What does your cat do all day while you're away on vacation? Probably weird things, like sitting in the chair like a human.
As much as you probably want to spend every day with your little guy, sometimes you just have to get away. Instead of worrying, make sure there’s someone looking out for him in your absence. He might be OK if left alone for a few days, but if you’re anything like me, it’s worth taking the precautions just for peace of mind.
So for how long can you safely leave your cat alone? The time can vary based on a few factors, including behavior, eating habits (dry food can be left out), and overall health. But generally speaking, you shouldn’t leave your cat unattended for more than 24 hours and almost definitely not longer than 48 hours. Though that number can increase if you have an outdoor cat.
If you must leave your cat, follow these simple steps to ensure a safe and happy kitty.
Whether you’re gone for a week or even just a few hours, you should be following these steps daily. Before you leave, follow this checklist:
Remove any hazards. With so much alone time, your cat will probably get bored. And with nobody around to yell at him for jumping into the sink, there’s nothing stopping him from doing as he pleases. “Cat-proof” your home before you leave. Here are some things to look out for:
Leave toys out. Make sure your cat’s favorite toys are easily accessible so he can keep himself entertained. If you have another cat, great, they can offer each other entertainment and company.
Clean the litter box. You should be cleaning it at least once daily, but do so before you leave on a long to ensure a clean box. If your cat is anything like mine and likes to poop in a fresh, empty box, clean it, wait for him to go, and clean it again.
Keep the house at a safe temperature. While cats are fairly hardy and can withstand most climates, it’s better for their health to and happiness to live in a moderate environment. There’s no set requirements, but generally you want to keep the temperature above freezing and below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Comfort levels can differ. My cat, for example, mopes around, hides under the bed, and sleeps in the sink when it’s too hot. In the winter, make sure all windows are closed and locked and keep the heat on low (that’ll help prevent your pipes from freezing too). In the summer, you might close your windows for safety reasons, potentially creating a greenhouse effect; turn on the AC (if you have one) or place a box fan in a prime location. In either case, your cat can hang around the warm/cool areas and feel alright.
If you’re leaving your cat alone for more than 24 hours, you should look into one of the following options:
Get a cat sitter (short term). If you’re only going to be gone for a few days, the simplest option is to have a friend, family member, or trusted neighbor check in on your cat daily. Ideally your cat knows this person so he doesn’t assume it’s an intruder or a threat – a couple of quick sniffs beforehand should do the trick. It doesn’t need to be a long visit, as they just need to make sure he has fresh water, a full bowl of food, and is doing OK. Ideally they’ll give him some exercise too, especially if he doesn’t have a cat friend. You’ll probably be able to find some willing volunteers who want to play with your cat. The biggest benefit of this option is that your cat will feel comfortable in his home environment. If you’ll be absent for more than three days, look into other options. As an optional objective, bake your friends some brownies for a job well done.
Find a temporary home. I’m sure you know someone so enthusiastic about cats that they’d be willing to house your little guy for a week or two. If someone already has cats, what’s one more? Just be sure that your cat feels comfortable in that home. If you’re going this route, you should spend some time with your cat in the home until he gets accustomed to his temporary house. It’s also worth making sure that your cat gets along with the other cats, or whatever other animals are there.
Board your cat. If you’ll be away for a long time and have nowhere to put him, there are several cat boarding houses around the world. You’ll definitely want to do some research on your options. If your cat doesn’t get along with other animals or is easily frightened, this might not be the best option. But who knows, he might have a blast and can have his own vacation while you have yours!
Bring your cat with you? Depending on where you’re going and how you’re getting there, you might be able to just bring your cat with you. They’re small and don’t come with much baggage (at least not the physical kind). Just be cautious about a long trip.
Your cat might be OK for 2-3 days by himself (maybe even more if he’s an outdoor cat), but it’s better to be safe. If you follow these steps, you’ll at least be able to enjoy your beach vacation or skiing trip without worrying about your cat.
Any tips on what to do while you leave your cat alone? Let us know!