How Cats Get Sad When You Leave, the Full Facts

Some cats get sad when you leave, while others are unbothered by it or even enjoy time alone. It depends on their personality and attachment to you.

Sometimes, cats develop separation anxiety which makes it incredibly stressful for them to be alone.

Separation anxiety in a cat is difficult on both the cat and their person. In extreme cases, your cat may even become distressed when you’re home but in another room.

In this article, I’ll explain all about how sad cats get when you leave.

Also I’ll discuss how to keep your cat happy while you’re away, how to check in on them to see how they’re doing, what to do if you think your cat has separation anxiety, and how long is too long to leave your cat alone.


Cats can get Sad when you Leave

Cats can get sad when you leave them alone, but not all of them do.

While many people see cats as solitary creatures, they thrive in communities and on the streets they form colonies made up of many cats.

They form complex relationships with one another and with us, and sometimes they become too attached.

This can make it difficult for them when you leave the house, or even when you’re in another room with the door closed.

If you leave for long periods, such as on a vacation, even well-adapted cats may become sad and miss you.


It Helps Them if They Have a Cat Friend

Cats are social animals, and it often helps to have two or more cats. This way, they have someone else to socialize with and aren’t completely dependent on you.

They can keep each other company while you’re gone, play with one another to be more active, and can teach one another things. The latter especially applies at a young age when kittens are still learning and need to be around other kittens or cats to do that best.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this. Some cats don’t get along with other cats, or have contagious health conditions that make it impossible for them to live with other felines.

You’ll also want to ensure you properly introduce your cats to avoid conflict between them.


Leave them with Interactive Toys

Cats are much more likely to be sad while you’re gone if they have nothing to do. They’ll quickly become bored, and this may result in them causing mischief while you’re away.

Your cat should have several places to scratch like scratching posts, scratching pads, and cat trees. They should also have toys to play with such as catnip toys, chasers, and puzzle toys.

Make sure to avoid choking hazards and other dangers by choosing toys without detachable parts and stuffing.

For instance, many catnip toys are stuffed with stuffing, and I’ve found that some cats will eat it if they tear the toys open!


A Pet Camera can Answer Your Question

If you’re worried or wondering how your cat behaves while you’re gone, a pet camera can help you find the answer.

Watch their body language for cues. Are they pacing around the house meowing, seemingly looking for you? Are they panting?

The above are some signs of stress and likely separation anxiety. I’ll go over more symptoms in the next section.

It’s also possible that your cat simply lays down calmly on their cat tree and takes a nap, or bats a toy around on the floor.

These are great signs, and likely mean that your cat is doing just fine alone.


Cats Sometimes Develop Separation Anxiety

There’s a difference between a cat being sad or missing you while you’re away and separation anxiety. While you should work to fix both situations to the best of your ability, separation anxiety is much more stressful for your cat.

Below, I’ll go over some symptoms of separation anxiety as well as potential treatments. However, like with any medical condition, you should see your veterinarian if you have concerns.



Symptoms of separation anxiety can occur before you leave home, while you’re gone, or after you return.

They include:

  • Peeing or pooping outside of the litter box
  • Meowing, crying, or howling when alone
  • Pacing around the house
  • Extreme stress and anxiety
  • Clinging to you either before you leave, when you return home, or all of the time
  • Excessive drooling, panting, or grooming
  • Trying to escape home, especially while you’re away
  • Destructive behaviors like scratching or chewing inappropriate things
  • Lack of appetite
  • Misbehavior



Treatment begins by sharing your concerns with your veterinarian.

They might first run tests to rule out physical conditions before diagnosing your cat with separation anxiety.

Once diagnosed, your veterinarian may also offer you advice tailored to your specific situation that can help.

Some things they might recommend include:

  • Training your cat to be alone slowly through counterconditioning
  • Switching your routine before you go out
  • Playing with your cat daily so that they get enough exercise
  • Quietly leaving and returning home without making a fuss over your cat
  • Creating a comfortable place for your cat to stay while you’re gone, such as a cat bed with a sweatshirt that smells like you to comfort them
  • Medicating your cat, in extreme cases

Your veterinarian may also recommend that you see a cat behaviorist to address the problem.

What you shouldn’t do is punish your cat for being anxious, even when it leads to trouble-making behaviors.

Sometimes your cat may be attention-seeking, in which case even negative attention is better to them than being ignored or left alone.

Other times, punishing an anxious cat will just make them more anxious. Adding to their stress will only make the behaviors worse.


Don’t Leave Your Cat for too Long

Some people have the misconception that cats are independent and can be left alone with no problems. They may even decide that they don’t have time for a dog and adopt a cat instead.

While some cats are independent, it does depend on their personality as well as age. For instance, you shouldn’t adopt a young kitten if you work full-time outside of the house and don’t have family to care for them during the day.

Cats still require quite a bit of time and hard work to care for properly. They need to be trained, have social time, and playtime totaling at least 30-45 minutes daily.

They should never be allowed outdoors unsupervised to wander the neighborhood. This is incredibly dangerous for them and is likely to shorten their lifespan considerably.


No More than One Day with Planning

When it comes to exactly how long you can leave a cat alone for, this will vary depending on the cat. However, most healthy adult cats can be left alone during an entire work day or a little longer than this if necessary.

Cats can also be alone while you are away for one day or night, so long as you prepare ahead of time so that all of their needs are met. However, some cats may not like being alone for this long.

If you are planning a longer trip, you should have someone visit with your cat to feed them, play with them, and give them some social interaction.

As with any pet, you shouldn’t adopt a cat if you travel frequently as this isn’t fair to them.



Cats with separation anxiety may not be able to be alone for more than a few minutes without becoming incredibly stressed, for instance.

They will need training to allow them to feel safe and know that you’re going to return home.

Cats with other medical problems may need to be supervised closely around the clock, but this is an extreme scenario.

When it comes to age, kittens and elderly cats may need extra care that means they can’t be alone for as long as a healthy adult cat.


Writer: Katelynn Sobus

I am a freelance writer who specializes in the pet industry.  My full bio