Bringing home a new kitten is an exciting time like no other. In the first few days, it is likely that you will not even want to leave their side. But as time passes and the responsibilities of life take their hold – you will be left with the challenging decision of whether or not you want to, or even can, leave your kitten alone. With the safety and well-being of a kitten firmly in mind, I spent some time researching to find out exactly what the experts recommend.
So, how long can you leave a kitten alone? It is generally advised to not leave a kitten alone for longer than 4 hours at a time. Although, it does depend on the kitten’s age. Kittens older than 6 months may be able to be left for up to 6 hours before requiring human interaction.
Leaving your pet home alone is inevitable at some point.
And the truth is, your kitten will need to learn to become independent.
That is of course if you work a day job or are going to need to be frequently leaving the home.
The question is, however, when and where you start this process with a young kitten.
Besides, they are still relatively vulnerable, while being equally energetic and inquisitive.
Then there is the fact that young kittens require more socialization and activity than older cats.
It is in the early days and months of life that they develop trust and relationships with their owners. Nobody wants to own a cat that they fail to bond with.
Equally, kittens can get lonely. And, outside of the upsetting nature of this, they can also get destructive. Not ideal for anyone!
While every kitten is certainly their own individual, there are some recommendations about leaving them alone.
Let us now take a closer look at all that is involved with doing this and how to go about it, the right way.
When Can You Start Leaving A Kitten Home Alone?
It comes strongly advised that a kitten is only left alone from the age of 8 weeks onwards.
Furthermore, the younger a kitten is, the less time that it is recommended that they go in between human interactions.
If you are to adopt a kitten from a reputable breeder, chances are they will be around the age of 12 weeks anyway.
With that being said, it’s important to consider that when you first bring your kitten home, they are being exposed to an entirely new environment, new people, and new situations.
It’s a stressful time for a new kitten, and they need to feel supported and comfortable during the transition process.
They are leaving their mother and fellow siblings after all!
This is why it comes strongly recommended, that when you first get a kitten, you spend as much time with them as possible.
Let them get to know you, become familiar with you – let them learn to recognize you, and to take in how you look, how you smell, and how you generally interact with them.
Let them learn that you are their owner, responsible for feeding them and meeting their needs.
It’s important they learn about the daily schedule and get into a daily routine when it comes to feeding and your general patterns; such as wake and sleep times etc.
Whether or not you have other family members in the home will depend on whether you leave them entirely to their own devices for a period of time.
It may be that you have children who can interact with the kitten while you are out and about.
However, there will be times when you do need to all leave together. Or, you may not have children or other people around.
In such instances, there are many things you will need to take into account; such as your home setup and ensuring your kitten has everything they need while you are away.
Suggested Time Away For Kittens
How long you leave a kitten alone will depend on the individual personality of the kitten, their age, health, your home setup, and their general maturity/ability (such as being able to eat/drink alone and go to the toilet when required, etc.)
Nevertheless, here are some rough guidelines to consider:
|8 Weeks to 4 Months||3-4 hours|
|4-5 months||5 hours|
|6 months||6 hours|
|Adult (6 Months+)||24 hours|
As you can see, the older the kitten, generally the longer you can leave them alone.
At the other end of the extreme, a cat can be left alone for much longer; up to 24 hours.
Here is why:
Cats become much more solitary as they age; being more confident, willing and able to go periods without interaction.
Yet, kittens, still have a need for this kind of human socialization.
For example, they need much more regular feeding (which is often the wet food variety – which needs more hands-on feeding), and they require more playtime too.
So while cats are certainly more low-maintenance than dogs and most other pets, the same cannot be said for kittens.
Of course, it all depends on how many kittens you are looking to take on.
If you adopt two kittens, then they will be able to keep each other occupied, even while you are away.
What Happens If You Leave A Kitten Alone Too Long
What will happen to a kitten that has been left alone for too long will depend on several factors: the amount of time left, what they have access to, the general conditions of the home, and how often this happens.
In the more extreme cases where kittens are outwardly neglected, there is the possibility that a kitten can become malnourished.
Kittens need regular feeding. They have small stomachs and expend a lot of energy; so need to eat little and often.
Malnourishment may lead to long-term growth implications if it goes on for long enough.
In the short term, however, too long of a time between meals can be fatal to a kitten. They simply need to eat often while young.
And just because you leave food out does not mean that they will necessarily eat it.
From an emotional perspective, kittens that go too long without human interaction, or any interaction at all, are likely to become lonely and subsequently depressed.
Kittens simply need attention; at this age, they develop a number of important skills, with many in the company of others.
Therefore, a kitten left for too long may become more aloof later in life. Not nice.
Then there are potential behavioral issues.
Kittens that are bored and lonely are likely to misbehave. Either by scratching up furniture or doing anything that can keep them occupied.
The result can be quite dramatic and kittens with their sharp paws can be very destructive, even in a small amount of time.
So, it’s important that you do not leave your kitten alone for long, or too regularly.
Keep in mind their age, and keep it below 2-3 hours as much as you can.
If this is something that you personally cannot do, consider calling a friend, neighbor, family member, or professional cat sitter to step in on your behalf.
Can You Leave A Kitten Alone Overnight?
While it is generally possible to leave an adult cat alone overnight, it comes strongly recommended that you do not do so for a kitten.
As we have mentioned above, kittens have a number of requirements that just do not make this feasible.
The risks are much higher for a kitten than they are for an adult cat.
Food, water, litter tray needs, socialization; are all factors that prevent it from being advisable.
Moreover, the sudden onset of illness, or injury, can leave them particularly vulnerable.
So, if you need to be somewhere overnight, either call in a trusted pet sitter to stay in your home and support your kitten for you.
Or, alternatively, if you need to spend even more time away or do not know anyone suitable, there are always boarding catteries or cattery kennels.
These will temporarily house your kitten overnight, and be meet any of your kitten’s needs during this time.
As with any service, be sure to do your research and due diligence ahead of time.
Here is an excellent resource on catteries, along with the criteria you should consider when selecting one if this seems like a potential approach.
How To Keep Your Kitten Safe And Content When Left Alone
If you do plan on leaving your kitten alone for a few hours at a time, consider the following tips and strategies to ensure they remain safe and happy.
Easy Access To Water
Kittens and cats must remain hydrated, which is increasingly more difficult to achieve in your absence.
So, you’ll want to ensure your kitten has access to multiple bowls of water (placed conveniently) around your home.
You may even want to consider a water fountain; like this best seller on Amazon, as this makes it much easier for a kitten to consume water and it also entices them to do so.
Enough Dry Food
Kittens need to eat little and often, and their small stomachs will mean that they cannot eat much at a time.
So, again, you’ll need to ensure that you leave out enough dry food for your kitten.
The important word here is dry.
Dry food can be left for much longer without going rancid, harboring bacteria, and potentially causing illness in your kitten.
Wet food (such as from a pouch or can) is much more appetizing for a kitten, but it needs to be put down fresh (and taken away within 30 minutes).
So, you’ll need to have transitioned your kitten over to dry food, or started the process, for this all to work out.
It’s important to consider the season, the weather, and the general temperature of your home.
If it’s the height of summer, you need to ensure your kitten does not become too hot and overheat. Air conditioners may be required.
Equally, if it’s the height of winter, you need to ensure your kitten can stay sufficiently warm. Heaters, blankets, and radiators will likely be required.
As will the prevention of any drafts.
Kittens are generally very active and energetic and will explore wherever they are kept while you are away.
So, you need to ensure that you leave them with sufficient space, that has been checked in advance to ensure it is safe.
Be sure to remove any items that could cause injury, such as sharp items. Also be sure to remove anything that could cause sickness if ingested, like herbs, spices, or any poisonous plants.
Also, make sure your kitten has somewhere to sleep, such as a soft bed with clean comfortable blankets.
Lastly, it goes without saying but to ensure that they cannot escape!
Several Litter Boxes
Your kitten will need to go to the bathroom while you are away.
However, when you are not around, litter boxes can soon become full. This can actually prevent a kitten from using it and going somewhere else.
But can we blame them?
So instead, add a few extra litter boxes, and ensure your kitten knows where they are before you leave.
If you plan to leave your home for longer than 4-6 hours, then it comes advised to get a cat sitter to pop by.
They can interact with your kitten, play with them and ensure they have everything they need.
This can work great because they can be fed fresh food while enabling you to go about your day-to-day without stressing or feeling the need to rush home.
To help your sitter, ensure you make them familiar with certain things in advance, such as:
To help your cat sitter do the best job possible, prepare a dossier with pertinent information, including:
- How they can contact you,
- When, how to feed your kitten,
- Litter changing requirements,
- Kittens preferences (where they like to go)
- Where items and accessories are stored,
- Veterinarian information (in case of an emergency)
And if they do a particularly good job, don’t forget to tip them!
If you know that you will routinely need to leave your home for considerable periods of time, then you may want to consider getting your kitten some additional company.
Getting another kitten does increase your responsibilities and costs, but it does afford your kitten a playmate and someone to interact within your absence.
Just be sure to only get another young kitten, and make sure they are of the opposite sex to prevent fighting.
You’ll also need to consider the breeds and potentially neutering further down the line.
Kittens can be left alone. But in reality, not for very long.
In fact, the less time you leave a kitten alone – the better – for everyone involved.
A good rule of thumb is to never look to leave your kitten alone for longer than 4-6 hours; whether this is the time they spend apart from you or another person will depend on your circumstances.
It’s entirely natural to be concerned when leaving your kitten alone, especially for the first time.
With a little bit of planning and consideration, and with some time and consistency, you will know exactly how to support the needs of your kitten – even while you are away.
It does get easier too.
Once you have an adult cat; it’s pretty much over to them.
Do you have other questions related to your kitten’s sleep and time alone? My following guides may be of interest:
- Should I Leave A Light On For My Kitten At Night?
- Where Should My Kitten Sleep At Night? [The Right Approach]
- Can Kittens Sleep Outside? [The Approach To Take]
- Why Is My Kitten Sleeping So Much? [How You Should Respond]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.