Food and water is what sustains us all whether we are human or animal. And most of us will never have to know what it is like to be without food or water for an extended period of time.
Fortunately, if you are a loving cat parent you will never need to know the answer the question, "how long can a cat go without water or food." But how long can a feline friend survive without life sustaining food and water? If your cat does not eat, when should you become concerned?
Cat Attitudes is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
How Long Can My Cat Go Without Food?
So, that brings us back to the question, "how long can my cat go without food?" Some say that a cat can go one to two weeks without eating, but this depends on if they have access to water. A more realistic estimate of how long a cat can go without food is 3 to 4 days.
And even if your cat does live more than a week or more without food, the chances that it will do some type of permanent damage to his body are pretty high.
Honestly though, a 24 - 48 change in your cat's eating habits should be cause for concern and be reason to take an immediate trip to the vet. While not eating for a day may not be cause for concern, it can signify other medical conditions that you will want to address as soon as possible.
What Happens If My Cat Does Not Eat?
Since food is fuel to your cat the same as it is to you, he will lose energy as time passes without food. Once he eats, he can recover if it has not been more than a day or two. The longer your cat goes without food, the consequences of not eating will become more life threatening.
It is possible for your cat to develop fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis (HL). The disease begins when the cat stops eating from a loss of appetite, forcing the liver to convert body fat into usable energy. If this process continues for too long, fat builds up in the cells of the liver, and the disease has officially onset. Having an obese cat can make the situation worse.
The disease is treatable, but it can have a high mortality rate and a high recovery rate as well depending on the stage of the disease. This makes it essential to get to the root of why your cat is not eating. It makes it equally important to make sure your cat does not accidentally get in a situation where he would not have access to food.
5 Reason Your Cat Might Not Be Eating
Gastrointestinal Problems - As cats age, their stomachs can become more sensitive to the food they eat. There are also things, such as; parasites, inflammation of the bowel, foreign objects and cancer that can cause a cat's digestive system to be resistant to food and cause your cat to not have an appetite.
Dental Issues - Having bad teeth can be a reason that your cat is not eating. This one can be difficult to diagnose. It can happen in young cats as well as senior felines. When your cat has dental problems, it hurts to eat and he just won't do it. With my cats, one of the first signs of dental issues was bad breath. If your cat has bad breath or is opening and closing his mouth (from pain), it could be time for a trip to the vet for a checkup.
Kidney Disease - Kidney disease is a medical condition that is common in older cats. Diseased kidneys can cause your cat to feel sick and not want to eat. The symptoms of kidney disease are drinking and peeing a lot. Your vet can help with the diagnoses of kidney disease and advise the best course of action to treat your cat and keep him eating.
Diet Change - Cats don't necessarily like variety in their food. If you buy different food and notice your cat is not eating, he may not like your choice of food. If your cat has a sensitive stomach, he may need a food with high quality ingredients.
Depression and Anxiety - Cats can experience depression and anxiety just like humans. And one of the symptoms of these conditions is loss of appetite. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make your cat feel better and start eating again. If you can identify what is stressing your cat out, that is half the battle. Even cats that are members of the same litter can stress each other out.
How Can I Make Sure My Cat Is Not Without Food?
If you have a cat that goes outdoors and he is outside for a few days, he will likely find his own food if he gets hungry. You can also put food outside for him, but beware that you may also be providing a food source for other neighborhood critters. You may want to feed your cat in single servings whether it is indoors or outdoors.
If you are planning on traveling and your cat will not be accompanying you, the challenge may be how how he is going to have food and water while you are gone. You have the option to board your cat at a kennel. Today's kennels are more like pet resorts. These places offer comfortable lodging and a whole menu of services. Many will email you pictures of your fur baby during his stay at the pet hotel.
There are also services that will come to your home and feed your cat daily and provide other services as needed. Your cat can get the care he needs without leaving the comfort of his own home.
Another option for taking the guess work out of feeding is to set your cat up with an automatic feeder. These automatic feeders are pretty cool. They are programmable and you can record your voice on them. Some of these vessels can hold enough food to last more than week. You can also find automatic water dispensers for your cat as well.
A cat not having food when he needs it often happens when a cat gets closed in a space where there is no food and he cannot get out. While this is not common, cats have been know to get closed in closets, basements and even houses where there are no owners for several days. This can be detrimental if it happens to you cat. Be aware of where your cat is even if you are not with him.
How to Can I Get My Cat to Eat?
Sometimes your cat may not want to eat for reasons only he knows. He has food and he is seemingly healthy, but he turns his nose up at his dinner. Here are some tips for stimulating your cat's appetite.
Try Canned Food - If your cat is not eating wet food, try some wet canned food with a gravy base. Meat flavored baby food is also a good choice for stimulating your cats appetite as well.
Add Flavor - Most cats love chicken and seafood. So, an easy way to add these flavors is to add tuna water/oil to your cat's food. You can also add a little bit of low-sodium chicken broth to their food. Make sure the broth does not contain onions, garlic or chives. These are toxic to your cat. Pet bone broth powder is an excellent alternative for flavoring your cat's food.
Try Some Personal Encouragement - Give your cat attention and see if they will lick food from your fingers. Try a food that is smelly and sticky applied to your fingers and encourage cat to lick it off. You may find that you cat will eat if you are nearby. They may find comfort in your presence.
Smaller and More Often is Better - Try small meals servings that are fed to your cat more often. If you can get your cat to eat even a small amount, it is a good start. Try it again later in the day. Theses small frequent meals will give your cat the necessary nutrition he requires.
How Your Vet Can Help Your Cat Eat
If your cat does not have an appetite and none of the above methods are helping your cat get the necessary nutrition, your vet may be able to offer some options to increase your cat's appetite. These are some of the feeding methods that may be recommended by your cat's vet.
A feeding tube being inserted or liquid food being syringed into your cats mouth are some alternatives available to a cat that is not eating. These methods do seem a bit extreme, but it depends on the individual circumstances.
Your vet can also prescribe medication that can increase your cats appetite. As with all medications, they are not without side effects. You will have to evaluate whether the results are worth the risks.
Final Thoughts on Cats and Eating
It is one thing if your cat has a stressful day or feels under the weather and does not eat as normal. But if your cat goes more than 24 hours without an appetite, this could be reason for concern and he should see a vet.
Another way to make sure your cat always has food is to check on her periodically. This will ensure that she did not get locked in closed in somewhere. Although the chance of this is rare, there are reports of it happening.