How Long Can Cats Go Without Food?

Cats are incredibly resilient and independent creatures, for the most part.

They do not need constant companionship, like our canine friends, they can navigate an urban or rural environment well, and, when push comes to shove, they can even find their own food.

Given the amount of time that both dogs and cats have been companions to humans, you would think that cats would have forgotten a lot of these seemingly wild traits.

But unlike dogs, they have remained semi-independent that entire time.

Due to this independence, they tend to do better without us than other domesticated animals, and if need be they can become completely feral to survive.

If you want to see this in action, all you have to do is go to any farmhouse around our fair country and have a peek inside.

I guarantee you will see a couple of semi-feral cats hunting the rodents that live therein.

If they are good at surviving, then, can they eat less than we give them? If that is the case, how long exactly can cats go without food?

In this article, we will look at the length of time cats can go without food and the reasons behind it.

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Food Or Water?

No matter how durable or resilient an animal, if it is not consuming food or water, at some point it will die. It is just a fact of life.

However, this is dependent on the animal itself, as many animals can go extraordinary periods of time without either food or water.

So, what about cats? Well, if we take just the time without food than a cat can, at most, go 14 days without food as long as there is access to fresh water.

This is not an exact amount of survival time, and it can range from cat to cat.

Some cats can only last 3 or 4 days with only water, due to previous health conditions, age, or just rotten luck.

So, at least 3 days and up to 2 weeks without food and a healthy supply of water.

The reason for this is that cats, like all animals, rely on proteins, nutrients, and the hormones that are produced due to an intake of these two to maintain bodily functions.

Without little amounts of salt and sugar, for example, a human body cannot absorb nutrients through the stomach lining and the same is true for cats.

Without water, the outlook is grim, as a cat would be seriously ill after 2 days without water and likely dead within 3 days of no water.

If you have a cat who regularly tips over the water bowl or regularly runs out of water, keep an eye on it, as they will become dehydrated fast.

Reasons A Cat Stops Eating Or Drinking

I love cats. I really do. But my god, when they have been raised in a domesticated environment, can they be fussy.

After reading about how long a cat can survive without food or water, you may be worried that it is not just a fussy nature that is causing your cat not to eat or drink.

This is entirely possible, but the only way to be sure is to keep an eye on them and look for key clues that could identify their behavior.

This will tell you whether it is fussiness or potential health problems that are causing problems.

The first thing it could be is an issue with their teeth. Unfortunately, cats are like most other mammals, where they have a set of permanent teeth that they cannot regrow.

If they have an issue with their teeth, like tooth pain, an abscess, swelling or even tumors that are pushing against their jaw, they won’t want to eat.

To identify this, watch to see if your cat tries to eat and how it tries. Is it only eating on one side of the mouth?

Does the cat not like you touching its head, where before it loved it? Has it stopped trying to eat all together?

If any of these are true, try giving the cat some wet food, before taking it to the vet and getting it checked out.

As with humans, the most common reason that a cat has stopped eating is that it is having problems with its stomach.

This can be a number of things, from a stomach bug to gastric flu to even cancer.

Normally, the reason is, like dogs, that they have eaten something they shouldn’t have and are feeling the effects.

The key symptoms of this are vomiting, diarrhea, and a complete loss of appetite. If your cat has these symptoms, then give them plenty of water and keep an eye on them.

If the symptoms have not improved within 24-36 hours, and they are still not eating, book an emergency appointment at your local vet and get them checked out.

It will probably be something minor, but you can’t be too careful.

Respiratory issues can also cause cats to not eat. Just like when you are sick from a cold or the flu, you can’t really smell or taste and nor do you want to, this is the same for cats.

Cats’ senses are a lot better than ours, and they rely on their sense of smell much more than we do.

As such, if their respiratory system isn’t working properly, then they won’t be able to actually smell the food.

Still, it is advisable that you take your kitty to the vet, just to be safe.

Another reason they may not eat is medication or vaccinations.

Like with humans, medications and vaccinations can cause a loss of appetite and can sometimes make you feel worse before they make you feel better.

If your cat is feeling bad after starting medication or having a vaccination, it won’t want to eat.

Also cats not wanting to eat may have nothing to do with physical health issues, but mental ones.

A cat may feel stressed, anxious, or depressed due to recent changes in the house.

Cats are suckers for routine, and any sudden changes in the environment or house dynamic will upset them, like say moving somewhere new or a new relationship.

This should pass with time, but best to keep an eye out.

The final reason for a cat not eating may have nothing to do with you at all, but the cat itself. The cat may be bored.

That’s right, cats can get bored with the same food or just of how the meal is prepared.

Sometimes it’s just plain fussiness and no matter how much you cheerlead them to eat, they won’t do it.

Try changing the cat food type, maybe go from dry food to wet cat food or vice versa and see what happens.

How To Get Your Cat Eating Again?

If your cat not eating is stressing you out and the cause is not something you can pinpoint, then you are right to be concerned.

Even if it turns out to be nothing more than the cat is full, you should still take action just in case, as the cat can develop worse health conditions like hepatic lipidosis, from which they have a hard time recovering from.

The first thing to do is to make sure the cat has constant access to water and a continuous food source. Then, it is time to check on the cat.

Try feeding it in a private place with your hand and constantly reassuring it that everything is alright.

Having a friendly face will make the cat feel better, but if it is still not well enough to eat, then you should try changing foods.

Try feeding your cat food that it loves and would never turn down under normal circumstances.

At this point, as well, it might be time to check the cat’s body and mouth for problems. Note anything unusual that you see and make sure to bring it up to the vet.

It’ll make their job much easier if they can get a run down of the difficulties that your cat is having, and it’ll save time staying at the vets, which the cat will appreciate.

If your cat is still not eating after 24-36 hours, it has other symptoms, or you found something on its body that is preventing it from eating, it is time for a trip to the vet.

It may not like going, but it is for its own good.

Final Thoughts

Cats, like all animals, can only survive for certain periods of time without access to food.

Surprisingly, though, they can survive quite a bit longer than you’d expect an animal of their size to do.

It takes a maximum of 2 weeks for a cat to survive without food, but to be healthy and safe they should be eating every day.

If your cat is not eating food, then keep an eye on them and make sure that they are healthy and comfortable.

Your cat will thank you for this.

Courtney Trent
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