By Dr. Becker
Recently, I came across a survey that suggested over half of U.S. cat owners choose a feline companion in part because they believe cats can be left alone for long periods of time.
And it’s a fact that many people are accustomed to putting down a big bowl of kibble, another of water, and leaving their cat alone at home for a few or several days.
This isn’t a good idea, and let me explain why.
Why Cats Really Shouldn’t Be Left Alone at Home
Number one, cats do get sick, and if no one is around for several days, your kitty won’t get the help he needs until you return. Most veterinarians know at least one client who has come home to a desperately ill or dead cat.
There are some relatively common feline disorders, for example, urinary blockages that can come on suddenly and can result in a painful death in less than three days. Imagine how you would feel arriving home to find your beloved kitty dead, knowing he could have been saved had someone been around.
Another reason I don’t feel cats should be left alone for more than a day is because I don’t recommend feeding dry food to kitties, and you can’t leave fresh or canned cat food out because it will spoil.
Thirdly, many cats object to a dirty litter box. If no one tends to your kitty’s powder room for several days, she might develop undesirable coping behaviors like relieving herself somewhere she shouldn’t.
How to Care for Your Cat If You’ll Be Away from Home for Longer Than a Day
My recommendation is to arrange for someone to visit your cat at least once a day, and preferably twice, to feed him, scoop and dispose of soiled litter, and spend a little time with him to insure he’s healthy and comfortable. Perhaps you have a neighbor, relative or friend who is available to stop by. If not, I recommend hiring a professional pet sitter for once or twice daily visits.
Another, less desirable option is to board your cat. This is almost never ideal, because cats prefer to be on their own turf and most become stressed when kenneled away from home. Stress often leads to GI upset – especially if your kitty is fed an unfamiliar diet or treats while boarded. In addition, most boarding kennels require vaccines that you wouldn’t ordinarily choose for your pet.
If you must board your kitty, try to find a cats-only facility. Kitties do best in a calm, quiet environment, and many all-pet boarding facilities are very noisy with barking dogs, shrieking birds, and other vocal animals. This type of set-up is very stressful for cats.
Some cats-only facilities go all out to create a feline-friendly environment. Guests stay in individual “suites” or “condos” outfitted with furniture and materials kitties are known to prefer. Just keep in mind that no matter how deluxe the accommodations, your cat doesn’t require the same level of social interaction a dog does and will do best in her own home with someone stopping by each day to care for her.