How long is it safe to go away and just “leave” a cat?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – we are getting ready to go away for Thanksgiving. We will be gone for 4 days. I generally just leave a bowl of food and water out and the cats do fine. Is that okay in your opinion?


Simon S.


Hi – thanks for your email Simon. Thanks for asking this question. I do have strong thoughts on this topic. I think that the longest someone would leave their cats is about 24 hours. Maybe 36 hours. In extreme circumstances 48 hours. My preference is no longer than 24 hours.

This is why. I’ve seen several problems from cats getting sick and no one being there to watch, know and help. I’ve seen owners come home to dead cats. There are a few conditions – such as feline urinary obstruction that cats can die from in less than 3 days – and it is a long painful death.

I believe it is best to have someone check your cats twice a day and offer them a little of their favorite canned foods. Make sure all cats are eating and accounted for. Ideally – your pet sitter will also spend a little time playing with them or sitting around – even if that means watching a movie and just being “around”.

Of course, I’ve seen all of the worst possible scenarios. I’m sure lots of cats are successfully left for periods of time without incident. But…I’m one of those people that would prefer to be safe than sorry. If I came home and found a cat that died…that could have been prevented – I’d have a hard time dealing with that.

An article that might be helpful to you is How to Find a Good Pet Sitter for Your Cat. Another article – The Pros and Cons of Kenneling (Boarding) vs. Getting a Pet Sitter for Your Cat is very good if you are tying to decide what to do.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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