Last Updated on: November 18, 2020
It can be kind of scary when your cat loses their appetite, especially since our cats are usually the ones reminding us that their food bowl is empty.
But if you find them neglecting their food or water, it may raise the question—how long can cats go without eating? It depends on a few factors, but the reality is—not long. Let’s discuss the facts to get your pet help if you can’t get them to eat.
How Long Can Cats Go Without Food? —The Reality
No creature can go without food or water for a long time, and cats are no exception. If your feline is skipping meals or rejecting water, there’s an underlying reason. It’s vital that seeking veterinary attention be your first step to uncover what’s really going on.
First, is your cat not acting hungry but drinking, or stopping both altogether? Cats can’t live long at all without water. So, if your cat isn’t drinking, they would have a maximum of three days to live, and irrevocable damage can happen in the meantime.
If they are drinking but not eating, they can survive up to two weeks. This is a hazardous territory since malnutrition can cause a series of other problems that could get to your cat before actual starvation takes its toll.
If your cat stops eating suddenly, especially accompanied with weight loss, you must act fast. If your cat skips a meal here or there, it may just be that your kitty is a bit more particular. In either case, keeping them healthy is the primary responsibility of a cat owner.
The Dangers of No Water Intake
Not eating is bad, yes. But not hydrating can be worse, and at a faster rate. It’s so crucial to make sure your cat is getting fluid by any means that they will take it. Going long periods without drinking can cause irreversible issues, wreaking havoc on their system.
Your cat’s body is mostly water—just like us—making up over 80% of their being. Every organ, tissue, and vessel needs it to function. Cats are already prone to dehydration, so for them to stop drinking completely is a highly time-sensitive matter.
When your cat stops drinking, things will rapidly decline and your cat will start suffering from dehydration. The longer the body goes without fluids, the more organs will begin to shut down, one by one. Their body will stop the flow to less vital organs first, making sure the most important ones stay up and running.
The more fluids lost, the more organs fail. By the third day of no water, the body will shut down completely. If your cat refuses to drink, intravenous fluids administered by your vet could be necessary to prevent permanent organ damage or death.
How to Convince Your Cat to Eat or Drink
You can try some things at home before a vet visit to encourage your cat to eat or drink. Depending on the real reason behind the symptom, you may be able to keep them fed and hydrated, even if it’s in small amounts.
But these methods are not a substitute for veterinary attention. Chances are if your cat refuses to eat or drink, there’s something dire going on that will need further observation and treatment.
Reasons Cats Could Stop Eating
Cats can be finicky creatures. Reasons they stop eating can be either emotional or physical. Most commonly, cats will stop eating for one of the following reasons:
Your vet will be able to physically examine your cat and run any necessary tests to rule out potential issues.
How to Encourage Eating and Drinking
To get your feline ready to feed, you can try to appeal to their deepest desire—stinky, wet food. The smellier it is, the more it will get their taste buds going.
Even though you shouldn’t make a habit of giving your cat canned tuna or wet cat food, desperate times call for desperate measures. Anything you can get your cat to eat until they’re able to get to the vet is better than nothing at all.
To recap, any time your cat isn’t eating or drinking, you must get them to a vet as soon as possible. That is especially true if your cat is getting no fluids whatsoever. Dehydration can have detrimental consequences for a cat, even if the underlying condition is treatable.
So, encourage your cat to eat any food you can. Speak to your vet promptly. And make sure you don’t wait until it’s too late. Your cat depends on your judgment call and swift action.
Featured Image: Lightspruch, Shutterstock
Roland has been an animal lover all his life, with cats holding a special place in his heart. He is owned by three felines: Wheely, KitzKitz, and Nugget (all rescues) who bring all the laughter and mischievousness one can expect from the feline master race. As the creator of ExcitedCats, his mission is to assist in the search for the best gear to help improve the health and wellbeing of cats everywhere.