There are many myths regarding various aspects of domestic cats. One of these is that cats are aloof, independent creatures that do not enjoy too much socialization with their human companions. While this is true of some cats, but not for others. Due to the misconception that all cats are independent and unsociable, there is also a misconception that it is fine to leave cats alone in the house for extended periods. In fact, people who are not at home for most of the day are often advised to get a cat rather than a dog.
Cats vs. Dogs
People’s attitudes towards dogs are completely different. According to Psychology Today, there are many online articles regarding how long dog owners can leave their dog alone in the house. The social nature of dogs and their strong bond with humans means that people are generally concerned about leaving a dog alone in the house for too long or having then locked in a crate or garage when their owner is away from home. Clearly, leaving a dog alone for long periods raises concerns of them being fed, having access to a fresh supply of water, and being given the chance to go to the toilet. However, there are concerns for dogs over even short periods due to the loneliness and anxiety that being left alone can cause. Although there is not a definitive answer to the question of how long you can leave dogs alone, experts recommend no longer than four hours at a time.
Attitudes to Cats
Cats, on the other hand, do not necessarily raise the same level of concern. It is assumed that if you leave them enough food and water and that they can access a litter tray that you can leave a cat for days or even weeks. Unfortunately, there has been very little research into loneliness in cats or how long you can leave them alone before they become lonely or anxious. Therefore, there is little evidence from studies regarding the impact on cat welfare of leaving them alone. However, there has been some research on cat behavior development and cat emotions. The findings of such research have already disproved many of the myths regarding domestic cats. One of the myths that have been shattered is that cats are solitary creatures who are indifferent to the presence of humans.
Research Into Cat Emotions
Science Direct reported that a study into cat sociality has shown that cats are more social than humans give them credit for and that a lack of socialization with humans does have a negative impact on them. Similarly, a study into attachment styles that was also published in Science Direct proved that cats for complex and strong bonds with their human families. Although the studies did not specifically refer to loneliness, their findings would seem to suggest that cats certainly experience boredom if they are left alone. The findings of these studies then lead back to the question of how long it is reasonable to leave a cat home alone. Due to the lack of studies into this, it is difficult to give a specific and accurate answer to that question. Any length of time that would put the cat’s health and physical well-being at risk is certainly too long, but this still leaves the debate open to the effects on a cat’s emotional welfare when they are left home alone.
How Long Can You Leave a Cat Alone?
There are currently no guidelines in place in relation to cat welfare when they are at home without humans. Similarly, there are no guidelines in place regarding the various factors that might increase or prevent loneliness in cats. One example is that indoor cats may have less tolerance for being alone than cats who can access outdoor spaces. Another point to note is that every cat is an individual and that their personality could potentially play a part in the effect that being left alone has on each cat. This suggests that cat owners need to apply elements of common sense and personal judgment to their decision about how long to leave their cat alone.
It is important that further studies are conducted in relation to the welfare of cats and the impact on their emotional well-being when they are left alone. This will then give cat owners some proper guidelines that they can follow to ensure that they have as little negative impact on the well-being of their cat as possible. Until there is further research, there are some suggestions that cat owners should follow the same guidelines as dog owners. This would involve not leaving their cat alone for more than four hours at a time. This could reduce the amount of boredom and loneliness their cat suffers due to being left alone.
Leaving a Cat Alone
This then leaves a potential problem for cat owners who work full-time as they may wonder what they can do about their cat while they are at work. It is particularly problematic for people who live in apartments and have an indoor cat who has no access to outdoor spaces for entertainment. The primary concern is that cats have access to everything they need for their physical health, such as food and a fresh supply of water. There are some steps you can take to improve your cat’s emotional well-being in your absence, too. First, try to get a friend or family member to call around occasionally while you are at work to keep your cat company. If this is not an option, there are other steps you can take. One measure you can take is to leave your cat with plenty of things to keep them entertained, such as a scratching post and some cat toys. This will reduce the likelihood of them becoming bored or lonely.