How Long Can Cats Go Without Eating? What You Need to Know!

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.

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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

cat waiting to eat, licking lips

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:

  • Depression or Anxiety—if your cat loses a close mate or caretaker, they can rapidly slump into a depression. Even though this is generally temporary, it can do real harm if they refuse to eat or drink for too long. Sometimes, anxiety over a recent change can have the same effect.
  • Dental Problems—If your cat is in pain with a toothache, they may not want to make it worse by eating. If you know your cat has bad teeth, you may want to take a better look to see just how bad the situation is.
  • Underlying Illness—Several ailments may cause your pet to lose their appetite altogether. There can be a broad spectrum of reasons, like cancer, kidney failure, or infections.

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.

cat being fed food
Image Credit: Jakub Zak, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

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