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How are cats affected by being home alone?

Last changed: 14 March 2018

Little is known about the cat’s need for human contact, although it is generally believed that cats are more independent than e.g. dogs. How true is this? In this study, researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences investigated the effect of time left alone at home on cat behaviour (e.g. social and distress-related) while alone and when the owner returned.

The study involved 14 privately owned cats and compared the behaviour when cats were left for 30 minutes and 4 hours, respectively. While alone, cats were mostly lying down. When reunited with the owner, cats purred and stretched more after the longer time treatment.

While cats seemed to cope well with being left alone for these durations, but the increased level of social contact initiated by the cats after a longer separation implies that the owner is indeed an important part of the cat’s social environment. More research is needed, not least to investigate the situation for cats home alone for longer durations, such as while the owner is away at work (8-9 hours).

Link to the publication


Eriksson, M., Keeling, L.J., Rehn, T. 2017. Cats and owners interact more with each other after a longer duration of separation. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185599, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185599