How many days can cats go without food? How long can they go without water? How often do cats need to eat and drink to stay healthy?
If your cat has suddenly stopped eating or is eating considerably less you’re right to be concerned.
There are some serious health issues that your cat will develop if they stop eating. In this article I will explain:
- How long it’s safe for cats to go without food.
- Reasons why your cat might not be eating.
- Ways you can get your cat to start eating again.
- Diseases and health conditions that starving cats can develop.
And much more, so if your cat has been affected by any of these topics please read on.
How Many Days Can Cats Go Without Food?
There is no set number of days that a cat cannot eat without becoming ill. Ideally, cats do need to eat every day, so anything over 24 hours and you might have a serious problem.
If we’re talking about how long until lack of food becomes fatal, it’s around two weeks as a rule of thumb if they are drinking water.
Irreversible health issues will emerge long before then, however.
This is what I would say the timeline is for a cat that is no longer eating but is drinking water:
- If your cat has not eaten for 1-2 days start figuring out why and trying to make them eat (tips below).
- If your cat has not eaten for 2-3 days take them to a vet.
- If your cat has not eaten for 4-5 days they are at risk of hepatic lipidosis (explained below).
- If your cat has not eaten for 6-7 days they are at serious risk of irreversible damage.
- If your cat has not eaten for 7-14 days they are very likely to die.
As you can see from the above, every day counts when it comes to getting your cat, or any other cat to eat.
This is why we need to keep a close eye on stray cats. While strays are very good at finding scraps and surviving, you should always notify the authorities if you think there is a homeless cat in your neighborhood.
Reasons Why Cats Stop Eating
Some of the common reasons that cause cats to stop eating or a sudden change in their appetite are as follows:
Cats are good at hiding illness and injuries, but a loss of appetite is one of the red flags that something is wrong.
It may be something like constipation that can be resolved with medication (or olive oil as I explain in this post), or a toothache that will pass.
However, it may be something more serious that requires medical attention. I advise trying some of the tips below to get your cat to eat. If they haven’t eaten in a couple of days get them to a vet asap.
Cat’s can get easily stressed by all sorts of things going on around them that we may not be aware of.
If you have moved home recently, taken them to a vet, or moved things around in your home this can upset their comfortable daily routine and cause stress.
Also, if something has scared or startled them while they were eating this can trigger a traumatic response to eating.
For want of a better word, some cats are just fussy when it comes to eating.
If you’ve had them checked by a vet and can rule out physical and psychological reasons, they may just be fussy and need different food.
Have you changed their food recently? Is there a chance the brand of food you buy has changed? Maybe your cat is bored of the food.
Health Risks If Your Cat Is Not Eating
Cats can develop some serious medical problems if they are not eating enough or have stopped eating altogether.
Kidney disease, dental disease, arthritis, urinary tract disease, pancreatitis, and hepatic lipidosis are just some of the health issues that can occur as a result of malnutrition or starvation.
There are also psychological problems that can develop as a result of not eating, or as the driving force behind the change in a cat’s appetite.
What Is Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease)?
One of the most common diseases that a lot of people have heard of is Hepatic Lipidosis.
Also called Fatty Liver, this condition occurs as a result of fat accumulation inside the tissues and cells of a cat’s liver.
Much like most mammals, if a cat does not eat for a long period of time their bodies start to turn their fat cells into energy.
The problem is that cats rely on a high-protein diet and without the nutrition from food there isn’t enough protein for their livers to function properly and fat starts to build up.
This causes a type of liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis and explains why it’s also called fatty liver.
The issues with hepatic lipidosis are also that it makes the cat feel sick and less likely to want to eat, thus worsening the problem.
Tips to Get a Cat to Eat
If your cat is not eating as much as usual or you’re concerned they haven’t eaten at all in a day or so there are some things you can try to encourage them to eat a little more:
Warm their food – This is a little trick that has worked for me a number of times. If you have a cat that is off their food warm it up a little, this often encourages them to eat.
Try a different flavor – Cats are funny creatures at times. Sometimes they will decide they no longer like what seemed to be their favorite flavor of food so mix it up a little.
Try a different texture – Again, a cat may have enjoyed a lumpy wet food for years, but now decided they want to eat something smoother in texture. Try different consistencies and see.
Try different shapes and sizes – If your cat eats a lot of dry kibbles trying a different shape or size often solves the problem.
If these changes don’t make any difference then you’ll need to get them to a vet for a checkup.
It may be something as simple as a bout of feline constipation, or some other issue. You have to be proactive though, as I discussed in this article there are some serious potential health risks if your cat isn’t eating.
How Long Can a Feral Cat Go Without Eating?
If you have feral or stray cats in your neighborhood and you’re concerned about their welfare the best thing you can do for them is catch them and turn them over to appropriate authorities.
To answer the question, feral or not, a cat can go a couple of weeks without food if they are drinking water.
By this time, however, they will be in a terrible condition and most likely beyond help. If you see a feral cat looking malnourished please get them to a vet or call the authorities rather than just ignoring them.
How Long Can a Sick Cat Go Without Eating?
If your cat is sick and off their food it’s even more important they are drinking plenty of fresh water, so that’s something you should be keeping a close eye on first of all.
It may take them a day or two to get back to eating if they have a stomach bug or have been throwing up due to medication or their illness.
This is not something to be too concerned about. More than 48 hours without food however and I’d be taking my cat to the vet to err on the safe side.
How Long Can a Sick Cat Go Without Water?
If you have a sick cat it’s vitally important you keep a close eye on how much they are eating and drinking.
If you think they haven’t drunk water for 24 hours or more you need to make an emergency appointment at the vets!
Not only did I answer, how many days can cats go without food? I hope I got across how serious an issue it is if a cat is not eating properly, and certainly if they are not drinking fresh water daily.
Please always seek medical advice from a professional if you have any concerns at all before waiting it out. Any questions or comments just drop me a comment below, thanks.