A fish tank is a classic way to do this - just make sure it's thoroughly cat-proofed with a sturdy base and top so your cat can't tip it or dip her paw in! Providing cat furniture near a window will allow your cat to watch the world go by. Pro tip: set up bird feeders outside to encourage feathered friends to put on a show. If an aquarium or avian performance is not an option, there is a technological solution. “Cat TV” consists of videos designed just for cats, with chirping birds, scampering squirrels, swimming fish and more. Not all cats will respond to videos, but many are enthralled to see tantalizing birds hopping around on the screen.
6. Check in on your cat with tech
With pet cameras that connect to your smartphone, you can check on your cat any time you want and sometimes even talk to her! Consider setting up a cam in the room or rooms where your cat spends most of her time and you can see what she's up to at any hour of the day or night. Knowing you can check on her any time will give you peace of mind.
So how long can cats be left alone? The answer ultimately depends on whether you or someone you trust can stop by for an in-person check-in. Leaving cats alone for 3 days or more can be done safely and responsibly, but for trips this long or longer, it's best to have a cat sitter. This could range from someone staying over at your house to someone dropping in once every couple days to make sure everything is in order. You may have a trusted friend who will gladly help, but if not, don't worry! Your veterinarian, groomer or breeder may have recommendations. There are also apps and websites to help you find a good match in your area. The National Association of Pet Sitters is one such organization, connecting you with professionally certified pet sitters in your neighborhood. If you are hiring a new pet sitter (rather than a close friend or family member) NAAPS recommends choosing a professional who is bonded, insured and certified to ensure you can trust this person with your home and especially with your cat's health and safety.
8. Consider adding another cat to the family
If you plan to be away from home routinely in the foreseeable future, such as for a job requiring weekly travel, you might want to consider adopting a second cat to keep your buddy company while you're away. Introducing a new cat to your family is a big step and a lifelong commitment, so you'll want to take the time to think, plan and prepare before bringing a new cat home. Cats are not always fast friends - it takes some time to understand what the relationship will look like between cats. If you're patient, watchful and proactive with the introduction, you can add a new loved one to your family and ensure that both cats will enjoy one another's company when left at home together.
Here's a short list of helpful items that can help you make sure your cat is happy, safe and healthy while you're away:
- Self-cleaning litter boxes
- Smart litter boxes
- Automatic pet feeders
- Smart pet feeders
- Pet fountains
- Interactive toys
- Automatic laser toys