How Long Can Cats Go Without Food?

A small cat walking on a bed
Photo via Helena Jacoba (CC BY 2.0)

Cats are moody and usually have an attitude, but one thing all cats agree on is: food is yummy. If your cat stops eating, then something could be off. But how long can cats go without food?

Felines can go without food for 1–2 weeks. Cats may stop eating for a couple of days if there’s a sudden change in their cherished routine, but what should you do if they decide to test their 14-day food deprivation limit?

That’s what today’s article is for. 

How Long Can a Cat Go Without Food?

Cats are resilient creatures, but like any living being, they have limits. When it comes to going without food, felines have some survival mechanisms in place. On average, a healthy adult cat can survive for about a week without food.

However, it’s crucial to understand that this duration can vary depending on various factors such as the cat’s health condition, age, activity levels, and overall well-being.

While cats have evolved to endure brief periods without food, it’s not advisable to let them go without eating for an extended time. Unlike some animals, cats cannot draw on their fat reserves efficiently, which makes prolonged fasting risky for their health.

Depriving a cat of food for too long can lead to serious health issues such as hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), which is a life-threatening condition.

Therefore, cat owners need to ensure their furry friends have access to food regularly. If a cat refuses to eat for a day, it may not be a serious issue, could be longer than that could indicate underlying medical issues to be checked out as soon as possible.

How Long Can Cats Go Without Water?

Much like food, hydration is vital for a cat’s well-being, and they can’t go without water for extended periods. On average, a cat can survive for about three to four days without water, but, just like food, this can vary depending on factors like age, health, and environmental conditions.

Cats have a weaker thirst drive, so they may not drink water as frequently as needed. Pet owners must provide clean and fresh drinking water at all times in their bowl to ensure their furry friends stay properly hydrated and prevent dehydration-related health issues.

A cat water fountain can also encourage them to drink more water throughout the day.

Why Did My Cat Stop Eating?

A cat smelling a paper bag in a living room
Photo via @dobby2013_daily

Here’s why your feline may say no to all food sources:

You Have Abruptly Changed the Food

Abruptly changing your cat’s food can lead to appetite loss or even refusal to eat. Cats are creatures of habit and can be sensitive to sudden dietary changes.

To avoid digestive issues and ensure a smooth transition, introduce the new food gradually, mixing it with the old one. This will help your feline friend adjust to the new taste and texture, maintaining their interest in mealtime.

Your Cat Is Stressed or Emotional

Stress and emotional factors can significantly impact a cat’s appetite, leading to a loss of interest in food. Cats are sensitive creatures, and various stressors like changes in their environment, routine, or introduction of new pets can affect their eating habits.

Creating a calm and familiar environment, offering mental and physical stimulation, and providing plenty of fresh water can help address emotional issues and improve your cat’s eating behavior. 

Your Cat Could Be Sick

If your cat stops eating for no obvious reason, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Cats may refuse food due to illnesses such as kidney disease, respiratory issues, or digestive disorders.

If you notice a significant change in your cat’s eating habits, it’s essential to monitor their behavior closely and seek veterinary attention if the lack of appetite continues. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help address the underlying health condition and ensure your cat’s well-being.

Your Cat Could Be Having Dental Issues

If your cat is experiencing dental issues, it may lead to appetite loss. Dental problems can be painful and make eating uncomfortable for your feline friend. Cats with dental issues may avoid dry foods and show a preference for wet cat food, as it is easier to chew.

If you notice any signs of dental discomfort, such as drooling, bad breath, or difficulty eating, it’s essential to schedule a veterinary check-up. Regular dental care and treatment can help alleviate your cat’s discomfort and ensure they maintain a healthy appetite.

Your Cat Is Taking Medication

If your cat is taking certain medications, losing appetite could be a side effect. Some medications may cause nausea or alter your cat’s sense of taste, leading to a decreased interest in food. If you suspect that your cat’s medication is affecting their appetite, consult with your veterinarian.

They may be able to adjust the dosage or switch to a different medication to alleviate the issue and ensure your cat’s well-being.

You Have Just Traveled With Your Cat

If you have recently traveled with your cat, the stress of the journey may have temporarily impacted their appetite. Cats can be sensitive to changes in their environment, and travel can be particularly stressful for them.

Give your cat some time to readjust after the trip, provide familiar and comforting surroundings, and offer their favorite foods to encourage them to eat again. If the cat still won’t eat, consult with your veterinarian or cat behaviorist to rule out any underlying issues.

What Happens When Your Cat Doesn’t Eat?

Should your cat go without food for 24 hours, it’s a sign that she might not feel okay. Dr. Sara Ochoa, states that a healthy adult cat can endure 24 hours without causing permanent harm, but be alert for unusual behaviors signaling a health issue.

However, if the cat surpasses 24 hours with no food, it’s crucial to seek veterinary consultation. Cats’ nutritional requirements vary based on factors like life stage and health conditions.

Young kittens who are not eating are particularly susceptible to adverse reactions from eating pattern changes, necessitating prompt veterinary attention.

Beyond three days without food, a cat’s body may metabolize excessive fat, leading to hepatic lipidosis, a heightened risk for overweight cats.

How to Get My Cat to Eat Again?

Close-up of a cat eating its food in a white bowl
Photo via @dobby2013_daily

If your feline isn’t suffering from a medical condition, you can try the following to get her to eat again:

Keep Her Hydrated: Ensure your cat has easy access to water. If she’s not drinking freely, you can add a little amount of tuna juice or low-sodium chicken broth to the water. If she still refuses to drink, you may try giving her some water with a syringe

Tempt Your Cat with Food: Offer a bland diet of boiled chicken or baby food with meat flavor. Changing the food may give your cat some motivation to start eating once more. You can also try warming the food, as cats aren’t usually fond of cold meals.

Create a Quiet Eating Space: Place your cat’s food in a calm area of your house, away from loud noises. Make sure to clean her food and water bowls as a dirty bowl might discourage her from eating and drinking.

Consider the Food Bowl: The type and location of the cat food bowl can influence their appetite. Switching from metal to ceramic bowls, moving the food bowl to a less active area, or providing separate feeding spaces for multiple cats might make a difference.

Make the Food Appealing: Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell, so adding aromatic, smelly toppings to their food can entice them to eat. Heating their food can also enhance the aroma, making it more appealing to picky eaters or sick cats.

Use Flavored Toppers: Adding flavored toppers like meal toppers, bone broth, probiotics, plain turkey or chicken, or scrambled eggs.

When to Visit the Vet?

If your cat hasn’t eaten for more than 24 hours, it’s time to visit the vet. Additionally, if your feline friend shows signs of illness, pain, or unusual behavior, seeking professional veterinary care is crucial.

Rapid intervention can prevent potential complications and address any underlying health conditions promptly.

Don’t wait if your cat’s appetite doesn’t return or if there are any concerns about their well-being. A vet can properly diagnose the issue and recommend the best course of action for your furry companion.

The Bottom Line

Cats can survive for up to two weeks without food and for up to four days without water. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait around to test that.

If your cat refuses to eat dry or wet food for more than 24 hours, and you’ve ruled out any non-medical reasons like stress, traveling, and sudden change of food, then your cat may have a condition that a vet should diagnose.

When that happens, don’t assume that your cat will be okay for up to two weeks. It’s not a risk you should take for the health of your claw-powered furball. 

Featured Image: @princesspeachcharlie

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