It is a common belief that cats are independent, antisocial animals, and don’t mind being alone. I am not surprised when I hear this statement. Their self-dependent, solitary behavior makes us feel that way. They eat just as much as they need, do their business inside their litter box, groom themselves, often sit on their own entertaining themselves while not responding to calls, and usually show no emotions. These are all the reasons that lead us to think that it is absolutely fine to leave a cat alone even for long periods.
However, cats do have many of the same feelings that humans do. Is loneliness one of them? With this solitary behavior, it is very difficult to tell what they actually feel. Sometimes, even after a long day left alone, your cat is least concerned soon as you step home. But other times it is the exact opposite: she seems to be needy, seeking attention and affection. Have you ever come home and noticed your cat meowing right next to your feet or rubbing herself on you before you can even get into your home or apartment? This often leads cat owners asking one simple question: do cats miss their owners or company of other pets? Do cats get lonely? This article is here to answer this question and help you to understand your kitty better.
Answer – Do cats get lonely?
Yes, cats do get lonely. Even though they are extremely independent creatures, they can feel sad and lonely while their owners are away and they are left home alone during the day or over a vacation. They may not show it much, but they do, and just because they don’t seem to be lonely, it doesn’t mean they aren’t.
When we refer to cats as independent creatures, we mean that they are capable of hunting and taking care of themselves. They eat just as much as they need, groom and entertain themselves, and spend most of their time sleeping. Because of which many people think that a cat can be left alone for hours or even for days provided that she has enough water, food and litter box.
Though being independent has nothing to do with being left alone. While they are self-sufficient in many ways and usually show no emotions, they do form a strong bond with their owners. Even if they don’t want to play or to be held, they do like the presence of their owner.
In fact, by keeping a cat at home, you are creating an environment where your cat never has to really be worried about safety, food, and affection. As she grows up, she eventually understands your schedule, meal time, bath time, play time, etc., and adapts accordingly. That is why you will often find your cat sleeping at the same time as you do at night. Even if your cat didn’t feel lonely as a kitten because she spent most of her day sleeping and discovering every inch of your house, eventually she will start feeling lonely if you are not around. After stepping out of the house, she might spend some time alone sleeping, grooming herself and playing with anything and everything available in the house but after a certain point she will miss you and will need some interaction, stimulation, and affection. Even though your cat can’t read time, she will estimate the time of your arrival and will be waiting anxiously for you to return. And finally, when you come home, she will be excited to see you and will welcome you back happily.
In summary, cats do worry and feel sad and lonely just like we do. Though not all the cats are the same. Some will learn to deal with it, while others will get lonelier. How much the cat will exhibit loneliness will all depend on the breed, age, circumstance, the environment and how much the cat is attached to her owner.
Warning signs – How do I know: Is my cat lonely?
As it turns out, cats do get lonely and bored without enough stimulation and interaction. In general, well-socialized cats need attention, affection, and companionship. Cats left alone can get stressed and frustrated, and they might begin to display the signs of loneliness, which can eventually lead to behavior issues.
Signs of a cat suffering from loneliness include:
A cat left alone for a longer period can become very demanding. If your cat is clingy, she might follow you everywhere and will not let you do anything on your own without her.
Trying to show loneliness your cat might try to communicate more and vocalize excessively with loud, bold and insistent vocal sounds.
Cats are known to be good at grooming. However, loneliness can cause different grooming problems depending on the cat. Some lonely cats may pull their fur and groom themselves excessively to show that they need more attention, while others may stop grooming completely.
Acting weird, hostile and aggressive towards their owners when they are about to leave the house is another way to show loneliness.
Lonely cats tend to express their disappointment by being destructive. To occupy their minds, they might knock things over or tear things up, shred the couch or climb the curtains. And while they damage your things they might end up hurting themselves.
Litter box issues:
Cats that are lonely may show their displeasure of being left alone by eliminating everywhere but inside their litter box. Your cat may urinate on your belongings – anything that has your scent – including bed or laundry.
Loneliness can stimulate a cat’s appetite. Some cats may lose their appetite and turn away from food, while others will become obese by overeating simply because of boredom. Either way both can lead to several dangerous health problems, therefore, very unhealthy for a cat.
While signs of a cat having trouble with being alone can come in many different forms, all of these behaviors are geared towards letting you know that your cat is feeling lonely. However, if you notice that she appears depressed or lethargic, please contact your vet right away as this could indicate a different health issue rather than simple feline loneliness.
Solutions – 9 ways to help your cat to feel less lonely
Most cats sleep a lot during the day, while others groom and amuse themselves. However, cats do have strong social needs. They do require regular stimulation, interaction and some kind of companionship. Otherwise, if they are left alone, they will start feeling sad and lonely. If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs, you have to find ways to keep your cat entertained to help her feel more comfortable when you are gone.
So how can you cope with feline loneliness?
First of all, forget about punishing your cat for showing her loneliness. It would just make her feel even worse. Leaving a lot of food and water will not solve the problem either. Yes, obviously you will leave enough dry food and water out for her – just as much as she needs during your absence – with a clean litter box, but it will not make her less lonely. Instead, start with making sure that your cat is not sick and you are dealing only with feline loneliness. The good news is that there are many things you can do to ease this problem.
Now let’s take a closer look at possible solutions that will help your cat stay healthy and happy throughout the day.
Please note that this list is created with the understanding that you have already taken care of the essential cat accessories and taken the necessary precautions to ensure your cat’s safety and well-being in a cat-friendly environment:
- Food, water, and cleaned litter box is
- Basic cat toys and cat tree are available.
- Entrance door and windows are closed.
- Internal doors are open.
- Toxic, unsafe items and trash are removed.
Solution 1: Attention and affection
A lonely cat needs more attention and affection. Spending more time with your cat will definitely make her feel more comfortable and less lonely – be it petting her, grooming her or playing with her.
Before you leave home, spend 5 to 15 minutes playing with your cat. Grab her favorite toy and get her to move around physically. This way your pet will feel a bit tired and will want to rest while you are away. Try to return home at the same time every day so that your cat can predict your arrival, and when you are finally at home schedule some quality time with her.
Doing this regularly will help your cat deal with being lonely and away from you for a few hours. Apart from being good for your cat’s health, this physical playtime will also improve your relationship.
This method is perfect for people going out for 2 to 4 hours.
Solution 2: A bit of yourself
This solution might sound a bit weird but surely can make your cat feel safer and more comfortable.
Grab a worn or unwashed T-shirt of yours and place it on your cat’s favorite napping place. This way your cat can get a sense of reassurance from the presence of your scent, will be reminded of you and feel safe and happy.
Note: Please don’t use clothes that you’ve used perfume on.
Solution 3: Window hunting
Another great solution to occupy your cat’s mind while you are away is to give access to a window with a view. Create space for your cat next to a window (blinds up, window closed), place something soft for her to rest on and allow your cat to keep herself occupied by the activities going on outside.
You can make it even more interesting for your cat if you have a garden. Set up a bird feeder right outside the window so that your cat will be entertained and birds will also be happy.
This solution is perfect for owners who live in places with lots of activities and movements happening outside and will provide hours of entertainment and mental stimulation for their cat. If this option is not available for you, you can purchase a fish tank (with a cat-proof lid) which fulfills the same purpose.
Solution 4: Sights and sounds
This method might not be ideal for many people because it involves leaving the PC or TV on. However, if you can set the timer and don’t mind running these electronic devices on a relatively low volume while you are away, this solution can be a great entertaining experience for your cat.
You can try the following things out:
- If your cat likes music especially, you can leave the radio on or make a playlist for her on Youtube according to her taste.
- Some cats calm down for human voices. Tune on some talk show or news radio.
- If your cat is more like visual type, you can leave the TV on tuned to a nature channel or something fun like a kid’s channel.
- You can also create a playlist of videos on Youtube for your cat to watch.
- You can’t go wrong with a DVD designed exclusively for cats. I recommend the following DVD that was produced in full HD and was shot from a cat’s perspective. It has a nice selection of mice, birds, chipmunks, etc., and great sights and sounds that will delight your cat and you.
You can combine this method along with any of the other methods to keep your cat busy for hours and hours of fun.
Solution 5: Treat hunting
Cats love to hunt. Keeping that in mind you can make your cat’s environment a fun, challenging and interesting place to be by grabbing a few special dry treats and hide them around the house. Using her excellent sense of smell your cat will start actively looking for the treats. This should keep her occupied for some time and will eventually get her tired. Check out this natural oven-roasted chicken flavored dental cat treat that your cat will most probably love:
Solution 6: Toy time
Another excellent time-pass solution is to encourage your cat’s play time. There are many great toys available from simple balls and complicated puzzle games to electronic ones, but surely you can’t go wrong with this Catit Design Senses Play Circuit that can provide countless hours of fun for your cat.
This self-play toy will give your cat an enjoyable activity and prevent her from feeling lonely.
Solution 7: Trick and treat
If your cat is more into treats, another possible solution is to pick a treat and put it in a toy. Make sure that the treat that you offer is something she never ever gets at any other time of the day, the toy that you put it in is something your cat never gets to play with at any other time and give this so called treat dispenser toy to your cat just as you leave the house. This way your cat will be eager to play and get her treats and will keep her active and engaged for a long time. Soon enough she will become tired and take a long nap.
By using this solution, your cat’s instinctive nature to explore new smells and enjoy treats will be fired up. She might not even notice your absence.
This solution is perfect for people going out for 6 to 8 hours.
I highly recommend one of my personal favorite, Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree which provides three difficulty levels, has a whiskers stress-free bowl and a smart design that activates your cat’s natural pawing behavior during playtime:
Solution 8: Companionship
If you are going to be away for a longer period, consider having a neighbor or friend, or paying someone to come to keep your cat company, play, feed and take care of her while you are away. Make sure this person is reliable and has all the knowledge of how to take care of your beloved friend. This way your cat will have social interaction and medical care, and you will have a peace of mind knowing your pet is in good hands.
I know this is a very expensive option, but I want to make sure you are aware of every possible solution.
DO YOU KNOW?
Solution 9: New buddy
If, after all, your cat is still lonely, bear in mind that one cat living alone has definitely bigger chance to suffer from boredom and loneliness than two cats kept together. So one of the best options to ease your cat’s loneliness is to get another cat or kitten.
In this case, your pet would always have a company, someone to play with. If you do decide to adopt another pet, keep in mind that younger cats tend to adjust easier than older ones. Choose a cat around the same age, whose personality is similar to your cat so that they will most likely easily get along with each other. Introduce them gradually and make sure that each of them has enough space to get away from the other. I suggest you to implement this method over the holidays, this way you can be present and control the interaction between the two cats and avoid fights and serious injuries.
This solution is recommended for those who don’t really have enough time during the day to play with their cat. But remember it’s going to cost you more money and apart from that, bringing a new cat or kitten home can initially be stressful for both cats.
At last, please note that while another pet might provide a great companionship to your cat, there is always a possibility that it will not solve the basic problem. Sometimes even cats with buddies feel lonely when left alone for a long time without their owner. It all depends on the relationship between cat and owner.
Summary – Do cats get lonely?
Cats do get lonely. Even though they are independent, they can get stressed and frustrated, feel sad and lonely while their owners are away. Therefore, they do need regular stimulation, interaction and some kind of companionship.
If you notice any of the signs of feline loneliness, you have to find ways to keep your cat entertained to help her feel more comfortable when you are gone. Whether you choose to enrich her environment with some new toys, entertain her with sounds and sights or adopt a playmate for your cat, it is up to you, but always make sure to spend some quality time with her because at the end of the day, nothing can be better than the love and attention shown by her owner.