How Long Can A Cat Go Without Food?

This guide was written by Joe Francis
Updated: September 2, 2020
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In this guide

Is your cat skipping meals? Of course, you’re worried! You want your pet to eat to stay strong and healthy. After all, even in humans, loss of appetite is often viewed as a sign of something wrong in the body. But is that necessarily true for cats?

According to experts, there are many things that can cause this behaviour in felines. What’s most important is that you keep an eye on your pet and see if it’s showing more serious symptoms that warrant a trip to the vet. The good news is, it’s probably just a phase. Cats are complex and unpredictable. When they don’t eat, that’s part of their charmingly weird personality. But of course, it’s still important to investigate without taking any major steps until advised by a pro.

How long can cats go without food?

A normal cat could theoretically survive for up to two weeks without food as long as they have a good supply of water. However, depending on the size and age of the cat, without protein, your cat would likely struggle to survive longer than 4 to 5 days, even with a good water supply. With no food or water supply, your cat is unlikely to survive longer than three days.

We know that all living things, including cats, need proper nutrition to survive. That means your cat should eat regularly as well as drink water. So, if your cat has had no food for a couple of days, it could quickly become unwell, malnourished and appear weak and feeble. If you begin to notice any of these signs, you should seek immediate veterinary care.

Not eating vs. not drinking

While not eating or not drinking can both be harmful to your cat’s health, these two habits affect her body in different ways. When a cat doesn’t eat for days, its body will lose energy and nutrients it needs to function well. However, as soon as it starts eating regularly, it will regain all of that and will soon return to its old self.

On the other hand, if your pet doesn’t drink water for days, not only will its body systems fail, but it can also experience internal organ damage. Again, water is crucial to organ function, and dehydration can wreak havoc on her body.

Why cats don’t eat

As we have said, cats are not that easy to understand, and there are many factors that could explain why they are refusing to eat. The most obvious is a health problem, which could be anything from indigestion to a minor injury. It could also be a more serious condition such as diabetes, a liver problem, a heart condition, or even feline depression.

Sometimes a cat may also skip its meals when it’s having dental problems, such as swollen gums or a sore tooth, or an upset stomach. If it’s on medication or it just had its vaccinations, it may also naturally lose its appetite.

Or then again, it could be boredom, fickleness, or stress. It’s a cat, after all.

Useful ways to regularly feed your cat

You may not be able to force your cat to eat, especially when it’s feeling like it doesn’t want anything to do with food, but you can readily give it the option to eat. By using an automatic cat feeder, you can supply your cat with food without having to worry about mealtime. Less stress for you, and more freedom for your kitty.

On top of that, automated feeders do portion control, can alternate between dry and wet food, and some of them even allow you to record a message to call your cat to meals. If your cat is not eating due to separation anxiety, there are some feeders that have cameras and other real-time features so you can “video conference” with your cat, so to speak. Maybe all they need is to see your face and hear your voice.

An automated feeder also means that your cat can determine when mealtime is “regular.” Our idea of regular timing is not always theirs. Sometimes, just making sure food is there for them is good enough.

You should also try serving your cat something different, or alternate certain types of cat food so it gets excited about mealtime. There are lots of cat food products out there for cats and kittens.

You may have to use a little trial and error to find what it likes and doesn’t, but be prepared to give it some time. Give your cat enough room to explore and get used to any new flavours you may introduce. Like humans, cats also get tired of eating the same food every day, so give your pet some variety as you would give yourself.

How to deal with a cat that won’t eat

There’s no overemphasising the importance of taking your cat to the vet as soon as you notice that it’s not eating. Your vet will examine your cat and ensure that she has no injuries; they may want to admit her so she can be treated properly.

If no vet is available, you will have to get creative. For example, use a dropper to give it water or give it some soft foods to supply its body with nutrients.

It’s also good to know your cat’s favourite foods. Whether it’s tuna or biscuits, it will usually be enough to give it a good meal until its good health is restored. Tuna water is also a great solution to hydration. In the end, what’s most important is that you’re sensitive to your pet’s needs and respond to situations in a timely manner. The sooner you see the signs and symptoms, the earlier you can seek treatment and the less likely your cat will suffer any major health issues.

Final thoughts

If your friend has a habit of turning her nose up at the food bowl, get yourself an automatic feeder so she’ll always have food available whenever she decides she’s hungry. Never assume that your pet can take care of herself and her nutritional needs. Pet cats are usually so used to being fed by their owners that they may not have the desire or know-how to look for food themselves. And when concerned, take her to the vet to get checked out.

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