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How Long Can a Dog or Cat Be Left Home Alone?

Cat looking out window


When you're a pet parent, leaving the house takes on a whole new dimension, especially if you're going out of town. Do you need to get a pet sitter, find a boarding facility, or can your furry friend stay solo? When do you need to make special arrangements for someone to watch your dog or cat, and when can you leave pets alone?

Cats tend to be more self-sufficient and less likely to need a pet sitter if you're just going away for an overnight trip. Your dog will need someone to at least check-in for a walk or potty breaks during this time. If you plan to be away for more than two days, you should arrange for someone to stay with or check on your dog and cat.

No matter how long you plan to be away from home, you'll always need to make some plans for your pet. Those arrangements depend on your pet, where you live, and the length of time you're gone.

Dog laying on pillow

How Long Can I Leave My Dog Alone?

Your dog wants you home every second, but they'll be okay on their own while you're gone for the day. However, this applies to mature dogs, not puppies. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), your dog shouldn’t be alone for more than 8 hours without a chance for a potty break.

How Long Can a Dog Be Alone During the Day?

Young puppies need frequent attention, and you shouldn’t leave puppies under 12 weeks alone for more than an hour. Once your dog is three months old, you can generally leave them alone for an hour per month of age. In other words, if your dog is four months old, they can be alone for four hours, five months for five hours, etc. 

After a dog reaches six months, you can leave them alone for 6 to 8 hours. But, providing your dog with some things to keep them busy is a must. Leave your dog interactive toys to play with, like a treat puzzle, and plenty of fresh water. A lick mat can help keep your dog calm since licking is a way dogs self-soothe. Even one of your old shirts with your scent can help keep your dog at ease.

If your dog has special needs or is older, you may need to arrange to check on them sooner than 6 to 8 hours. Always be aware of your dog’s unique situation and personality and respond accordingly. Also, if your pet needs medication throughout the day, you’ll need to arrange to be home for these times.

What if I Work Long Hours and Have a Dog?

If you work long shifts (10 to 12+ hours) or often travel for work, it’s important to consider if a dog is right for you. Or, do you work in an environment that allows you to bring your dog to work? 

If not, a dog might not be the best fit for you. However, if longer shifts or work travel is only on occasion, just be prepared to plan for proper care for your pup. It’s best to look into a good dog boarding facility, a doggy daycare (if your dog enjoys other pups), or a professional pet sitter.

You can also invest in a dog camera, like Furbo, to keep an eye on your pet at all times. You can even talk with your pal through the device and dispense treats remotely.

Cat laying in cat tree

How Long Can I Leave My Cat Alone?

Cats are undoubtedly more independent than their canine counterparts. But that doesn’t mean you can leave them alone all the time. Despite their lone-ranger reputation, cats can still be quite the socialites. Therefore, they would miss your undivided attention and affection if you were away for too long.

Most cats are fine on their own when you’re gone for the day, even up to 12 hours. Thanks to their indoor bathrooms, you don’t need to worry about scheduling your day around your cat’s bathroom needs.

But, it’s still important to leave your feline friend some form of entertainment to pass the time. Cats can still get bored if left understimulated, and bored cats can become mischievous. Make sure to provide some fun toys, and play some classical music if your cat’s into it. 

If your kitty enjoys keeping tabs on the neighborhood, open a curtain slightly so they can scope out the view. Add some food and fresh water into the mix, and your cat can make it through your long workday on their own.

There are some exceptions to leaving your cat alone for an 8 to 12-hour day.  Kittens typically need feeding every 4 to 6 hours. Plus, they can get into mischief, so it’s a good idea to arrange to check on them throughout the day. Older cats can become more stressed when left alone for long periods, so it’s essential to understand your cat’s needs and personality.

Is It Okay to Leave My Cat Alone Overnight?

Most experts agree that leaving your cat to care for themselves overnight is okay. If you’re going on a short trip, leave plenty of fresh water and food for your cat.

Also, ensure you scoop the litter box right before you go so your cat has a fresh potty spot. Similar to when you go to work for the day, leave some interesting toys and other distractions for your pet. It’s also wise to have some irresistible scratching posts if you don’t already have them.

Special Preparations for Leaving Your Cat Alone Overnight

In addition to leaving adequate food and water, a clean litter box, and toys, you must take care of a few more things. It’s important to let someone know you will be away and have your cat home alone. Provide this person with your vet’s contact number, a house key, and any special information they need about your pet.

They don’t need to check on your cat if you're gone overnight. But, if something happens and you can’t get home in time, you’ll know someone can check on your fur baby.

What About Leaving Multiple Pets Alone Together? 

If you’re leaving multiple pets alone during the day, it’s vital you fully understand how they interact with each other. If you have any doubts about how they get along, leave them in separate rooms. As far as how long you can leave your pets alone, the same rules above apply.

If you have a dog and a cat, you’ll need to decide your best plan. Leaving your pets at home could make sense if you're only going away for one day. But you’ll need to arrange for someone to walk your dog and check on food & water bowls a few times throughout the day.

Going away for longer than an overnight trip means you’ll need to arrange for a proper pet sitter or look into boarding. For more helpful tips on pet parenting, check out the rest of our blog. You’ll find all kinds of valuable insight into caring for your special furry friends.


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