How to Tell If Your Cat Is Lonely

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Do cats get lonely? It's a common misconception that cats don't experience loneliness, but they do, especially when left alone for long periods of time. Learning how to tell if your cat is lonely puts you on the path to helping them feel more content while they're home alone. The good news is that there are many ways to keep your furry friend's spirits up while you're away from home.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Lonely

Most cats are notorious for hiding their feelings, as many cat parents are aware. But, if you spend time closely observing your kitty, you'll notice that they express a wide range of emotions in their own unique way. Vocalizing, kneading, headbutting and staring are just a few ways that cats express themselves.

Loneliness often presents itself as depression or separation anxiety, explains the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, signs of which include the following:

  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive vocalization (howling, crying)
  • Excessive clinginess
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Hiding
  • Trembling or shaking

Your cat may exhibit this behavior as you're getting ready to leave the house or when you return. If your cat exhibits extreme physical or behavioral changes, contact your veterinarian right away to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Leaving Your Cat Alone

Cats are independent, but they're also very social creatures, explains Psychology Today, and they thrive on interaction with humans. Even cats with pet siblings can feel lonely when separated from their pet parents.

lonely red cat looking out windowSo, how long can a cat be home alone without their favorite people? It really depends on the cat. Most adult cats do well by themselves for the length of a typical workday, eight to 10 hours, but cats can still experience loneliness during this time frame. Mischievous kittens, senior cats that need extra attention, cats with behavioral concerns or medical issues and any cat with special circumstances, for example, require more attention throughout the day and will benefit from at least one check-in per day. It's never a good idea to leave your cat home for days or weeks at a time, even if you leave out food, water and toys. Not only will this separation increase loneliness and boredom, but it can also lead to an increase in physical and behavioral problems.

Enrichment Activities

Safely leaving a cat alone for any period of time includes not only meeting their physical needs but giving them mental stimulation as well. Cats can get lonely while you're away from home, but they can also get bored. What do bored cats do when they're home alone? Lots of crazy things, including shredding toilet paper rolls, scratching furniture and knocking things off tables and counters. Although these behaviors can be destructive, it's important to remember that your cat isn't being spiteful — what they're doing is communicating their feelings to you.

To curb loneliness and the cat crazies (while also protecting your household goods), provide your kitty with plenty of enrichment opportunities. Good puzzles, toys they can hunt and even electronic cat apps for your tablet, phone or TV are great ways to provide the mental stimulation and physical activity, which Best Friends Animal Society emphasizes are good for your cat's overall well-being. A cat-designated spot in front of an open window also does wonders for lonely cats who'll find company among the creatures in the outside world.

Hire a Pet Sitter

If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, or if your cat needs attention while you're away for the day, consider hiring a trusted pet sitter who'll come to your house to give your cat food, water or medicine, clean the litter box, and play. Ask close friends and family for a referral, and interview potential sitters carefully. Another option is cat day care, a boarding facility strictly for cats where your feline friend can hang out with other cats (or not) and stay on their routine schedule.

Do cats get lonely while their pet parents are home? If they aren't getting enough attention from their humans, it's possible. Cats are always happiest when their pet parents are at home. Spend at least ten minutes a day really engaging with your feline friend by playing with them, grooming them and showering them with affection.

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien

Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer, educator and long-time cat mom. She's a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA) and has written for industry-leading companies and organizations, including What to Expect When You're Expecting Word of Mom and NIU STEM Read. Find and follow Christine on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien