We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How Long Can You Leave Dogs and Cats Alone?

A cat in a chair

When it comes to our pets, we always want to provide them with constant care, attention, and love. However, there are times when pet owners may need to be away from home for certain periods of time, leaving their dogs and cats alone. While these independent creatures can handle being alone for short periods, it’s essential to consider their well-being and make sure that they are not left unattended for too long. Here’s what you need to know about leaving the house while your pet stays behind, with advice from Nicolette Meredith, DVM.

How Long Can You Leave Cats and Kittens Alone?

Two kittens on a bed
beton studio/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to leaving cats and kittens alone, it’s important to consider their age and individual needs. Adult cats are generally more independent and can be left alone for longer periods of time, typically around 12 hours, says Dr. Meredith, Co-Founder of Puppylation Health. However, this length of time will vary from cat to cat, and it is essential that they have access to fresh water, a clean litter box, and plenty of food to last them during your absence.

On the other hand, kittens require more regular care and social interactions. They are still learning and developing, so Dr. Meredith recommends leaving them alone for no more than 4-6 hours.

Senior cats may have specific health issues or separation anxiety, so their behavior should be monitored closely when left alone for extended periods. Providing extra food, a clean litter box, and comfortable temperatures in the house is important to ensure their well-being.

Van Ness Pets Odor Control Large Enclosed Cat Litter Box

You should have one litter box per cat in your home.

How Long Can You Leave Dogs and Puppies Alone?

A puppy looks out the window

When it comes to how long dogs and puppies can be left alone, several factors need to be considered, including age, breed, and personality.

Young puppies, especially those under four months old, require almost constant attention and care. They have not yet developed full bladder control and may have a higher risk of separation anxiety. Dr. Meredith does not recommend leaving young puppies alone for more than a few hours at a time.

As dogs grow older, their ability to be left alone for longer periods increases. Adult dogs, depending on their breed and personality, can typically be left alone for 8-12 hours, depending on how often they need to go to the bathroom. Before leaving your dog for several hours, pay attention to how long they go before asking to go outside to urinate, and try not to leave them alone for longer than that amount of time.

Regardless of age, all dogs should have access to fresh water, food, and a clean place to eliminate in case of an emergency. And remember that all dogs are unique, so some may do well alone for a long period of time while others shouldn’t be left alone for more than an hour or two.

Amazon Basics Dog and Puppy Pee Pads

For emergencies when you're gone.

How to Keep Pets Safe Alone

A puppy sleeps in a kennel
Stacey Welu/Shutterstock.com

Leaving pets alone for extended periods can be a concern for many pet owners. Whether you have a dog or a cat, it is important to ensure their safety and well-being while you are away. Here are a few ways you can do that.

Leave Plenty of Water

A cat drinks water
Creative Cat Studio/Shutterstock.com

Giving your animals access to fresh water is one of the most important things you can do while you’re gone, says Dr. Meredith. One way to encourage hydration is by using a pet water fountain. These fountains continuously circulate the water, making it more appealing for pets to drink, especially cats.

In addition to a water fountain, it is recommended to add extra water bowls throughout the house. This allows your furry friend to easily find water wherever they may be. If you have a pet sitter or are boarding your pet, make sure to instruct them to clean and refill the water dishes daily to ensure a fresh supply for your pet.

You can also use automatic pet feeders if you need to feed your dog or cat while you’re gone.

Veken 95oz/2.8L Pet Fountain

You'll find that many cats love drinking fountains like this one.

Provide Engaging Toys and Games

A dog uses a puzzle toy
Lenti Hill/Shutterstock.com

Leaving dogs and cats alone for extended periods of time can sometimes lead to boredom and unwanted behaviors. To keep them mentally and physically active while their owners are away, it’s important to provide engaging toys and games.

For cats, placing bird feeders outside windows can provide entertainment and stimulation as they watch birds flutter by. Comfortable perches or window hammocks also allow cats to observe the outside world and relax in a cozy spot.

For dogs, leaving their favorite stuffed animals can offer some comfort and entertainment while their owners are away. Puzzle toys that require them to figure out how to retrieve treats or kibble can provide mental stimulation and are great for anxious dogs that might get into things while you’re gone. It’s important to avoid leaving any toys or games that could potentially pose a choking hazard to your pup.

PET ARENA Adjustable Snuffle mat for Dogs

Snuffle mats are great for mental stimulation.

General Home Safety Measures

A cat at home

No matter how long you’re leaving your pet alone, you need to do what you can to minimize health and safety risks while you’re away. Here are some general home safety measures to consider:

  • Remove hazards: Dr. Meredith recommends inspecting your home for potential dangers such as electric cords that pets could chew on, poisonous plants or foods within reach, and household chemicals or medications that they may ingest. Remove anything that your cat or dog might get into.
  • Secure windows and doors: Make sure all windows and doors are securely closed and locked to prevent escape or accidents.
  • Avoid entrapment: Check for items that pets could get stuck in, such as open cabinets, tight spaces, or furniture with gaps where they could become trapped.
  • Set up a safe space: Provide a designated area where your pet can feel comfortable and secure. This can be a cozy crate or a specific room with their bedding, toys, and a litter box or puppy pads for dogs.
  • Utilize pet cameras: Consider installing pet cameras to monitor your pet’s activities while you’re away. Position the cameras in areas where they spend most of their time, such as their favorite spots or near the feeding area.

Taking these general home safety measures will help ensure that your pets are in a secure and protected environment while you are away.

MidWest Homes for Pets Newly Enhanced Single & Double Door iCrate Dog Crate

A kennel is one of the best ways to keep your dog safe while you're away for shorter periods of time.

When Should You Hire a Sitter?

A woman feeds a dog

Hiring a professional pet sitter is recommended when you need to leave your dogs or cats alone for extended periods of time. While pets are generally independent creatures, they still require regular care and social interactions. Leaving them alone for too long can lead to separation anxiety, destructive behavior, and even health issues. Dr. Meredith recommends hiring a sitter if you are going to be gone for longer than 12 hours.

“Always make sure you have someone to call if you can’t get home in that time frame to check in on your pet,” she said.

This time frame may need to be shorter if you have young cats or dogs, anxious animals, pets with health issues, or another unique situation.

A professional pet sitter can provide the necessary care and attention that your furry friends need. They can ensure that your pets have fresh water, plenty of food, and a clean litter box. They can also engage in playtime and provide companionship, helping to alleviate any potential loneliness.

If you can’t find a sitter or you are going to be gone for several days, another pet care option is boarding your pet at a professional facility. Boarding facilities offer a comfortable temperature-controlled environment, enrichment activities, and regular care. This can be a suitable solution for pet owners who prefer to have their pets in a supervised environment while they are away.

It’s important to provide adequate care and attention to dogs and cats when leaving them alone for extended periods of time. Here’s what you need to know about leaving your fur babies at home.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on one thing: making your life outside of work even better. Want to know more?