While cats aren’t pack-mentality animals by nature, they are very much affected by the environment/nurturing they are given in the beginnings of their lives (or even at the beginning of their time with you, if they are adopted).
So, do cats get lonely without another cat? Understand that a cat spends a lot of time sleeping. During their waking hours, though, they love to play and be with you wherever you are. Without the companionship from you, they may become depressed. Without another cat or you there, your cat can become lonely to a point of depression. Your cat may lose her appetite or become withdrawn.
House cats are generally raised with other cats (as part of a litter) – or at the very least, in a house with the human(s) raising them. [Check out this fun read on ways to keep your indoor cat happy!]
Most cats come to expect this throughout their whole lives.
This often shapes how a cat socializes/interacts with other cats and humans, even well beyond their kitten years.
Even if you have a cat that doesn’t give you obvious signs of affection all the time, your cat likely still enjoys knowing you’re around (kind of like a blankie that 8-year-old claims they don’t need but never lets it out of their sight).
Let’s consider some scenarios:
- Maybe you’re looking to get your first cat, but don’t want to leave them alone while at work.
- Maybe you already have a cat who seems to be in need of a companion.
- Maybe a cat in your family has died, and you’re wondering whether adopting again is the right move.
While cats aren’t always quite as outgoing as their canine counterparts, that doesn’t mean that they’re as independent or anti-social as people often think.
If you know what to look for and what to do, you can make sure that your pet lives a happy and fulfilling life with or without another cat companion.
The truth is that cats do get lonely quite regularly.
However, some cats don’t get along well with other kitties.
Sometimes what they need is you and more at-home stimulation when you’re away.
But how do you find out what’s best for your cat?
And how do you know if your cat will respond positively to another feline friend in the house?
Factors That Determine a Cat’s Sociability
Are cats solitary or pack animals?
In general, cats have social needs just like many other animals, including humans.
Though cats typically need to eat alone, most crave social interaction at most other times – even if it’s just sitting on the couch a few feet away from you.
Feral cats can form colonies and take care of each other’s offspring.
Similarly, domestic cats can befriend each other out of their own free will and have someone else to play with.
Here’s a list of things that affect how well a cat gets along with other felines:
As cats grow older, they can become more isolated and territorial. But as kittens, they really do need other kittens, and this is a very natural thing for them. A cat’s social skills are often formed during kittenhood while playing with others. Even when adopted from separate litters, kittens can forge an instant bond.
A kitten who was separated from their litter at too early of age might be less inclined to connect with other cats or even humans in the future. Similarly, former street cats who have probably spent most of their life fighting for food and getting by on their own might be less receptive to newcomers in the family.
No two cats are alike, each with their own personality. Some prefer independence, while others play with everyone they can. Just like people, cats exhibit a large degree of individuation, meaning that even cats of the same breed or litter can have totally different personalities.
Actually, gender has nothing to do with this. Surprised? While gender is commonly thought to be an indication of whether or not your cat will enjoy the company of other cats (if you have a male cat, they won’t welcome another feline companion), this isn’t at all true. Contrary to some beliefs, whether your cat is male or female likely has no effect on whether they prefer to be alone or with other cats.
The Biggest Myth About Cats and Their Independence
“Cats have no concept of time.”
“They aren’t like dogs, it’s okay if they are left home alone while I’m at work”
“They don’t need me as much as a dog would.”
These are very common thoughts and they are the reasons people decide to leave their cats home alone while they are at work or even while they are gone for the weekend.
Cats can be fairly independent creatures but they do crave affection and attention as well.
While your cat may not know what day of the week it is or that the 7:00 news is going to come on in ten minutes, they do have their own way of telling time.
Their own internal (biological) clocks that help them create a concept of time.
Your cat is used to certain activities occurring at the same time on a daily basis – and this is one of the ways they measure time. 
Cats come to know your schedule.
This is how they base their lives; they know when you usually wake (when the lights come on and it’s daytime), when you clean their litter box, when you give them food, when it gets dark – this is mostly how they measure their days.
Consistency is an important tool for any pet, cats included.
Having regular interactions with other cats or their human is important for your cat, and when this doesn’t happen on a consistent basis, your cat can definitely feel begin to feel lonely or bored.
If you end up welcoming a second cat into your little family, check out these cat exercise wheels – they can have fun running and playing together!
How Do I Know If My Cat Is Lonely?
Cats need to be loved through mental and physical stimulation.
Like humans, a depressed cat can become rather sluggish and stop eating.
On the other hand, they can also eat too much and gain excess weight.
Pay attention to any abnormal behavior, and talk to a veterinarian if it becomes serious.
Here are some of the common signs that will let you know if your cat is lonely:
- Excessive sleeping and sluggish behavior.
This may include a notable increase in sleep time or preferring to sleep or mope instead of engaging in play with you.
- Destructive behavior while you are away.
Knocking over things, pulling and clawing the curtains, and shredding the furniture instead of the scratching post – these are all things your cat may be doing out of being bored and lonely.
- Litter box problems.
Is your cat leaving a waste-disposal project on your bed or furniture despite a clean litter box? If you have ruled out any health-related issues, your cat could be leaving you a protest over being left alone too long.
- Hiding, isolating and ignoring you.
Your cat may be lonely enough to be stressed out or depressed.
- Aggressive behavior.
This often takes the form of swatting, hissing or nipping at you when you try to leave your home.
- Increased vocalization.
If you have ruled out illness or injury, a cat may vocalize excessively when you come home after being away for hours. It may also occur right when you’re trying to fall asleep. Both are demands more attention because they are feeling neglected.
This behavior also includes when your cat starts loudly meowing repeatedly from another room: they are feeling alone and looking for companionship.
They do this to find company because they need the reassurance that someone is around.
A feline pet doesn’t need to be an only cat to engage in this behavior. It can also happen in a multi-cat home where one cat may be feeling less loved.
- Excessive grooming.
If your cat is grooming to the point of creating bald patches, it’s usually the sign of a stressed-out cat. If you’re away from home for many hours every day, the root is probably boredom and loneliness.
If you have ruled out an underlying illness first, then these behaviors can be ways of your cat asking for more attention from you.
You know your cat best, and sometimes all they need is human interaction – but that can’t happen at all times they need it.
Your cat is most likely to get bored or lonely while you’re out of the house – in which case, there are a few things you can do to keep your cat happy while you’re gone.
Can Cats Have Separation Anxiety From Their Owner?
And does this contribute to their loneliness? Again, short answer – yes.
While separation anxiety in pets is most likely associated with dogs, who are “man’s best friend” – cats aren’t immune to anxiety and there are some definite signs your cat may exhibit that can lead you to assume they are suffering from anxiety and loneliness.
Anxious behavior from cats often includes;
- Increased vocalization (constant meowing when you’re around)/clinginess when you arrive home
- Refusal to eat unless you’re present
- Over-grooming (most of the time resulting in hairballs)
- Litter box problems (sometimes resorting to using your bed/bathmat as their place to protest)
As you can tell, quite a few of these anxiety behaviors mimic the behavior a cat shows when they are lonely (listed above).
Both anxiety and loneliness can be easily solved in a variety of different ways – the hardest thing for some pet owners is recognizing the behaviors as indicators of loneliness or anxiety, and taking action.
In the video below, there are tons of great ideas on how to play and interact with your indoor cat in ways that will keep them agile, happy and healthy;
What to Do When Your Cat Needs Stimulation
Make the environment cat-friendly and fun while you’re out.
There are tons of ways you can set up your home to be cat-friendly and entertaining for them while you’re away:
- Set out cat toys, play tubes or even just a few cardboard boxes for them to play in
- Have some scratching posts, and/or cat trees set up (ideally so they can look out a window
- Allow them to have access to windows/sunlight (setting your cat tree near a window is best)
- Leave the radio on or have a DVD made for cats playing on your TV
- Leave something that smells like you in their cat bed or somewhere they like to sleep
- Cats love to stare into fish tanks and make “friends” with the fish. (Just take caution so that you won’t have a mess on your hands when you get home)
- Place food in a food-dispensing cat toy. While this shouldn’t be their only source of food, cats do enjoy working (“hunting”) for their food
Consider adopting another cat.
While this is a big step that should be carefully thought through – it can be the perfect solution for both your cat and you.
If you want to give your cat a new friend, be sure to choose the right fit.
First, remember that a lonely cat might be craving you rather than simply the presence of another cat.
On the other hand, it’s common that kittens or social cats may need other cats around. 
Additionally, cats will need adequate time to grieve when one of their companions has passed away.
If you think adoption is the right thing to do, then make sure the new cat is the same age and personality as your cat at home.
You want the two cats to have similar energy levels.
If you find yourself inheriting a kitten when you have an older cat, adopt another kitten so that they can play with each other while letting the older resident rest.
Spend quality time with your cat when you can.
Most often when your cat is lonely, what they’re craving is you.
Optimizing the environment or adopting another pet might be good or necessary options, but remember that your cat wants you above all.
Set aside time during the day to play and interact with your cat.
Pull out an old favorite toy, or maybe cuddle up to a glass of wine and a new episode of The Bachelor.
As long as you look out for your cat and let them know that you love them, they will love you back for the rest of their life.
It’s been commonly thought that cats are “loner” animals who are happiest on their own, and while this may be true in certain circumstances like when they are hunting and eating – most other times cats crave affection and interactions just like any other animal would.
Your cat can feel loneliness and anxiety, but there are many different ways to address it; whether it’s adopting another feline companion or just arranging your home so it’s better suited to your cat’s needs – you can ensure your cat is happy, entertained and keeps the peace in your house even while you’re not home.
What has been your own experience with lonely cats?
What other problems have you had, and what solutions have worked?
Let us know in the comments.