for how long can i leave my kitten?
February 28, 2007 5:20 PM   Subscribe

I have a 12-week old kitten. Both my partner and I are at work/school during the day. How long can I leave her alone for?
posted by esolo to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
there are going to be tons of cat people responding, so i'll go first: in situations where there is extended time alone, it's best to get two cats.

with a kitten, the more time you can spend there, the better. kitty cn survive long (12+ hours) but be prepared for damage, and a neurotic cat.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:33 PM on February 28, 2007

If you have a small space (say one room) where she has everything she needs -- food, water, litterbox, plus maybe a bed and some toys -- and no hazards, then you could probably leave her alone all day. But it would help socialize her if you visited with her at least once every 5-6 hours.

You might try leaving her alone for shorted periods, say over the weekend, so you'll know if she's going freak out.
posted by janell at 5:40 PM on February 28, 2007

in situations where there is extended time alone, it's best to get two cats.

I'll second this. It sounds like more work, but it'll make your life much, much easier. And it's really not that much harder to feed two cats or scoop litter for two since these are things that have to be done anyway.
posted by curie at 5:57 PM on February 28, 2007

I have two cats -- both feral; both rescues. Muriel was adopted 10-years ago and has always survived well on her own for 8 - 12 hours a day. After numerous traumatic experiences lodging elsewhere while vacations/business trips were taken by her human companions, she was left alone for 3 - 5 days at home without human contact (gravity-filled water and food dispensers and dual kitty-boxes required).

Three years ago a new kitten (Priscilla) was introduced to the household. The two feline friends have a loving, yet often contentious relationship. They do well during work days, as well as short breaks from the humanoids. Anything over 5-days requires a friend/neighbor to visit, clean-up kitty-poop and freshen-up food/water supplies. YMMV.
posted by ericb at 6:10 PM on February 28, 2007

BTW -- each kitten/cat was adopted at a projected age of 6-8 weeks old. Due to working schedules of their human parent(s) they experienced "human-less" days of 8-10 hours the day or so after their adoptions -- with no ill effects.
posted by ericb at 6:13 PM on February 28, 2007

Third for "get another cat if possible" for the reasons already mentioned, if the issue is being away during long work days.

Plus, kitten age is the easiest time to introduce housemates -- older cats take a while to adjust to new pets in the house, and in fact changes in general. So if you're ever going to consider a second one, might as well be now for multiple reasons.

If you absolutely can't, though, your kitten will likely be fine. I'd leave lots of toys, and make sure she's well-trained on the scratch-pad/post. You might also leave the TV or stereo on while she's young -- not for company but so she doesn't grow skittish after getting accustomed to a silent house all day (which presumably is then noisy in the evenings with the business of living).
posted by pineapple at 6:16 PM on February 28, 2007

Yep, another cat is called for. My better half (certified crazy cat lady) never gets cats in numbers less than two.

They will keep each other company..... 12 weeks old would be
posted by HuronBob at 6:51 PM on February 28, 2007

two is great, alone for work time is also fine, but put her where the damage is limited hmmm, bored, perhaps I'll rip the covers off these speakers, and perhaps I'll shred the arm of this chair.....
posted by caddis at 7:00 PM on February 28, 2007

Am I insane for wondering why people don't ask this question BEFORE getting the kitten? Would you or your partner really work/school for fewer hours per day if the answer was "this is a baby animal who needs to bond, etc only 3 hours"? I'm not saying that's necessarily the answer but still....

So I disagree with the "get another cat to keep it company" people. That'll just be two cats posted on Craigslist with "My partner and I aren't home enough because of works/school to take care of our kittens and they bonded so we HAVE to adopt them out together, pls give our babies a forever home". Please, if you can't think ahead enough to ask whether you can care for the cat before getting it, DON'T get another one.

But yeah cats are pretty solitary and can handle being without you. Time to put away all the nice things you don't want knocked off the table though and accept some furniture scratching, crazy playin and cute tiny paws tearing all your stuff. Yay kitties. They would be okay for a pretty normal workday I think but would probably appreciate a visit at lunchtime.
posted by bunnycup at 7:03 PM on February 28, 2007

Oh, and pictures, please.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:32 PM on February 28, 2007

Yes, get another cat. Better for them, easier for you, everyone wins.
posted by LarryC at 7:46 PM on February 28, 2007

Chiming in with another "get another kitten." We got a Siamese/Persian kitten and he was totally spastic whenever we were home--he'd literally leap onto my fiancee's skirts and swing on them, letting go and flying across the room. After about a week of him freaking out with excitement whenever we got home, we decided to get him a friend. We picked up a shelter kitten of roughly the same age and after a few days of adjustment, they bonded very closely. He was much happier having another kitten to play with all day while we were gone. And it really is very little extra work to take care of two cats versus one.
posted by EarBucket at 7:49 PM on February 28, 2007

Either get one more cat or provide plenty of fun distractions: tv on, curtains open (busy view, sun, expanding horizons) and toys scattered.

Ideally, all of the above!
But if you can't have another cat, I'd say the most important would be to have as many open curtains as possible. Shifting sun light is a major factor in a cat's pursue of happiness, as is watching stuff going on out there.
posted by AnyGuelmann at 8:38 PM on February 28, 2007

I agree with the advice about getting a second, if you can -- it sounds like twice the work, but it really isn't. They provide each other with entertainment and company, so they don't rely on you for all of those needs. Also, two cats is not near "crazy cat lady" territory.

When my family got our pair, at first we kept them in one of our bathrooms 24/7. You have to remove all the hazards, of course -- keep the toilet lid down, put blankets in the tub, ditch the cleaning products. Add more blankets, some safe toys, a litterbox, and food and water (multiple bowls, ideally, because when some get knocked over you don't want them going without). It doesn't have to be a bathroom; it could be a laundry room or whatever you've got. But a small room means that while they have enough to explore, you only have to kitty-proof one room initially, and you never have to walk around looking for them.

When you get back from work or school, spend time in the room with them. Of course, play with them as much as you can -- but when you finally have to get stuff done, just bring in the laptop (or book, or whatever) and stretch out on the floor. You can get your work done and they can get used to hanging out with people without having to be the center of attention.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:19 PM on February 28, 2007

The kitty will be fine. Maybe for the first couple weeks have a friend come and check on her during lunch or something. But really, it's a cat. It doesn't need to be let outside to use the bathroom, and they're solitary animals. Just make sure you do lots of cuddling/playing/bonding when you are there.

Especially at a young age I'd keep her in an enclosed area where there is nothing she can destroy. As you've probably figured, cats love Tempura loved this toy that was a noisy version of the "fishing pole" type, but hooked over the door so he could amuse himself.
posted by radioamy at 9:33 PM on February 28, 2007

You don't necessarily need another cat, your kitten will probably be fine alone all day. Really it depends on the kitten, some cats like company, others are fine without. Breed can make a difference here, oriental cats (such as burmese or siamese) bond strongly with their people and generally need a lot of attention. People like to push the multiple cat thing but I know many many single cats who are all happy, lovely pets. It's not a given. The good thing about getting a young cat is that she'll grow up accustomed to the kind of lifestyle you give her, so will cope better than an older cat losing a friend or having a change in circumstances. Have a set routine to help with this, she'll know what to expect and will adapt to the way you all live.

Make sure you give her lots of attention the rest of the time and that where she is during the day is safe for her. Have the routine as I mentioned. And pay attention to her moods and behaviour, she'll let you know if she's lonely or feeling neglected.
posted by shelleycat at 9:38 PM on February 28, 2007

It's going to depend on the personality of the cat. Don't feel pressured to get another cat just because a prevailing school of thought is that two are better than one.

I would say that leaving her alone for 12ish hours seems too long, but if she's left alone for an eight-hour work day, she'll be okay, as long as there's lots of love and attention before and after. Better if someone can drop by midway through the day for a few minutes, though.

Also, what shelleycat said.
posted by desuetude at 6:42 AM on March 1, 2007

I'll second this. It sounds like more work, but it'll make your life much, much easier.

And I'd add that in my experience it's overall LESS work. Yes, there's more poop to scoop but I've never met a solitary cat that was less destructive and needy than pairs. You should do what you feel comfortable with but I always got a lot of added enjoyment watching my boys play with each other and I never lost a second worrying if they needed more attention.
posted by phearlez at 9:59 AM on March 1, 2007

Response by poster: thank you so much everyone for your thoughtful responses!!!!

to bunnycup: Am I insane for wondering why people don't ask this question BEFORE getting the kitten?

No, you are not insane. However, unfortunately, this doesn't apply in this case. The kitten was a gift, so it was unplanned. The Craig's list issue does not apply either, as I would never give up an animal that was trusted in my care. Although this was a responsibility that I didn't ask for, it is my responsibility nonetheless...
posted by esolo at 9:24 PM on March 1, 2007

Esolo: I'm 2 days too late and I'm sure you've moved on, but sorry to have been so self-righteously judgemental. I respect your situation. Again, yay kitties.
posted by bunnycup at 8:23 PM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

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