Leaving my cat alone
October 6, 2014 4:10 PM   Subscribe

I am wondering if it's ok to leave my cat home alone overnight once or twice a week.

I've got a lovebug of a cat. She is super sweet and her favorite thing is curling up on my lap and burying her face, purring so loud the windows practically shake.

I also have a boyfriend that I like a lot. He and the cat love one another. I love his dog. His dog and my cat tolerate one another just fine. My cat doesn't love it, but she shows her disapproval with glares and by being extra possessive of my lap when the dog is here. Cool, no problem!

My boyfriend and I typically spend one night a week here and another at his house. I often go there all weekend, though, leaving here at about 2 on Saturday and staying there until 2 or so on Sunday. Sometimes I'm gone until 11 on Sunday night. Sometimes I even go there again on Monday, as we participate in a group event that happens every Monday evening.

So I leave my cat with her full food bowl (she is free fed), a water fountain, clean litter, and toys (which she ignores). But I wonder: is this ok? She is needy and seems more needy when I get home after spending a long time out. I know that I can't give her as much affection as she wants (I would have to retire and never leave the couch) but am I hurting her by leaving once or twice a week?

I work from home but I am often out of the house for meetings and stuff during the day.
posted by sockermom to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't do it, but I have very social cats who tend to act out when we're on vacation (and our cat sitter even spends two hours a day with them.) Is it possible for you to get a little cat friend for your kitty?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:13 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes. This is perfectly OK, even for two days at a time.
posted by beagle at 4:14 PM on October 6, 2014 [43 favorites]

First... consider that you aren't interacting with your cat at night (while sleeping) anyway...

We will, once in a while, leave our cats overnight, we've also gone on trips where they just see the cat sitter once a day... everyone has survived...

I wouldn't see this as a problem, if the cat is upset, it will let you know.
posted by HuronBob at 4:14 PM on October 6, 2014

Cats are pretty resilient regardless of what they tell you. I'm pretty sure she's fine. I would do the same if it were me. However if you're worried, another kitty to keep her company might be nice.
posted by bleep at 4:17 PM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Our awesome and sweet cat is also more needy when we get back. But she's not hurt and she doesn't act weird or stressed, just extra happy to see us. I can't know what she's thinking but I think she is absolutely fine with it even if she'd rather be getting petted.

Keep in mind that your cat is only awake for an hour or so out of the day that you're gone :)
posted by ftm at 4:21 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

My limit (over about 15 years with fairly independent cats) was three nights. They were accustomed to eating out of a big gravity feeder of dry food, though, so that made it easier. We'd put down several casserole dishes of water (almost impossible to knock over, and they came to prefer it on a daily basis) in case of zombie apocalypse or serious travel delays.

In later years they got pickier about the litter box and they were just old so I had a petsitter come in once a day to make sure they hadn't gotten into trouble, scoop the box, and give them a little love.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:23 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

One of my cats lives in my office, and he is alone every Sunday and sometimes Saturdays, too. He's a very affectionate cat, and he seems needier on Monday, but he has been living like this for two years and is happy and healthy.
posted by clearlydemon at 4:29 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

A litter box and water are the essential physical things. If your kitty doesn't tear things up while you are gone, she'll probably be just fine. Free-feeding kitties are great. But even if she missed a meal or two she wouldn't be in any danger.

We've had marginal success with pet sitters--our cats don't particularly like strangers, so a pet sitter just confirms that our dear little bastards aren't tearing the house up. In the past when our kitties were pissed about something they would leave presents in my slippers. You know. Look for signs. Being glad to see you is one of the good signs.
posted by mule98J at 4:35 PM on October 6, 2014

Best answer: To make it easier, leave some unwashed clothes in spots where you and the cat normally cuddle. Leave a few lights on low. You can even leave a radio on, too. Perhaps use timers. Aside from the rise and set of the sun, you're the biggest source of noise, light, and smell by which she sets her clock.

Familiar, comfortable stimuli help ease the transition.
posted by adipocere at 4:38 PM on October 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My rule is three nights too. They do clearly miss me, but I try not to live my entire life based on their preferences, just most of it. (It helps in making them way friendlier when I am around. I do not think they are stressed or lonely.)
posted by jeather at 4:39 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, just a day or a day and a half is no big deal for the last six cats I've had over the last 20+ years. I'd agree up to three or four days with tons of food & water around is about the limit where I'd look for a cat sitter beyond that.
posted by mathowie at 4:44 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Occasionally it might be fine, but if I am reading this right you are proposing leaving your cat alone every weekend plus one day during the week. I think that is too much. While I believe that she'll survive and have enough water and food while you are gone, she has no mental stimulation during that time. As many people returning from holidays know, cats can get seriously upset and depressed. You are lucky she only shows neediness and not some behavioral problems. But you don't know how lonely and stressed she really feels.

I am not saying this to make you feel bad, you asked our opinions. I believe that providing the best care we can is what we should do for our pets. And people who prefer to provide less than that should not have pets at all.

At the least, make sure to play and cuddle extra hard before you leave, so your cat is totally satisfied on that front. If you think your cat would tolerate another kitty, maybe that would be an option for you.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:46 PM on October 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

I would (and have) done this too, no problem! I wouldn't think twice of 1 night, 2 nights is fine and I would even do up to 3. After that I think it's time for a cat sitter. I don't think that cats spend a lot of time missing you and waiting for you to return home...I think they live more in the moment...but that might just be my cat, who doesn't seem to care whether I'm home or not.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 4:50 PM on October 6, 2014

I would do this no problem.

Also, in the past when I've worked as a cat sitter, for the most part I've gone over for a short time each day and only actively played with the cat(s) for a little while after cleaning the litter box, feeding, watering, etc. This seems to be the expected thing among cat sitters.
posted by Sara C. at 4:58 PM on October 6, 2014

There are a few ways you would know if she's not fine: she's destructive while you're gone, she's not using the litterbox, she's not eating or drinking as much.

If she's not doing any of these things, then it's okay. If you're going to be gone more than 2 nights a week on a regular basis then I would consider getting another cat as company.
posted by desjardins at 5:11 PM on October 6, 2014

I tend to agree with travelwithcats. I don't think doing this every once in a while is a big deal (though I personally do get a sitter to check on my cat even if I'm only gone for a night). But doing it every week is not something I'd feel comfortable with. My cat is really social and attached to people, though. He gets lonely (or at least acts like he was) even when I'm gone shopping for a few hours. And he sleeps at the foot of my bed every night. So I'd feel bad leaving him alone over night habitually. But you know your cat better than we do.
posted by primethyme at 5:12 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is totally fine.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:13 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

But even if she missed a meal or two she wouldn't be in any danger.

Unless she's old. Elderly cats can get very ill very fast if they miss a couple of meals.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:15 PM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

FYI: Missing meals (due to loss of appetite or lack of food) can lead at any age to Feline Hepatic Lipidosis.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:24 PM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing that leaving her alone three nights/week every week (instead of as just an occasional thing) is kinda cruel to a solitary cat. How would you like it if you were completely alone and confined with nothing to do but sleep, eat, and poop for almost half of your life? :(

Is there some reason kitty can't go to boyfriend's house with you? If that's not an option, maybe another cat for company?

If you can't do either of those things, I would set up an easily-accessible (get a cat ramp or stairs if necessary) sleeping perch with a heated cat bed right next to a window then hang a bunch of bird feeders up right outside the window. The suction-cup feeders that attach right to the outside of the window are of particular interest to kitty because they bring the birds REALLY close. Tape a little camo netting to the window glass so kitty can see out but the birds won't see her and flee.

I'd also get her a water fountain so her drinking water stays fresh and leave the radio on a classical music station. Maybe attach a self-grooming brush to a corner so she has something tactile to rub against when you're not around to pet/scratch/brush her.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:36 PM on October 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: She's got a water fountain and is a free feeder so I'm not worried about that. Her litter box is automatic and I clean out the drawer twice a week, so it's never stinky or anything.

It is never three days a week - only two at most (most commonly, Monday and Saturday). And we'll start spending more weekends at my place. Usually, though, it's one, but it's been twice a week for the last two weeks, which is why I asked this question.

She can't leave the house. She gets so stressed even seeing her carrier that I can't bring her to his place, unfortunately. We don't even go to the vet's - she comes to us.

I've got a whole bird-watching setup thing like Jacqueline describes and she loves it.

Thanks, all. We'll start spending more weekends at my place.
posted by sockermom at 5:56 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How far away is your boyfriend? If not far, would it be ok to come back for a few hours during the weekend, give your cat some living, and then return to the boyfriend? (Sort of like benign your own pet sitter)
posted by Vaike at 6:08 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Two days a week is still too much, IMHO. I think your boyfriend needs to spend the weekend at your place from now on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:08 PM on October 6, 2014

Best answer: She gets so stressed even seeing her carrier...

My cat used to fight getting into his carrier until I started leaving it out with a Purr Pad in it at all times and then it just became another place he'd go nap from time to time. Once he got accustomed to sleeping in it at home, it was easy to get him into it to take him places because it was no longer the Mobile Torture Prison but instead his Portable Nap Box.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:27 PM on October 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

Who can argue with him staying with you, but really, cats who might not catch much for a day or so in the wild can handle a day or two without you quite pleasantly in the luxurious absence you provide. They skip meals regularly without regret in the cold cruel reality of life and relish your return.
posted by lathrop at 7:04 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the joys of cats is that, unlike dogs, you can give them access to food, water and a litter tray and leave them alone for several hours, or even a night or two! They sleep something like 18 hours a day. Whenever I come back home to my cat, whether I've been out for the day or overnight, she's usually sleeping!
posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:16 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

We've done overnight stays away from our cat and have had no issues. Long as he had food, water, a clean litter box, clean bed, and some toys, he was fine. Did he necessarily like it? No. But he superseded that brief stroppiness over it within an hour after we returned.

That arrangement was only short-lived because my mum felt sorry for him and insisted on staying to watch him on future outings. :)
posted by arishaun at 7:42 PM on October 6, 2014

She gets so stressed even seeing her carrier that I can't bring her to his place, unfortunately.

You may want to keep the carrier out so that she desensitizes to it. This may help if you ever need to rush her to an emergency vet or something.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:08 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Right now I'm feeding my neighbor's cat, as I often do, because neighbor travels a lot for work. This time, she's gone for a week. I go over twice a day to feed and clean up. I love cats, but I don't really play with her, because husband is super allergic and I'd have to do a full on decon when i got home.

The cat is fine. The cat is always fine. Don't stress, give her extra cuddles when you're with her.
posted by gaspode at 9:05 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is totally fine.

And I'm a big sap for lovebug cats.

But seriously, totally fine.
posted by desuetude at 10:10 PM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I work nights, so my cat is alone three nights a week. Aside from the "HEY WHERE'S MAH FUD" discussion when I get home, it's all good.
posted by shiny blue object at 10:43 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cats are massively independant. She will be quite fine - you shouldn't worry :)
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 6:40 AM on October 7, 2014

I thought this was the whole point of having a cat. She won't miss you.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:52 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Uhm, maybe I am misunderstanding or something, but people who work nights tend to spend their daytime at home, sleeping at least some of the time. That is vastly different from being gone for stretches of 24, 48 or even more hours. Cats can deal with their owner's absence for several hours just fine (many people who work outside the home have cats after all, night or day shift does not really matter here).

Another aspect of leaving cats alone for days is food. The only viable option in that scenario is kibble, which is not a proper cat diet because it provides very little moisture. Feeding kibble once in a while is okay but it should not be the standard fare.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:01 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've left my cats at home up to 10 days with someone checking in on them or 3-4 days without (last-minute trip). I have two cats (littermates), however, so they get less lonely than yours would since they're each others' social buddies. I left their cat fountain, backup water bowls, and food.

She'll be fine for the roughly 24 hours you're leaving her by herself, even twice per week, especially with the Bird TV you've set up.

If you get a second cat to "keep her company," make sure it's a good personality match (and make sure cat #2 is also good with dogs).
posted by bookdragoness at 11:52 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, but make certain that she has toys to occupy herself as well as the bird entertainment.

I have a very needy cat as well, but he has his sister to play with, toys, tall cat trees to climb and a roller ball toy. Occupied cats are less likely to be lonely. Does she ever yowl or act unhappy when you return or when you're leaving? Try not to make a huge deal when you leave her, just nod and smile: slowly blink your eyes. If you make a big production of leaving she'll likely pick up on your anxiety over leaving her.

Cats aren't like most dogs and don't regularly experience attachment disorders(apart from the more asocial/independent variety like many shiba inu), but they do enjoy company. Spend extra time playing with her(use her favorite toys regularly) and she will adjust well.
posted by bibliophilia at 7:24 AM on October 8, 2014

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