Today’s world is busier than ever. Between work, social events, children’s extracurriculars and so much more, you could be running around all day. Add weekend trips or vacations to the mix, and the average individual is facing a lot of time away from home.
However, if you have a pet, you must be mindful of how long you actually spend outside the house. Not only is it important to make sure your beloved cat or dog has the basic necessities, like food, water and an ability to use the bathroom, but you also need to give your pet love, affection and exercise.
Finding the balance between time spent away from home and time spent taking care of pets can be challenging, and many people wonder how long is too long to leave a pet alone in the house. Ideally, you’ll make time to be home as much as possible for your pet, but that’s not always possible.
Exactly how long your pet is okay being alone at home will differ based on a number of variables.
Cats vs. dogs
The first big thing to consider is that cats and dogs might have different needs when it comes to being left at home. For the most part, cats are more self-sufficient than dogs, particularly when it comes to using the bathroom.
As long as a cat has food and water and a clean litter box at the start of the day, it should be fine to manage while you’re gone. Cats do prefer routine, though, so you’ll want to consider whether your absence will disrupt its ability to be fed on time. If your cat free feeds, this will be less of an issue.
Generally, an adult cat should never be left alone for longer than 24 hours without being checked on by a pet sitter. However, this time period is still pretty long, because cats crave attention and play, which you’re not able to give while away.
A dog might require more attention throughout the day because it likely will need to be let outside to do its business, and it probably can’t hold it as long as you think. Dogs usually also require more activity and exercise, like a once- or twice-daily walk, which is difficult to give when you’re gone from morning until night. And, dogs are extremely social creatures, and leaving them alone for many hours each day can cause them distress.
For these reasons, experts say that leaving your dog alone for even 10 hours is pushing it. Ideally, dogs will be visited and let out once every four to six hours so they can relieve themselves. This can differ based on your dog’s individual needs, however, so pay attention to those.
Age is also a big factor when it comes to leaving your pet. Is your cat or dog an adult that has lived with you for a while? If so, it may be able to handle longer periods of time while you’re away than a very young puppy or kitten.
Young animals have special needs, particularly when it comes to bathroom breaks because they have tiny bladders. While kittens can use the litter box on their own, puppies will need to be let out much more often than adult dogs. If your pup is under six months, it might need to use the bathroom once every three hours, or even more often.
Kittens and puppies may also be more scared in your home, as well as more curious and excited. Young animals may be more likely to get into trouble when you’re gone, so you’ll want to be mindful of how long you leave them unsupervised.
Does your cat or dog have a medical issue that requires close monitoring or routine medication? If so, you’ll need to be home much more often to ensure your pet’s safety. Medication that needs to be administered on a strict schedule, especially, should not be forgotten or delayed, or your pet could suffer serious health consequences.
Additionally, if your pet suffers from anxiety or a separation problem, leaving it at home for long stretches of time could be terrible for both your pet and your home.
Ultimately, there is no hard-and-fast rule that dictates how long you’re able to safely leave your pet at home alone. In general, though, avoid leaving your cat at home for 24 hours or more, and avoid leaving your dog at home for longer than 10 to 12 hours.
If you’re going to be gone for longer than this, consider boarding your pet at a kennel or hiring a pet sitter to routinely check on and play with your pet each day. Even if you’re only gone for a routine eight or 10-hour workday, consider coming home during your lunch period or hiring a dog walker to meet your pet’s needs. Try to minimize the time your pet spends at home alone as much as you can every day.
Remember, your pet’s needs go far beyond simply food, water, shelter and a chance to relieve itself. It also requires attention and play, and not getting those things could cause it distress.