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Expert says cats should not be left alone for more than 24 hours, here’s why

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People who want a low maintenance pet in the house will often opt for a cat but studies have shown that cats often value the company of others and that they need affection just as much as other pets.

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Many have been led to believe that cats are aloof and independent creatures who don’t require much attention compared to dogs, for instance. However, experts argue that this stereotype isn’t necessarily true.

How long should cats be left alone for?

Angry cat. (Unsplash, Paul Hanaoka)
Angry cat. (Unsplash, Paul Hanaoka)

Cats should not be alone for more than 24 hours, cat expert Mikel Delgado told online news media Inverse.

If pet owners know they are going to be away from their cats for prolonged periods of time, then they should have someone check in on them often.

“You should not leave your cat alone for a prolonged period,” Delgado, who is also a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, reportedly said.

Cats also have emotional and social needs that can’t be met when they are left alone for extended periods,” she added.

While it may not be ideal to leave a cat alone for prolonged periods of time, experts believe that there are ways to keep them safe and emotionally healthy.

Leaving the cat a bowl of food when going for a trip for a few days could also be dangerous for the feline’s health.

“Cats may overeat due to stress, knock over their water dish, or get injured – so it’s not okay to just leave them with a big bowl of food and keep your fingers crossed,” she said.

Knowing this, some cat owners might opt for an automatic feeder. However, board certified veterinary behaviorist Katherine Pankratz believes that they could “sometimes fail” or not “work as anticipated.”

Signs of emotional distress in cats

A cat staring at its reflection in a mirror. (Unsplash, Eduard Delputte)
A cat staring at its reflection in a mirror. (Unsplash, Eduard Delputte)

Like people, cats can suffer from emotional distress too. This can often happen when they are away from their owners for too long.

The top five signs of emotional distress in cats are: lack of activity, excessive or poor grooming, hiding, easily startled and wariness around resources, Head Vet at Abu Dhabi-based veterinary clinic Animalia – Welfare & More, Dr. Amer Grizic, previously told Al Arabiya English.

Adding to that list, Delago told Inverse that emotional distress in cats can often includes vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea and not using their litter box.

Should you book a cat sitter?

“You should arrange for a pet sitter to check on your cat at least once a day,” said Delgado, noting that twice a day would be even more effective.

Echoing Delgado’s sentiment, Pankratz (who is a cat owner herself) suggested a “consistent caretaker that your cat gets along well with.”

The cat sitter would need to provide meals around the same time the pet owner would normally feed the cat.

While it might not be easy to find the right cat sitter, the caretaker could simply take care of the feline’s basic needs such as feeding and ensuring that its litter box is clean, Delgado suggested.

“They can sit and read, talk gently to your cat, or just be a ‘typical human presence’ by sitting on the couch, watching TV, or checking their phone,” she said, adding that the sitter could also interact with the cat on its own terms.

Some cats might prefer sitters that sleep at the house overnight, but that varies depending on the feline itself. The cat’s personality and breed can factor into this.

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