Cat looking at camera with food bowl in background
Q: How long can my cat stay home alone if I leave plenty of food and water? I don't have anyone to care for him while I am gone, up to four days at a time for business. — S.W., via e-mail

A: How would you like to be left with food that's getting older by the minute, water that's developing a skin of slime and a bathroom where the toilet's backed up? That's pretty much what you're dealing with if you leave your cat unattended for more than a day.

Even worse, what if the water is spilled, or your cat eats all the food on day one? And what if he gets seriously sick or injured, and no one's around to help?

Although there are some time-release food-dispensers that can keep a cat covered for a weekend in a pinch — and pet water fountains can keep pets happily hydrated with a freshened supply — your pet really should have someone check in at least once a day, preferably more.

If you don't have friends, relatives or neighbors who can help, hire a pet sitter to come to your home., and all offer searchable listings, or simply ask friends, co-workers, or your veterinarian for recommendations (and check references!).