We all go away on vacation. But unfortunately, we cannot always take our pets. How will your cat feel when you go away? Will he miss you? Will he know how long you are gone? I know you have lots of questions; I certainly did the first time we left ours. So, let’s get them all answered.
So, does my cat miss me when I go on vacation? While the research is inconclusive, most owners would say that cats do generally miss them while they are away on vacation. Cats don’t need human company in order to feel safe and loved, but they do appreciate interaction with their humans and can form profound relationships with them. Cats also love routine, and anything that disrupts that routine is bound to cause them stress.
You may feel a little guilty now.
I get it.
I’ve been there.
But we all need a break.
And taking your cat with you is just impractical. And even if it were possible, it likely wouldn’t be desirable – let’s be honest!
So, what can you do to minimize any potential problems and ensure your cat’s emotional (and physical) needs are met while you’re gone.
We will get into that shortly.
Do Cats Miss Their Owners When They Go on Vacation?
It is believed that cats do miss their owners when they go on vacation. At least, they miss the routine that owners bring. That being said, some cats will miss their owners and typical lifestyle more than others.
Research shows that cats are autonomous creatures, but they still need mental and physical stimulation that their human families provide.
Some Cats Are More Affectionate Than Others
You know your cat better than anyone, so you’re the best person to judge how much affection he needs.
The more affectionate your cat is, the more likely he’ll be to miss you when you’re gone.
Some cats are very demanding and want lots of interaction and play.
Other cats are more aloof and will come to you only when they want a bit of attention.
Some cats need lots of alone time, while others are most at ease when relaxing in your company.
What The Research Says
Recent research only raises more questions, as the results are conflicting.
Some research says that cats experience separation anxiety when their owners go away. Other research says the opposite.
What research does agree on, though, is that cats are autonomous creatures who don’t need us for their survival, and cats are fully aware of this.
Routine Is Important To Cats
Cats thrive on routine, even more so than dogs. Just try taking your cat out and about, and you’ll see that most cats like their home comforts.
Any change in your cat’s routine can confuse or frighten him. It takes cats from five days to two weeks or longer to adjust to a new routine.
If you are gone for two weeks, by the time your cat has adjusted to the new routine, you’ll return, and he’ll have to adjust all over again.
He’ll also have to get used to your smell again: he won’t have been able to refresh his cheek-rub markings while you’ve been gone.
Do Cats Know How Long You Are Gone on Vacation?
While cats don’t know exactly how many days you’re gone on vacation, they do have a concept of time. Cats have strong internal clocks, so they’re aware of the passage of day and night.
How Long Before Your Cat Misses You
According to a long-term pet sitter on Quora, most cats wonder where their owners are for the first two days, after which time they tend to accept the current situation.
However, once it gets to 7 to 10 days, many cats start to get a bit fed up and wonder where their owners have gone.
After another day or two, most cats will readjust for the remainder of their owners’ time away.
Your Cat’s Internal Clock
Cats have very accurate internal clocks.
While we don’t yet know how they do it, cats have a general sense of the rhythm of the day.
They also take their cues from natural occurrences such as daylight and birdsong.
Cats are creatures of habit, which explains why your cat may wake you at the same time each day to be fed!
Signs A Cat Missed You While You Were On Vacation
Even though cats can be more or less aloof, there are definite signs cats give that say they missed you while you were away.
Purring and Stretching
One study showed that some cats, when left for a few hours, would purr and stretch upon their owners’ return, suggesting they were happy to see their humans come back.
Tearing Things Up
Sometimes your cat might have torn things up while you were gone as a sign of stress at your absence. Some cats may even eliminate outside their litter box as a sign of protest or anxiety.
Boredom or loneliness tends to exacerbate this kind of destructive behavior.
Desire For Affection
If your cat rubs up against your leg or marks you when you come back, he’s telling you he missed you and wants some love!
Sometimes these signs of wanting affection are more subtle, such as following you from room to room.
Stress or Showing Agitation
If your cat appears to be overly stressed or anxious, some people believe these are signs of separation anxiety.
Is your cat acting differently upon your return? Is he not as affectionate as he usually is?
Or is he more so? Some cats actually cry or meow to complain that you left them.
Some cats have actually become ill while their owners were away. Some people would say that this is out of worry.
While this is an extreme situation, there are enough reports of it to suggest some cats can become physically sick with worry.
Best Practices When Leaving Your Cat To Go On Vacation
When leaving your cat, prepare everything to make for the best possible experience for him. Prepare your cat in advance; get a pet sitter, a friend, or a relative to make regular visits. Keep to your cat’s routine as much as possible, and provide him with entertainment options.
Prepare For Your Departure In Advance
Prepare Your Luggage
At least a week ahead of time, get out your suitcase so your cat gets used to it. Put treats or toys inside so that your cat associates your suitcase with positive experiences.
Do the same with a cat carrier if you’ll be using one.
The Sock Trick
Have everyone that your cat loves choose a pair of socks (that they’ve already worn but not washed).
Have each person rub their socks all over the cat. Seal each pair of socks in a separate plastic bag.
When you get home, have everyone put their socks back on. In this way, you’ll still carry your familiar scent, which will reassure your cat.
Note: You can also leave a worn t-shirt or another item of clothing in your cat’s bed for comfort.
Try playing your recorded voice to your cat before you go, and see how he responds. Some cats like hearing your voice, while others become upset.
Test this method before you leave: if it works, that’s one more thing your cat sitter can provide for your cat (of course, you can always video call, too!)
Get Somebody To Come Each Day
If your cat is staying in your home (preferred), here’s what you’ll want to do:
- Have someone come each day to look after and spend time with your cat while you’re gone. Whoever it is, whether a cat sitter or a friend, they can make sure your cat’s surroundings are clean and tidy. A good companion will provide affection and entertainment for your cat.
- Have the pet sitter meet your cat as many times as possible in advance of your departure. Get the sitter to offer your cat his favorite toys or treats. You want your cat to associate the sitter with positive experiences. If your cat wants to run away, let him do that. He’ll need to get used to the sitter on his own terms, even if it takes several visits (which it probably will).
- Keep a written list of your cat’s daily routine for the sitter to follow. Put things like mealtimes, grooming, playtime, cuddle times, etc. The more your sitter can stick to these routines, the less stress for your cat.
- If you know some of your cat’s routine activities will change while you’re gone, implement these changes a few days before you go. Your cat can then begin the transition without having to also deal with the stress of you being gone at the same time.
Note: Don’t be tempted to leave your cat alone all weekend. Although cats can be solitary creatures, they shouldn’t be left alone for longer than 24 hours at a time.
Leave Entertainment For Your Cat
Provide interactive toys, puzzle feeders, scratching posts, and anything else that’s cat-friendly and is designed to stimulate your cat.
If you can, provide places where your cat can perch to watch birds or simply be up high, as cats feel more secure when they are high up.
If you have a windowsill, provide space for your cat to be able to sit and enjoy bird-watching. Cats can spend many a happy hour observing wildlife from the window.
If Boarding Your Cat
If you are boarding your cat, the same applies to leaving a t-shirt that smells like you, along with favorite toys or treats.
Ask the boarding facility to adhere to your cat’s routine where possible. Tell them where your cat likes to be petted and what he likes to play with.
If you transport him in a cat carrier, cover the carrier and keep it secure with a seat belt. You can also try playing soft music and putting some treats inside the carrier.
If you suspect your cat may be prone to separation anxiety, check with your vet to see if you can use medications, pheromones, or nutritional supplements.
Many things can be begun before you go away and can be very helpful in relieving anxiety or stress.
Cats do appear to miss their owners while they are away.
Besides, it’s not just attention and affection, it’s all of the practical aspects that come with care too.
Thankfully with a little preparation in advance, and ensuring you do not go away for too long without your cat’s needs being met, you can soften the blow and ensure their experience is not as problematic as it could potentially be.
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I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.