Many people think of cats as solitary creatures, but this isn’t necessarily true. If you have a cat, you might be asking yourself, “Do cats get lonely?” In many cases, the answer is “yes.” Cats may often seem aloof, but they are actually social creatures. Just like humans, they can suffer loneliness and stress when they’re left alone for extended periods of time.
You might have tried getting your cat new toys, or even bringing a tall cat tree into your home to give your pet something to do. But they still might be acting anxious or stressed.
If you have the resources, you might want to consider getting another dog or cat as an animal companion, especially if your cat is experiencing problems such as anxiety, depression, a change in sleeping habits, or other issues.
Loneliness In Cats And Dogs: Can Being Alone For Prolonged Periods Lead To Stress And Depression?
Whether you have an older cat or a kitten, if cats go for long periods of time without social interaction they can experience issues that affect their mental health. They can easily get stressed because they want to show affection. They like to be close to their human or another animal – one that jibes with their own personality traits, of course.
Feral cats, or cats in the wild, can get along without interaction better than domesticated cats. But if your cat is not feral, they probably would prefer to be around someone else whenever possible.1
Cats And Social Behavior
Even though a cat might not show affection in obvious ways, like a dog, that doesn’t mean they don’t love companionship. There are some exceptions, of course. A kitten who was mistreated by the other cats in the litter might not want to be around other cats. But that kitten will still need the companionship of a human.
It can be hard for people who bring a kitten home from an animal shelter or another place to know how long they can leave them alone. Here are some general guidelines.
- Younger than four months old – two to four hours
- Four months to six months old – five hours
- Six months to a year old – eight hours
Adult cats can be left alone for longer time periods – up to 48 hours (on occasion and when given plenty of food and water). But if you plan on being out of town for a couple of days, you should still arrange to have someone check in on the cat from time to time.2
Note These Telltale Signs: Clingy Or Destructive Behavior, Sleep Issues, And Other Behavioral Problems
Cats will typically exhibit signs if they are lonely. Here are a few of them.
- Changes in grooming routine – Cats are meticulous about grooming – or at least they should be. If your cat is looking a little “rough around the edges,” so to speak, they might not be grooming properly. On the other hand, some cats may over-groom due to stress. Changes in their grooming routine could be a sign that your cat is stressed due to a lack of companionship. It could also, however, be an indication of a medical issue.
- Changes in appetite – A cat experiencing anxiety may eat less than normal or more than normal. Boredom could be a reason. Just as humans might turn to food when they’re bored – the same can be said of a cat going through depression.
- Acting clingy – A cat who follows their human around excessively, or meows a great deal, may be lonely. The cat may want to cuddle more than usual due to separation anxiety.
- Destructive behavior – A lot of cats crave attention, and may act out if they don’t get enough – either from their human or an animal companion. If you notice tears in your furniture or items knocked off a shelf, a lack of companionship could be one of the reasons.
- Changes in sleeping habits – If your cat is sleeping more than normal and doesn’t want to cuddle or interact with you, that’s an indication of both loneliness and depression. Again, though, it could also be a sign of a medical issue.
- Missing the litter box – Litter box issues can be one of the ways your cat is telling you they need more social interaction. Even if you are diligent about keeping a clean litter box, your cat might “go” where they shouldn’t. Talk to your vet to rule out a medical problem, and then consider getting your cat a companion.3
The bottom line here: if you notice these potential signs of loneliness in your cat, it’s time to talk to your vet. Good pet care from your vet can help rule out any possible medical reasons for the behavior.
How Can A Companion Help Your Lonely Pet? More Attention, Cuddle Time, And Social Interaction
There’s a good chance your cat could enjoy some significant benefits from having a companion. But you will want to make sure you do this the right way. If you have a single cat at home, expect an adjustment period.
Different cats have different personality traits. Don’t expect the two animals to immediately hit it off. Most cats will be aggressive toward a new cat at first. With time, though, they should eventually get along fine. They might even cuddle after a while.
One way to gauge the potential success or failure of a new addition is to watch how your cat behaves toward other cats. For example, if the cat is hostile whenever another cat comes into their territory, getting a companion may not be a good idea.
On the other hand, though, if your cat is typically fine when seeing another cat, and doesn’t hiss, spit, or growl, then it shouldn’t be a problem bringing in a companion.4
Other Things To Think About Before Bringing In A Second Cat
Are you adopting a second cat from an animal shelter? Ask how the cat acts around other cats in the facility.
If you have friends with cats, ask them to come over and bring their pet. If you don’t see any signs of aggression from your cat, and the two seem to get along, getting a second cat might be okay.
Also, you want to make sure that both cats have either been neutered or spayed. If they haven’t, that can increase the risk of aggression. Also, try to find another cat of a similar age and activity level. If your cat likes to lounge but the new cat wants to play all the time, that could be a problem.
As you can see, it’s important to do something if your cat is showing signs of anxiety or loneliness. But you can’t just get any cat to fill the role of companion. Do your research, and the chances are good that you’ll find your cat a playmate they will love for years to come.5
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