Are you going away with work or planning a vacation and aren’t sure what to do with your cat? Most owners will have times where they need to leave their adult cat overnight. However, while cats may seem aloof and independent, they love human company and shouldn’t be left for extended periods.
Leaving cats alone for four days is around the maximum time your cat can happily survive by themselves with the help of a sitter.
However, you need to make sure you’re prepared. For example, you’ll need to put special measures in place so that your cat has access to fresh wood and water and a clean litter tray for the duration of your time away from home.
I have to leave my cats alone for a couple of nights each month due to work commitments, so I am well aware of how we can make this away time as stress-free as possible for cats. In fact, I have pretty much perfected how to set up my home, which I share with you in this article. This will help you prepare for your absence and ensure there is nothing you forget.
I’ll also run through some considerations on how long you can leave cats; leaving cats alone for four days is okay for most. However, kittens should never be left that long. Moreover, special considerations should be taken for elderly or sick cats. But don’t worry – you’ll find all you need to know on this page!
Considerations for Leaving Cats Alone for 4 Days
Cats are independent creatures and can happily look after themselves for a few days in your absence. However, domestic cats are used to being waited on by their owners who provide them access to fresh food, clean water, and a clean litter tray. They also rely on their owners for fun and entertainment.
Therefore, leaving a cat alone for one day, two days, three days, or even four days is possible if you can ensure these needs are continually met even while you’re not home. In the below sections I share some ideas for each and considerations you need to think of before disappearing. However, I always suggest getting a pet sitter in as well to provide the social interaction that your cat is craving.
1. Fresh Food
A cat not eating and drinking for three days is a problem, so you need to make sure your cat is properly fed the entire length of time that you’re away. This will require leaving enough cat food out for your kitty to eat and survive off while you’re not there to put more out for them. You need to make sure this food stays fresh as well so that it doesn’t make them sick.
Now, the most important thing to note here is that to ensure your cat has access to fresh food you might need to change your cat’s diet.
Dry food can happily be left out overnight or even for several days straight without going off. On the other hand, wet food is only good for around two hours. After this, it can become contaminated with bacteria and dangerous for your cat to eat.
Therefore, if you are going away for a few days you will need to swap your cat to a dry-food-only diet. Don’t wait until the point you’re leaving to suddenly switch things up. Cats don’t respond well to change and you being away from home could already be a trigger. Changing their diet last minute on top of this might send them into a frenzy! Plus, their body won’t be used to the new food and it could make them sick – something you don’t want to come back home to.
Instead, start introducing dry food into their diet in the weeks leading up to your absence. They don’t need to be eating 100% dry food – a mixed food diet is better for their health anyway – but they should be used to consuming the dry food they’re going to be getting while you’re away.
Now we’ve got that covered, it’s time to look at how you can leave their food out for several days at a time. Below are some options available to you:
I know friends that simply fill multiple bowls with dry cat food and leave them in the kitchen while they’re leaving cats for a couple of days. This is a simple yet effective option and works for some people, especially if only leaving cats overnight rather than for several days on end.
However, I don’t recommend this if you know you have a greedy cat – my cat would gulp down all her biscuits on day one and be hungry by day four! This also doesn’t allow you to monitor the amount your cat eats each day. Another drawback is that it isn’t the best option for hygiene reasons, and even though dry food can be left out it could attract pests or other animals.
Cat Feeder with Collar Sensor
Another option could be to leave the cat food out in a special cat feeder with collar sensor. These are like regular bowls but have a lid that closes over the top. The lid will only open in response to your cat’s microchip being nearby (or an RFID collar tag if your cat is not microchipped).
This is preferable over regular cat bowls from a hygiene perspective – as the food is covered and enclosed it can say fresher for longer. Plus, you won’t need to worry about other animals or house pests coming to eat your cat’s dinner. However, it doesn’t solve the problem of your cat potentially eating all their food on day one.
With that being said, cat feeders with collar sensors are a huge help if you have two cats on different diets for their age or health. It means you can leave food out for both of your cats as each will only be able to access the food that is intended for them.
Automatic Cat Feeders
Automatic cat feeders are a better option as they help keep the dry food fresher and lower the risk of contamination. Most also have accurate portion control and timer settings so you can keep your cat’s schedule the same even while you’re away. This also prevents your cat from eating all their food on the first day of your absence.
However, I always recommend purchasing a feeder with a dual power supply – if the power cuts out while you’re away and the feeder is solely relying on the mains, your cat won’t have access to any food. Feeders that have dual power will revert to battery mode so they continue to work.
There are a few different types of automatic cat feeders to suit all situations, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding an appropriate product. For example, an automatic cat feeder for two cats is a must if you are leaving more than one cat alone. Alternatively, you might prefer to get a smart feeder which comes with inbuilt cameras and gadgets so you can keep a closer eye on your kitty while you’re away.
Note that while you can get automatic wet cat food feeders, I wouldn’t recommend using these if you are leaving your cat alone for more than one day. Even with ice packs keeping the food cool and a closed lid helping to prevent contamination, the food is only really good for 24 hours.
2. Clean Water
Water is another essential that cats need to survive. If leaving cats for one or two days, simply putting a large bowl of fresh water out should suffice. However, make sure you overestimate how much they need and put multiple bowls out just in case one gets knocked over. The last thing you want is your cat running out of fresh water while you’re away! Heavy, spill-proof cat bowls are also a good idea.
If leaving your cat longer than a few days, you might want to consider purchasing a cat water fountain. I actually use a cat water fountain all the time, even when I am at home. My cat much prefers drinking from the flowing stream to a still bowl, so her water intake is increased and she’s happier and healthier.
Cat water fountains have several benefits over leaving water out in bowls, which are as follows:
- Fountains have a large capacity so you can be sure there is enough water to keep your cat hydrated while you’re away from home.
- They are much heavier and larger than bowls and thus are extremely hard to tip over, giving you one less thing to worry about.
- The constant flow adds oxygen to the water which is gradually lost the longer water is left out. This keeps it tasting fresh and good.
- Most cat fountains have built-in filters which catch and remove all dirt and debris from the water, great for keeping it clean while you’re gone.
Water fountains are extremely popular now and you can get them in almost any color, shape, and size imaginable. Battery-operated cat water fountains are a good option if leaving cats for four days as they don’t have any hazardous cables and you won’t need to worry about the power cutting out. However, fountains with dual power tend to be better as then you won’t be worrying about the batteries potentially running out either.
3. Clean Litter Box
If you have an outdoor cat that doesn’t use a litter box, you can skip right over this section as it is irrelevant. However, anyone that does have a litter box in their home needs to ensure it is kept clean and fresh while you’re away.
Cats are extremely finicky about their litter trays and a litter tray that hasn’t been cleaned for four days can cause extreme upset! Plus, your cat might choose somewhere else to do their bathroom business. The last thing you want is to come home to cat pee and poop on your floors or furniture.
A relatively straightforward solution to this issue is to adopt litter box ideas for multiple cats, such as putting multiple litter boxes in your home. This way, their waste is spread out and your cat has a choice of where to go. If they’re not used to having two or more litter boxes, put the litter boxes out a week before you’re planning to leave so your cat has a chance to learn where they are.
Self-cleaning litter boxes are another option. As the name suggests, these are litter boxes that clean themselves while you’re away. This ensures your cat always has a clean litter tray. Plus, once you have invested in a self-cleaning litter tray you can use it permanently – you won’t have to clean your cat’s litter tray ever again.
Food, water, and a clean litter tray are the three essentials that cannot be compromised when leaving cats for four days. However, you might also want to consider the mental state of your cat and how you can keep them entertained and stimulated while they’re alone.
Thankfully, in a busy world where owners don’t necessarily have time to play with their cats every day, a huge range of automatic motorized cat toys exists. These are electric toys that move by themselves to entice your cat to play. Examples include flopping fish cat toys, self-rolling balls, spinning feather toys, and more. Automatic laser cat toys are my favorite and provide my cats with endless fun!
Food puzzles and toys are other good options for keeping your cat entertained. Put a few treats in a puzzle ball and let your cat figure out how to get them. Even simple things like leaving out a few cardboard boxes or leaving the radio on as background noise can help keep your kitty amused.
Finally, safety is a big one when leaving your cat home alone. Without you being there to supervise or help your cat out if they do become unstuck, you need to fully cat-proof your home before leaving for an extended period.
Below are some recommendations on making your home as cat-friendly as possible. Many of you will be doing most of these already to help keep your curious cat out of trouble. Still, it’s worth reiterating as it is always better to be safe than sorry:
- Tie up all blind cords which could strangle or injure your cat
- Move any toxic houseplants to a room your cat doesn’t have access to
- Cover up all electrical cords that your cat could chew through or play with
- Use microchip cat flaps to avoid unwelcome guests in your home
- Put all chemicals and other toxic products in lockable cupboards
- Keep all toilet seat lids down so your cat doesn’t fall inside by mistake
- Ensure all other potentially harmful objects are out of reach
- Set your thermostat to an appropriate temperature to avoid over/under heating
How Long Can You Leave a Cat Alone?
Using all the above advice, leaving healthy adult cats alone for four days is completely fine. However, I always recommend getting a pet sitter as well to provide social interaction. This will also give you peace of mind that if anything did go wrong or happen to your cat someone would be there to help.
With that being said, this does depend on the personality of your cat. If you know you have a needy cat that constantly wants love and affection, I wouldn’t advise leaving them for so long. Your cat will probably be very unhappy in your absence which can manifest in destructive behaviors and cause attachment issues in the future.
Moreover, it is important to note that you should only ever be leaving healthy adult cats alone. Kittens should never be left alone for this long. Four hours is the maximum length of time that kittens under the age of four months should be left. Even at five and six months old, you shouldn’t be leaving your kittens for more than five hours. At the age of six months, a kitten can usually survive an eight-hour working day without you but still shouldn’t be left overnight.
There are similar concerns for elderly cats too. Like kittens, seniors are more vulnerable and need a higher level of care. They’re much more prone to injury and could fall and hurt themselves while you’re away. Medical problems are more common in elderly cats as well, and administering treatment each day or responding to changes in their condition isn’t possible if you’re not home.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Leaving cats alone for four days is usually fine for healthy adult felines. However, you do need to make sure all their essential needs are met or you could come home to heartache. This article should help you find solutions and make the necessary preparations ahead of time. Remember, even with all the above advice taken on board, a pet sitter can make a big difference to your cat’s happiness and well-being too!